Malaysia is the meeting point of many diverse cultures, followed by people from various parts of the world. Malaysia truly is a melting pot of diversity and beauty. It boasts beautiful beaches and ancient, unsullied landscapes ? but also rapidly growing cities with cutting edge architecture and world leading shopping facilities. Despite their many different backgrounds, Malaysians live in harmony.
Ethnicity: Indigenous Peoples
Malaysia is a mosaic of people of various ethnicities, religions and cultures. The population of Malaysia comprises of many ethnic groups, pre dominantly, the Malays. They are known as Bumiputrans and constitute of 50.4% population. Other Bumiputra constitute 11% of the population. Malays are Muslims and this is defined by the Malaysian Constitution. Malay Muslims practice Malay customs and culture. Some non-Malay indigenous tribes like Thais, Khmers, Chams and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak also enjoy rights similar to Malays. Non-Malay Bumiputra includes Sarawak?s Ibans and Sabah's Kadazan-Dusuns, and Bajaus. They all are primarily Christian farmers. Aboriginal groups are small in number and are referred to as Orang Asli. They inhabit peninsular Malaysia.
Chinese & Indian Population
Malaysians of Chinese descent comprise 23.7% of the population and Indians comprise 7.1% of the population of Malaysia. The Chinese community in Malaysia has been pre-dominant in both business and commerce. The Indians in Malaysia are either Tamils or some may be Telugu-, Malayalam- or Hindi-speaking also. Some Eurasians have also descended as immigrants. The remaining minorities include Khmers, Chams, Malaysian Siamese and Burmese that primarily inhabit the northern peninsular states.
Religion & Language
Islam is the official religion of Malaysia. The other religions prevailing in Malaysia are Buddhism; Christianity; Hinduism; Confucianism, Taoism and other traditional Chinese religions. Approximately 60.4 percent of the population of Malaysia practice Islam.
The native language of Malaysians is Malay, also called Bahasa Malaysia, which is the national language of the country. Malays of Bugis, Minang or Javanese origin may also speak their ancestral tongue. However, English is a widely spoken language in major cities all across Malaysia. Hindi and Tamil are spoken widely by the Indian community and the Chinese Malaysians speak in more than six dialects besides Mandarin. The Dayak population of Borneo speaks in Iban and Kadazandusun, their distinct languages.
Buddhism and Hinduism arrived long back, some more than fifteen hundred years ago in Malaysia with the arrival of gold and silk traders from China and India. Later, Arab traders brought Islam, whilst the Portuguese brought Christianity. The Chinese and the Indians have been the most active trade partners of Malaysia, and thus a strong influence of these two communities can be observed on the Malaysian culture. There are arrays of indigenous tribes who live in the coastal areas of Borneo and they also beautifully add to Malaysia?s rich, contemporary and diverse heritage.
Culture and Customs
Babas and Nonyas are people whose ancestors were Chinese immigrants. These immigrants first settled in the straits around Malacca. They gradually adopted the Malaysian culture and married with people of the Malaysian community. Now, they practice a set of beliefs and arts that is a unique combination of Malay and Chinese traditions. In this way, they have created a new culture.
Muslims have adapted the Chinese custom of giving auspicious red packets of money (ang pau) at festivals. Penang city in Malaysia is a fine example of where Chinese have very beautifully maintained their culture. The city gives a lovely insight into the Chinese culture.
Malay weddings are also a wonderful example of cultural mixing in Malaysia. It has incorporated elements of Southern India?s Hindu traditions.
Big cities like Kuala Lumpur, however, boast a rich tapestry of cultures blended together side by side. The open door policy is practiced during religious festivals in Malaysia; it allows all Malaysians to open their doors to members of other religions, and cultures - even the tourists as well as neighbors. Such inclusiveness breaks down the cultural barriers and promotes harmony and fosters understanding.
This unity and peaceful co-existence is the key factor behind the huge progress that Malaysia has made in recent decades.
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