Malaysia is a melting pot of races, ethnicities and religions and the Tourism Malaysia’s marketing campaign of Malaysia Truly Asia is apt.
Islam is the largest religion in Malaysia with 61% followed by Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism being at 20%, 9% & 6% respectively. Despite Malaysian having a majority Muslim population, freedom is religion is guaranteed in the Federal Constitution.
Legally, all Malays in Malaysia are Muslims and Sunni being the official code of Islam. Islam was brought into the country around the 12th century through Indian and Arab traders and it spread quickly across the archipelago. The Malaysian government promotes a moderate version of Sunni Islam with extremist views watched closely by the authorities. There are numerous Mosques in the country with the majority being in the East Coast states of Kelantan and Terengganu.
The major Islamic Holidays in Malaysia are Hari Raya Puasa & Hari Raya Haji.
Buddhism is mainly practiced by Malaysian Chinese and it was introduced as early as 200 BC. Indian traders and priest were the major conduits of the Buddhist faith to the local population. Buddhist temples are scattered all around the country.
The major Buddhist holiday is Wesak.
Christianity has a long history in Malaysia with early educationist from Portugal and France bringing their faith when they set up schools in the country. Catholics are the most common denomination in the country followed by Anglicans, Methodists and non-denominational churches. Most Christians reside in East Malaysia but churches and cathedrals are common throughout the whole country.
The major Christian holiday is Christmas and Easter (Public Holiday in Sabah & Sarawak).
Hinduism has early roots as early as 1,700 years ago. Sanskrit was a major influence on the Malay language and early Malay empires such as Gangga Negara & Langkasuka (both 2nd century) were prosperous Hindu civilisations. Most Malaysian Indians are Hindus and you will be able to observe colourful temples around the country.
The major Hindu holiday is Deepavali.
Written by: Jeremy, Relocation Consultant at Pathfinder Relocation Services