The phrase "Malaysian Malaysia" was originally used in the early 1960s as the rallying motto of the Malaysian Solidarity Council, a confederation of political parties formed to oppose Article 153 of the Constitution of Malaysia. This article specifically provides special quotas for the Malay and other indigenous peoples of Malaysia in admission to the public service, awarding of public scholarships, admission to public education institutions and the awarding of trade licences. It also authorises the government to create Malay monopolies in particular trades. The rationale given for affirmative action was due to the Malays and other indigenous people in Malaysia being marginalised by the British, throughout British colonial rule of Malaya and Borneo. Britain colonised the predecessor entities of Malaysia gradually throughout a period from 1786 to 1957 after the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824. During these years, the British declined to employ and resettle Malay Indonesians and Malay Malaysians away from their traditional villages, as the latter groups preferred to harvest nearby paddy fields and engage in artisanal fishing; the latter groups were reluctant to work and move to new settlements around the then-newly formed tin mines and rubber plantations. As a result, the British preferred to import and employ Chinese and Indian emigrants instead, thus preventing any relocation or lifestyle disturbances to the Malays and other aborigines.
Critics have called such affirmative action for the Malays racial discrimination against other Malaysian citizens, with the goal of creating ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy). "Malaysian Malaysia" is not a mere tautology, because it distinguishes between nationality and ethnic classification. The complaint was that Malaysia was not being "Malaysian" and egalitarian (by discriminating against non-Malays) and was instead being an ethnocentric "Malay Malaysia".