Religious beliefs in Malaysia


Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy situated in Southeast Asia and is made up of three federal territories and thirteen states. The South China Sea separates the country into two equal territories, East Malaysia (Malaysian Borneo) and Peninsular Malaysia. East Malaysia shares a maritime border with Vietnam and the Philippines and maritime and land borders with Indonesia and Brunei. Peninsular Malaysia shares maritime borders with Indonesia, Vietnam, and Singapore and a land and maritime border with Thailand. Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia's capital city, and Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government.

Malaysia is a multi-confessional and multicultural country. Almost all religions in the world such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism are present in the country. Religion in Malaysia relates h2ly to ethnicity and as a result, most Hindus are Indian, Buddhist are Chinese, and Muslims are Malay. This type of diversity in the country increases the significance of religious identity and the majority of the citizens have a h2 sense of how different their religious practices are compared to the other religions.

The Population and Housing Census carried out in 2010 indicate that 61.3% percent of Malaysians practice Islam, 19.8% Buddhism, 9.2% Christianity, 6.3% Hinduism, and 1.3% traditional Chinese religions. The remaining percent practice different faiths such as Folk religion, Animism, and Sikhism among others. There is also a small number of atheists in Malaysia. Some of these religious beliefs will be discussed in brief below.

Islam in Malaysia

The Temple of the Sun in Dengkil, Selangor, Malaysia, Source

Islam is the dominant religion in Malaysia and is the country's official religion. About 60% of Malaysians practice this faith. Most of the Muslim holy days are national holidays, for instance, the birthday of Mohammad, the end of the Hajj, and the end of Ramadan. It is believed that Islam was brought to Malaysia by Indian traders around the 12th century.

The government in the country  supports a moderate version of Sunni Islam referred to as Islam Hadhari. This version of Sunni Islam was introduced by former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. The goal of Islam Hadhari is to encourage tolerance, inclusivity, and a balanced approach towards life. It values a number of qualities such as good administration, honesty, efficiency, hard work and knowledge.

As mentioned earlier, Muslim is the country's official language. As a result, most mosques and other religious services are supported by the government. Control of the mosques is done on a state level and not on a federal level. The government also gives support to citizens who wish to make the pilgrimage to Mecca.

As per Article 160 of the Constitution of Malaysia, a person has to be Muslim to be considered Malay. Muslims in the country cannot convert to another faith because the Shari'a courts deny conversion claims and if a person is to convert, he or she would lose his or her status as bumiputera. Public schools in Malaysia are expected to offer Islamic religious teachings. Other ethics classes are, however, provided for non-Muslim students.

Buddhism and Chinese religions in Malaysia

The majority of the Malaysian Chinese practice different religions, including Mahayana and other forms of Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, and the Chinese folk religions. Of these Chinese religions, Buddhism is the most practiced and is the second largest religion in the country after Islam. About 19% of the population classify themselves as Buddhist. Every religious construction is independent and the majority of the Malaysian Chinese follow the Mahayana Branch. The Sinhalese and Thai minorities, on the other hand, follow the Therevada Branch. There is a Malaysian Buddhist Council and its aim is to encourage the practice and study of Buddhism and to promote unity among Malaysian Buddhists. Vesak day is a state holiday and both branches of Buddhism hold joint celebrations in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

There are Chinese temples across the country and most of them enshrine gods from the Chinese provinces of Fujian and Guangdong. There are roughly 150 Daoist temples in Malaysia and these are served by 12,000 priests. The Daoist communities in Malaysia share links with those in mainland China and Taiwan. Daoism is not the most organized religion compared to the others, but a Malaysia Daoist Association was established in 1995, and a Daoist Organization League formed in 1997.

The Chinese traditional religion in Malaysia has become a very h2 influence in the lives of many Malaysian Chinese, and new factions have emerged seeking to incorporate diverse religious teachings.

Hinduism in Malaysia

Khoo Kongsi, Penang, Malaysia, Source

This is the fourth largest religion in the country. Roughly 1.7 million Malaysians are Hindus and they make up a total of 6.3% of the entire population. Most of the Tamils who make up about 9% of the population in Malaysia practice this faith.

The majority of Malaysian Hindus are located in the western regions of Peninsular Malaysia. According to a 2010 Census, some of the regions with the highest Hindu population are Negeri Sembilan (13.4%). Selangor (11.6%), Perak (10.9%) and the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur (8.5%).

Urban temples are usually dedicated to one deity. Rural temples, on the other hand, are home to diverse deities. Most of these deities were brought by immigrants. Many temples  follow the Saivite tradition originally from Southern India, for the worship of Siva.

The practice of this religion is h2ly connected with the cultural identity  of Malaysian Indians.

Hindu holidays of Deepavali and Thaipusam are national holidays in Malaysia.

Christianity in Malaysia

About 10% of Malaysia's population are Christians, especially non-Malay Bumiputera and some Malaysian Indian and Malaysian Chinese minorities. The main denominations include Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Methodist. Most Christians are located in East Malaysia, where Good Friday is a public holiday in Sarawak and Sabah states. Christmas is a countrywide holiday, but Easter is not.

Christianity has, however, become restricted in the country since Malaysia has become more Islamic. limitations have been placed on building new churches, but the ones present are allowed to function. Christians  are not permitted to convert Muslims and any Christian literature should have a note indicating that it is for non-Muslims only. The limitations on the distribution of Malay-language Christian material is not that strict in East Malaysia compared to the west region. In East Malaysia Good Friday is an official holiday, but it is not a state holiday.

Sikhism in Malaysia

Tin Hau Temple, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Source

There are about 335,000 Sikhs in Malaysia. The Sikh community in the country owes its presence in Malaysia to the British connection especially with the enrollment of Sikhs in the police and paramilitary units which established the foundation from which the country's present-day military forces and police are derived.

People who practice this religion worship and belief the one and only God who has no form. As a result, the religion and its scriptures denounce idol worship. The place of worship for the Sikhs is referred to as Gurdwara and it is open to everyone irrespective of color, race, sex, or religion.

Malaysian folk religion in Malaysia

This religion refers to the polytheistic and animistic practices and beliefs that are still followed by a lot of people in Malaysia. This faith is practiced openly or secretly depending on the kind of ceremonies being performed.

There are various forms of Malaysian folk religion practiced in the country. Shamanic ceremonies are carried out by a community referred to as dukuns, also known as pawang or dukun. Most indigenous people known as Orang Aslis are spiritually animists and the belief that spirits  live in certain objects. Some of them have, however, converted to mainstream religious practices such as Islam and Christianity.

Datuk Keramat

This religious belief is not only found in Malaysia but also along the Strait of Malacca and in Singapore as well. Datuk Keramat is a blend of Sufi saint worship, pre-Islamic spirit belief, and Chinese folk religion.

Local legends believe that all Datuks were at one time humans who had a reputation in the community  either for their special characteristics or position. They could have been a well-known healer, a religious man, a significant leader, a silat warrior, or a shaman. After their death, their followers and the locals would pray at their gravestones, in line with the keramat concept. When the Chinese immigrants arrived in Malaysia, they brought with them the Confucian faith of ancestor worship, the two beliefs merged and created a new micro-culture that is seen today.

Throughout the country, tiny red-colored painted shrines under a tree or by the roadside can be seen. These shrines are normally worshipped by the locals residing near the neighborhood. These shrines are a mixture of Chinese-Malay design, with Islamic components for instance, crescent moon decorations. Inside the room, a tiny beautified statue is worshipped, representing the datuk. Offerings are brought and placed around the statue or at times places on a tiny altar in front of the statue.

Baha'i

This faith is practiced by a small group of people in Malaysia especially from the Indian, Eurasian, Chinese, and indigenous communities. Baha'i was introduced in Malaysia by a couple from Iran in 1950. A population of about 2500 Jains practicing this faith live in Malaysia and the only Jain temple is located in the state of Ipoh.

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