Mahathir Mohamad was born in 1925 in Alor Setar, Malaysia. He was a doctor before becoming a politician with the UMNO party, and ascended quickly from member of parliament to prime minister. During his 22 years in office, he grew the economy and was an activist for developing nations, but also imposed harsh restrictions on civil liberties. He resigned office in 2003.
Mahathir Mohamad was born on December 20, 1925, in Alor Setar, in the state of Kedah in northern Malaysia. His family was modest but stable, and his father was a respected teacher at an English language school.
After finishing Islamic grammar schools and graduating from the local college, Mahathir attended medical school at the University of Malaya in Singapore. He was an army physician before forming a private practice at the age of 32.
Entry Into Politics
Mahathir became active in the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), Malaysia’s largest political party, and was elected to its policy-making group, the Supreme Council. With the support of the UMNO, he won a seat in the House of Representatives in 1964. He wrote a book, The Malay Dilemma, demanding affirmative action for indigenous Malays and equal status with Chinese-Malaysians, while also criticizing Malays’ “economic backwardsness.” These then-radical ideas earned the ire of Prime Minister Abdul Rahman, and the UMNO banned the book and expelled Mahathir from the party.
Rahman resigned in 1970, and after Mahathir was reinstated in the UMNO in 1972, his political career took off. He was reelected to parliament in 1973, promoted to a Cabinet position in 1974 and rose to deputy prime minister in 1976. He became prime minister just five years later when his predecessor, Hussein Onn, retired.
Mahathir had a significant impact on the economy, culture and government of Malaysia. He won five consecutive elections and served for 22 years, longer than any other prime minister in Malaysia’s...