His question is a very complex issue to answer, argue or debate; and to which there is no straightforward answer. I think it depends on one’s perception of the Malay race today, which is also as complex as the question.
However, Article 160 of the Federal Constitution did not stipulate as to who or what is a Malay in Peninsular Malaysia, but merely described the criteria of a Malay as one who professed the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay customs, and was, before Merdeka day, born in the Federation.
The Malays of today are different in look and characteristic from the Malays of generations ago.
One may ask as to why the Chinese, Indian, Sikhs, Pakistanis and others were not individually stipulated in the Federal Constitution.
Obviously, Article 160 was meant to spell out that Malays have been the people of the Malay Archipelago and the inhabitants of the Malay Peninsula long before the arrival of other races.
They are not considered as pendatang as popularly believed. So, they are entitled to the Bumiputera status and receive certain privileges.
For more then 500 years, they were colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch, British and, for a short spell, the Japanese.
Before Merdeka, the Malays were economically poor and educationally backward, compared with the other races, and as a result, the New Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced to uplift their status to be on a par with other races.
Coming back to the question, I feel that we have to go back into history to find out the answers as to who or what is a Malay.
History has shown that historically and geographically, Malays were people of the Malay Archipelago that stretches from the Philippines to the Malay Peninsula, comprising the islands of the Philippines, Borneo and Indonesia.
The Malay Archipelago is the world’s largest cluster of thousands of smaller islands in the equatorial waters between Australia and mainland Southeast Asia, including the big islands of Borneo, Sumatra, Java, and Celebes.
It also includes Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. Stamford Raffles described the people of the Malay Archipelago as a “Malay Nation”, as one people speaking one common language besides hundreds of other ethnic languages, though spread over so wide an area, preserving their character and customs in all the maritime states lying between the Sulu Seas and the Southern Ocean.
A.R Wallace describes the tribal proto-Malays as being sea-faring people. They were once people of the Celebes and of coastal Borneo, who expanded on to Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula as a result of their trading, fishing, and sea-faring way of life.
These people played an important part in the making of the great Malay Empire of Malacca and Johor.
The Malay is distinguished physically from other marked races of man, being of medium height, stout and well-made.
The colour of their skin is pure reddish-brown (as often referred to by Tun Mahathir Mohamad, “sawa matang”), their hair coarse and straight, they have a flattish oval face with high cheek bones, straight and rather broad but ever prominent nose, a rather rounded forehead and flat eyebrows.
In youth, the Malays are often good-looking.
Today, 21st century Malays are different in look and characteristic from the Malays of generations ago. They no longer fit the above description by Western explorers and writers.
Through centuries of European colonisations, and the migration of the Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis, Arabs, Europeans and others into Peninsular Malaysia has created a new Malay race which does not have the characteristic of the original Malay.
Through inter-marriage, they are a mixture of all races that migrated into Peninsular Malaysia. Perhaps the Tamils, who are Hindus and Buddhists from southern India, were the first to arrive in the Malay Archipelago more that a thousand years ago, and this is evident from the ruins of Hindu temples found in many parts of Indonesia, including here, at Lembah Bujang in Kedah.
Through the influence of the Tamils, the Malays were Hindus first, before the arrival of the Arab traders more than 500 years ago who converted the Malays to Islam.
The Spaniards brought Christianity to the Philippines and converted the Malays there. Pick any 10 Malay men and Malay women today and put them in an identification parade dressed in Western clothing, and I can bet my bottom dollar that none will look similar.
Most have foreign blood running in their veins through inter-marriages with the migrants that came to Peninsular Malaysia. Some are much fairer and whiter of skin, some are light brown, and some are hitam manis with dark skin.
They have straight and high noses, higher cheek bones, dark hair, a good set of white teeth, are much taller and well-built, have shapely bodies and larger bosoms.
Article 160 of the Federal Constitution is no longer relevant to describe some Malays because some have mixed parentage and do not habitually speak the Malay language nor adhere to Malay customs and culture, or remain a practising Muslim.
And yet, their MyKad or passport shows that they are Malays.