The Middle East and the Malay World: Contemporary Issues and Future Challenges reveal to us these often hidden, historical landscapes of regional connections, reflecting ground level intermarriages of a vibrant trade and knowledge culture, the legacies of colonialism, and giving attention to the shifting axes of power in the 21st century. Tensions generated by intersecting forces of competing interests within these relationships are nowhere more visible than in the matter of Palestine. Several of these chapters highlight the opportunities that await judicious and wise working partnerships between the two regions. The strong links between the Malay world and the Middle East have been shaped by interweaving forces, foremost among them the historical role of the spread of Islam, the modern colonizing forces of Europe, and more latterly the contemporary interests of World Powers.
The Middle East or West Asia is a region constituted by three major civilisations, that is, the Arab, Persianate and Turkic. It is a region that is replete with a great deal of natural and cultural resources, and human talent. It is also a region that has not been able to develop to its full potential. Part of the reason has to do with short-sighted and corrupt governments. At the same time, it cannot be denied that a great factor that has inhibited the development and flourishment of the Middle East is the continual intervention and interference of various powers in the political and economic affairs of the Arabs, Iranians and Turks during the last one hundred years or so. The British, French, Russians, and Americans have all asserted their will and pursued their respective interests in the Middle East; usually to the detriment of the political stability and economic development of her people.
Furthermore, it cannot be denied that the fact that the Middle East has, for a long time, been a theatre for the geopolitical machinations of the world powers, particularly for those in the West. This fact has meant that the most intense and significant political, economic, and cultural relations of the region have been with the West, and less with the nations and people of the Third World—or what is now referred to as the Global South. For this reason, this volume on the Middle East and the Malay World is a welcome addition to the literature on the Middle East, in which attention is given to important aspects of the relationship between two important regions of the world. Indeed, it can be said that the intensification of relations between the Middle East and the Malay World can help to develop the potential of both regions to establish political economies and societies in which people can live in prosperity, and with dignity.