Malaysia (pronounced /məˈleɪʒə/ or /məˈleɪziə/) is a country that consists of thirteen states and three federal territories in Southeast Asia with a total landmass of 329,847 square kilometres (127,355 sq mi). The capital city is Kuala Lumpur, while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. The population stands at over 27 million. The country is separated into two regions — Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo — by the South China Sea. Malaysia borders Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines. The country is located near the equator and experiences a tropical climate. Malaysia’s head of state is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the government is headed by a Prime Minister. The government is closely modeled after the Westminster parliamentary system ]
Malaysia as a unified state did not exist until 1963. Previously, a set of colonies were established by the United Kingdom from the late-18th century, and the western half of modern Malaysia was composed of several separate kingdoms. This group of colonies was known as British Malaya until its dissolution in 1946, when it was reorganized as the Malayan Union. Due to widespread opposition, it was reorganized again as the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and later gained independence on 31 August 1957. Singapore, Sarawak, British North Borneo and the Federation of Malaya joined to form Malaysia on 16 September 1963. The early years of the new union were marred by an armed conflict with Indonesia and the expulsion of Singapore on 9 August 1965. The Southeast Asian nation experienced an economic boom and underwent rapid development during the late-20th century. Rapid growth during the 1980s and 1990s, averaging 8% from 1991 to 1997, has transformed Malaysia into a newly industrialised country.Because Malaysia is one of three countries that control the Strait of Malacca, international trade plays a large role in its economy. At one time, it was the largest producer of tin, rubber and palm oil in the world. Manufacturing has a large influence in the country’s economy. Malaysia has a biodiverse range of flora and fauna, and is also considered one of the 18 megadiverse countries.
Malays form the majority of the population of Malaysia. There are sizable Chinese and Indian communities as well. The Malay language and Islam are the official language and religion of the federation respectively.
Malaysia is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and participates in many international organisations such as the United Nations. As a former British colony, it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.It is also a member of the Developing 8 Countries
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 2.1 Prehistory
- 2.2 Early history
- 2.3 British arrival
- 2.4 Post independence
- 3 Government and politics
- 4 Administrative divisions
- 5 Geography
- 5.1 Natural resources
- 6 Demographics
- 6.1 Religion
- 6.2 Education
- 6.3 Healthcare
- 6.4 Citizenship
- 7 Economy
- 8 Infrastructure
- 9 Culture
- 9.1 Holidays
- 10 See also
- 11 Sources
- 12 References
- 13 External links
The word Malaysia is visible on a 1914 map from an American atlas.
The name «Malaysia» was adopted in 1963 when the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak formed a 14-state federation.  However the name itself had been vaguely used to refer to areas in Southeast Asia prior to that. A map published in 1914 in Chicago has the word Malaysia printed on it referring to certain territories within the Malay Archipelago. The Philippines once contemplated naming their state «Malaysia», but Malaysia adopted the name first in 1963 before the Philippines could act further on the matter. Other names were contemplated for the 1963 federation. Among them was Langkasuka (Langkasuka was an old kingdom located at the upper section of the Malay Peninsula in the first millennium of the common era).
Even further back into history, the English ethnologist George Samuel Windsor Earl in volume IV of Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia in 1850 proposed to name the islands of Indonesia as Melayunesia or Indunesia though he favored the former.
An artist’s impression of Prehistoric Malaysia.
Archaeological remains have been found throughout peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. The Semang have a deep ancestry within the Malay Peninsula, dating to the initial settlement from Africa over 50,000 years ago. The Senoi appear to be a composite group, with approximately half of the maternal lineages tracing back to the ancestors of the Semang and about half to Indochina. This is in agreement with the suggestion that they represent the descendants of early Austronesian speaking agriculturalists, who brought both their language and their technology to the southern part of the peninsula approximately 5,000 years ago and coalesced with the indigenous population. The Aboriginal Malays are more diverse, and although they show some connections with island Southeast Asia, some also have an ancestry in Indochina around the time of the Last Glacial Maximum, followed by an early-Holocene dispersal through the Malay Peninsula into island Southeast Asia.
Ptolemy showed the Malay Peninsula on his early map with a label that translates as «Golden Chersonese«, the Straits of Malacca were referred to as «Sinus Sabaricus«. From the mid to the late first millennium, much of the Peninsula as well as the Malay Archipelago were under the influence of Srivijaya.
A Famosa in Malacca. It was built by the Portuguese in the 15th century.
There were numerous Chinese and Indian kingdoms in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE—as many as 30 according to Chinese sources. Kedah—known as Kedaram, Cheh-Cha (according to I-Ching) or Kataha, in ancient Pallava or Sanskrit—was in the direct route of invasions of Indian traders and kings. Rajendra Chola, Tamil Emperor who is now thought to have laid Kota Gelanggi to waste, put Kedah to heel in 1025 but his successor, Vira Rajendra Chola, had to put down a Kedah rebellion to overthrow the invaders. The coming of the Chola reduced the majesty of Srivijaya, which had exerted influence over Kedah and Pattani and even as far as Ligor.
The Buddhist kingdom of Ligor took control of Kedah shortly after, and its King Chandrabhanu used it as a base to attack Sri Lanka in the 11th century, an event noted in a stone inscription in Nagapattinum in Tamil Nadu and in the Sri Lankan chronicles, Mahavamsa. During the first millennium, the people of the Malay Peninsula adopted Hinduism and Buddhism and the use of the Sanskrit language until they eventually converted to Islam.
There are reports of other areas older than Kedah—the ancient kingdom of Gangga Negara, around Beruas in Perak, for instance, pushes Malaysian history even further into antiquity. If that is not enough, a Tamil poem, Pattinapillai, of the second century CE, describes goods from Kadaram heaped in the broad streets of the Chola capital. A 7th century Sanskrit drama, Kaumudhimahotsva, refers to Kedah as Kataha-nagari. The Agnipurana also mentions a territory known as Anda-Kataha with one of its boundaries delineated by a peak, which scholars believe is Gunung Jerai. Stories from the Katasaritasagaram describe the elegance of life in Kataha.
Sultan Abdul Samad Building in Kuala Lumpur houses the High Court of Malaya and the Trade Court. Kuala Lumpur was the capital of the Federated Malay States and is the current Malaysian capital.
In the early-15th century, the Malacca Sultanate was established under a dynasty founded by Parameswara , a prince from Palembang within the Srivijayan empire. Conquest forced him and many others to flee Palembang. Parameswara in particular sailed to Temasek to escape persecution and came under the protection of Temagi, a Malay chief from Patani who was appointed by the King of Siam as Regent of Temasek. Within a few days, Parameswara killed Temagi and appointed himself as regent. Some 5 years later he had to leave Temasek due to threats from Siam. During this period, Temasek was also attacked by a Javanese fleet from Majapahit.
He later headed north to found a new settlement. At Muar, Parameswara contemplated establishing his new kingdom at either Biawak Busuk or at Kota Buruk. Finding that the Muar location was not suitable, he continued his journey northwards. Along the way, he reportedly visited Sening Ujong (former name of present day Sungai Ujong) before reaching a fishing village at the mouth of the Bertam River (former name of the Malacca River). This evolved over time to become the location of modern day Malacca Town. According to the Malay Annals, it was here that he witnessed a mouse deer outwitting a dog while resting under a Malacca tree. He took what he saw as a good omen and decided to establish a kingdom called Malacca, building and improving facilities for the purpose of trade.
Parameswara’s conversion to Islam was unclear so far with no evidence as to whether Parameswara had actually converted. According to a theory by Sabri Zain , Parameswara became a Muslim when he married a Princess of Pasai and he took the fashionable Persian title «Shah», calling himself Iskandar Shah. There are also references that indicate that some members of the ruling class and the merchant community residing in Malacca were already Muslims. The Chinese chronicles mention that in 1414, the son of the first ruler of Malacca visited Ming to inform them that his father had died. Parameswara’s son was then officially recognised as the second ruler of Malacca by the Chinese Emperor and styled Raja Sri Rama Vikrama, Raja of Parameswara of Temasik and Melaka and he was known to his Muslim subjects as 【Sultan Sri Iskandar Zulkarnain Shah】 or 【Sultan Megat Iskandar Shah】, and he ruled Malacca from 1414 to 1424.  
In 1511, Malacca was conquered by Portugal, which established a colony there. The sons of the last Sultan of Malacca established two sultanates elsewhere in the peninsula & mdash; the Sultanate of Perak to the north, and the Sultanate of Johor (originally a continuation of the old Malacca sultanate) to the south. After the fall of Malacca, three nations struggled for the control of Malacca Strait: the Portuguese (in Malacca), the Sultanate of Johor, and the Sultanate of Aceh. This conflict went on until 1641, when the Dutch (allied to the Sultanate of Johor) gained control of Malacca.
Britain established its first colony in the Malay Peninsula in 1786, with the lease of the island of Penang to the British East India Company by the Sultan of Kedah. In 1824, the British took control of Malacca following the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 which divided the Malay archipelago between Britain and the Netherlands, with Malaya in the British zone. In 1826, Britain established the crown colony of the Straits Settlements, uniting its four possessions in Malaya: Penang, Malacca, Singapore and the island of Labuan. The Straits Settlements were initially administered under the East India Company in Calcutta, before first Penang, and later Singapore became the administrative centre of the crown colony, until 1867, when they were transferred to the Colonial Office in London.
During the late-19th century, many Malay states decided to obtain British help in settling their internal conflicts. The commercial importance of tin mining in the Malay states to merchants in the Straits Settlements led to British government intervention in the tin-producing states in the Malay Peninsula. British gunboat diplomacy was employed to bring about a peaceful resolution to civil disturbances caused by Chinese and Malay gangsters, and the Pangkor Treaty of 1874 paved the way for the expansion of British influence in Malaya. By the turn of the 20th century, the states of Pahang, Selangor, Perak, and Negeri Sembilan, known together as the Federated Malay States (not to be confused with the Federation of Malaya), were under the de facto control of British Residents appointed to advise the Malay rulers. The British were «advisers» in name, but in reality, they exercised substantial influence over the Malay rulers.
Malaysia Day celebration in 1963. (Majulah Malaysia means «Onwards Malaysia»)
The remaining five states in the peninsula, known as the Unfederated Malay States, while not directly under rule from London, also accepted British advisers around the turn of the 20th century. Of these, the four northern states of Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu had previously been under Siamese control. The other unfederated state, Johor, was the only state which managed to preserve its independence throughout most of the 19th century. Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor and Queen Victoria were personal acquaintances, and recognised each other as equals. It was not until 1914 that Sultan Abu Bakar’s successor, Sultan Ibrahim accepted a British adviser.
On the island of Borneo, Sabah was governed as the crown colony of British North Borneo, while Sarawak was acquired from Brunei as the personal kingdom of the Brooke family, who ruled as white Rajahs.
Following the Japanese Invasion of Malaya and its subsequent occupation during World War II, popular support for independence grew. Post-war British plans to unite the administration of Malaya under a single crown colony called the Malayan Union foundered on strong opposition from the Malays, who opposed the emasculation of the Malay rulers and the granting of citizenship to the ethnic Chinese. The Malayan Union, established in 1946 and consisting of all the British possessions in Malaya with the exception of Singapore, was dissolved in 1948 and replaced by the Federation of Malaya, which restored the autonomy of the rulers of the Malay states under British protection.
During this time, rebels under the leadership of the Malayan Communist Party launched guerrilla operations designed to force the British out of Malaya. The Malayan Emergency, as it was known, lasted from 1948 to 1960, and involved a long anti-insurgency campaign by Commonwealth troops in Malaya. Although the insurgency quickly stopped there was still a presence of Commonwealth troops, with the backdrop of the Cold War. Against this backdrop, independence for the Federation within the Commonwealth was granted on 31 August 1957.
Mahathir bin Mohamad was the leading force in making Malaysia into a major industrial power.
In 1963, Malaya along with the then-British crown colonies of Sabah (British North Borneo), Sarawak and Singapore, formed Malaysia. The Sultanate of Brunei, though initially expressing interest in joining the Federation, withdrew from the planned merger due to opposition from certain segments of its population as well as arguments over the payment of oil royalties and the status of the Sultan in the planned merger.
The early years of independence were marred by the conflict with Indonesia (Konfrontasi) over the formation of Malaysia, Singapore’s eventual exit in 1965, and racial strife in the form of race riots in 1969. The Philippines also made an active claim on Sabah in that period based upon the Sultanate of Brunei’s cession of its north-east territories to the Sulu Sultanate in 1704. The claim is still ongoing. After the 13 May race riots of 1969, the controversial New Economic Policy—intended to increase proportionately the share of the economic pie of the bumiputras («indigenous people», which includes the majority Malays, but not always the indigenous population) as compared to other ethnic groups—was launched by Prime Minister Abdul Razak. Malaysia has since maintained a delicate ethno-political balance, with a system of government that has attempted to combine overall economic development with political and economic policies that promote equitable participation of all races.
Between the 1980s and the mid-1990s, Malaysia experienced significant economic growth under the premiership of Mahathir bin Mohamad. The period saw a shift from an agriculture-based economy to one based on manufacturing and industry in areas such as computers and consumer electronics. It was during this period, too, that the physical landscape of Malaysia has changed with the emergence of numerous mega-projects. The most notable of these projects are the Petronas Twin Towers (at the time the tallest building in the world), KL International Airport (KLIA), North-South Expressway, the Sepang F1 Circuit, the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), the Bakun hydroelectric dam and Putrajaya, the new federal administrative capital.
In the late-1990s, Malaysia was shaken by the Asian financial crisis as well as political unrest caused by the sacking of the deputy prime minister Dato› Seri Anwar Ibrahim. In 2003, Dr Mahathir, Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister, retired in favour of his deputy, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. On November 2007, Malaysia was rocked by two anti-government rallies. The 2007 Bersih Rally numbering 40,000 strong was held in Kuala Lumpur on 10 November campaigning for electoral reform. It was precipitated by allegations of corruption and discrepancies in the Malaysian election system that heavily favour the ruling political party, Barisan Nasional, which has been in power since Malaysia achieved its independence in 1957. Another rally was held on 25 November in the Malaysian capital lead by HINDRAF. The rally organiser, the Hindu Rights Action Force, had called the protest over alleged discriminatory policies that favour ethnic Malays. The crowd was estimated to be between 5,000 and 30,000. In both cases the government and police were heavy handed and tried to prevent the gatherings from taking place. In 16 October 2008, HINDRAF was banned as the government labelled the organisation as «a threat to national security».
Government and politics
Current Prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Tun Razak
The Parliament building
PM’s office, Putrajaya
Malaysia is a federal constitutional elective monarchy. The federal head of state of Malaysia is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, commonly referred to as the King of Malaysia. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is elected to a five-year term among the nine hereditary Sultans of the Malay states; the other four states, which have titular Governors, do not participate in the selection.
The system of government in Malaysia is closely modeled on that of Westminster parliamentary system, a legacy of British colonial rule. In practice however, more power is vested in the executive branch of government than in the legislative, and the judiciary has been weakened by sustained attacks by the government during the Mahathir era. Since independence in 1957, Malaysia has been governed by a multi-party coalition known as the Barisan Nasional (formerly known as the Alliance).
Legislative power is divided between federal and state legislatures. The bicameral parliament consists of the lower house, the House of Representatives or Dewan Rakyat (literally the «Chamber of the People») and the upper house, the Senate or Dewan Negara (literally the «Chamber of the Nation»). The 222-member House of Representatives are elected from single-member constituencies that are drawn based on population for a maximum term of five years. All 70 Senators sit for three-year terms; 26 are elected by the 13 state assemblies, two representing the federal territory of Kuala Lumpur, one each from federal territories of Labuan and Putrajaya, and 40 are appointed by the king. Besides the Parliament at the federal level, each state has a unicameral state legislative chamber (Malay: Dewan Undangan Negeri) whose members are elected from single-member constituencies. Parliamentary elections are held at least once every five years, with the last general election being in March 2008. Registered voters of age 21 and above may vote for the members of the House of Representatives and in most of the states, the state legislative chamber as well. Voting is not compulsory.
Executive power is vested in the cabinet led by the prime minister; the Malaysian constitution stipulates that the prime minister must be a member of the lower house of parliament who, in the opinion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, commands a majority in parliament. The cabinet is chosen from among members of both houses of Parliament and is responsible to that body.
State governments are led by Chief Ministers (Menteri Besar in Malay states or Ketua Menteri in states without hereditary rulers), who is a state assembly member from the majority party in the Dewan Undangan Negeri. In each of the states with a hereditary ruler, the Chief Minister is required to be a Malay Muslim, although this rule is subject to the rulers› discretion.
Masjid Ubudiah is a well-known historical mosque in Kuala Kangsar.
The national mosque of Malaysia, Masjid Negara.
Malaysia is a multi-religious society and Islam is the official religion. According to the Population and Housing Census 2000 figures, approximately 60.4 percent of the population practiced Islam; 19.2 percent Buddhism; 9.1 percent Christianity; 6.3 percent Hinduism; and 2.6 percent traditional Chinese religions. The remaining was accounted for by other faiths, including Animism, Folk religion, Sikhism and other faiths while 1.1% either reported as having no religion or did not provide any information.
All ethnic Malays are considered Muslim (100%) as defined by Article 160 of the Constitution of Malaysia. Additional statistics from the 2000 Census indicate that ethnic Chinese are predominantly Buddhist (75.9%), with significant numbers of adherents following Taoism (10.6%) and Christianity (9.6%). The majority of ethnic Indians follow Hinduism (84.5%), with a significant minority identifying as Christians (7.7%) and Muslims (3.8%). Christianity is the predominant religion of the non-Malay bumiputra community (50.1%) with an additional 36.3% identifying as Muslims and 7.3% identifying as adherents to what is officially classified as folk religion.
The Malaysian constitution theoretically guarantees religious freedom. Additionally, all non-Muslims who marry a Muslim must renounce their religion and convert to Islam. Meanwhile, non-Muslims experience restrictions in activities such as construction of religious buildings and the celebration of certain religious events in some states. Muslims are obliged to follow the decisions of Syariah courts when it comes to matters concerning their religion. The jurisdiction of Syariah court is limited only to Muslims over matters of Faith and Obligations as a Muslim, which includes marriage, inheritance, apostasy, religious conversion, and custody among others. No other criminal or civil offenses are under the jurisdiction of the Syariah courts, which have a similar hierarchy to the Civil Courts. Despite being the supreme courts of the land, the Civil Courts (including the Federal Court, the highest court in Malaysia) in principle cannot overrule any decision made by the Syariah Courts; and presently are reluctant to preside over cases involving Islam in any nature or question or challenge the authority of the Syariah courts. This has caused notable problems, particularly involving civil cases between Muslims and non-Muslims, in which civil courts have ordered non-Muslims to seek recourse from the Syariah Courts
MARA Junior Science College Tun Ghafar Baba is one of the premier boarding schools in Malaysia. This school was ranked first in the years 2005 and 2006, based on the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) test scores.
Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) is one of the earliest boarding schools established in British Malaya.
University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus.
Education in Malaysia is monitored by the federal government Ministry of Education.
Most Malaysian children start schooling between the ages of three to six, in kindergarten. Most kindergartens are run privately, but there are a few government-run kindergartens.
- Primary education
Children begin primary schooling at the age of seven for a period of six years. There are two major types of government-operated or government-assisted primary schools. The vernacular schools (Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan) use either Chinese or Tamil as the medium of teaching. Before progressing to the secondary level of education, pupils in Year 6 are required to sit for the Primary School Achievement Test (Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah, UPSR). A programme called First Level Assessment (Penilaian Tahap Satu, PTS) was used to measure the ability of bright pupils, and to allow them to move from Year 3 to 5, skipping Year 4. However, this programme was abolished in 2001.
- Secondary education
Secondary education in Malaysia is conducted in secondary schools (Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan) for five years. National secondary schools use Malay as the main medium of instruction. The only exceptions are the Mathematics and Science subjects as well as languages other than Malay, however this was only implemented in the year 2003, and before that all non-language subjects were taught in Malay. At the end of Form Three, which is the third year, students are evaluated in the Lower Secondary Assessment (Penilaian Menengah Rendah, PMR). In the final year of secondary education (Form Five), students sit for the Malaysian Certificate of Education (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, SPM) examination, which is equivalent to the former British Ordinary or ‹O› Levels. The oldest school in Malaysia is Penang Free School, also the oldest school in South East Asia.
Malaysian national secondary schools are sub-divided into several types, namely National Secondary School (Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan), Religious Secondary School (Sekolah Menengah Agama), National-Type Secondary School (Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan) which is also referred as Mission Schools, Technical Schools (Sekolah Menengah Teknik), Residential Schools and MARA Junior Science College (Maktab Rendah Sains MARA).
There are also 60 Chinese Independent High Schools in Malaysia, where most subjects are taught in Chinese. Chinese Independent High Schools are monitored and standardised by the United Chinese School Committees› Association of Malaysia (UCSCAM, more commonly referred to by its Chinese name, Dong Zong 董总), however, unlike government schools, every independent school is free to make its own decisions. Studying in independent schools takes 6 years to complete, divided into Junior Level (3 years) and Senior Level (3 years). Students will sit for a standardised test conducted by UCSCAM, which is known as the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) in Junior Middle 3 (equivalent to PMR) and Senior Middle 3 (equivalent to A level). A number of independent schools conduct classes in Malay and English in addition to Chinese, enabling the students to sit for the PMR and SPM as well.
- Tertiary education
Before the introduction of the matriculation system, students aiming to enter public universities had to complete an additional 18 months of secondary schooling in Form Six and sit for the Malaysian Higher School Certificate (Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia, STPM); equivalent to the British Advanced or ‹A› levels. Since the introduction of the matriculation programme as an alternative to STPM in 1999, students who completed the 12-month programme in matriculation colleges (kolej matrikulasi in Malay) can enrol in local universities. However, in the matriculation system, only 10% of the places are open to non-Bumiputra students while the rest are reserved for Bumiputra students.
There are public universities such as University of Malaya, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Mara, Universiti Utara Malaysia, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Private universities are also gaining enough reputation for international quality education and many students from all over the world are attracted to these universities. Such as Multimedia University, Universiti Teknologi Petronas etc. In addition, four international reputable universities have set up their branch campuses in Malaysia since 1998. A branch campus can be seen as an ‘offshore campus’ of the foreign university, which offers the same courses and awards as the main campus. Both local and international students can acquire these identical foreign qualifications in Malaysia at a lower fee. The foreign university branch campuses in Malaysia are: Monash University Malaysia Campus, Curtin University of Technology Sarawak Campus, Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus and University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus.
Students also have the option of enrolling in private tertiary institutions after secondary studies. Most institutions have educational links with overseas universities especially in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, allowing students to spend a portion of their course duration abroad as well as getting overseas qualifications. One such example is SEGi College which partnered with University of Abertay Dundee. Malaysian students abroad study mostly in East Asia, Middle East, Oceania, Northern America and Western Europe.
- International schools
In addition to the Malaysian National Curriculum, Malaysia has many international schools. International schools offer students the opportunity to study the curriculum of another country. These schools mainly cater to the growing expatriate population in the country. International schools include: the Australian International School, Malaysia (Australian curriculum), The Alice Smith School (British Curriculum), elc International school (British Curriculum), The Garden International School (British Curriculum), Lodge International School (British Curriculum), The International School of Kuala Lumpur (International Baccalaureate and American Curriculum), The Japanese School of Kuala Lumpur (Japanese Curriculum), The Chinese Taipei School, Kuala Lumpur and The Chinese Taipei School, Penang (Taiwanese Curriculum), The International School of Penang (International Baccalaureate and British Curriculum), Lycée Français de Kuala Lumpur (French Curriculum) amongst others.
A cook making a murtabak, a type of pancake filled with eggs, small chunks of meat and onions, in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multilingual society. The population as of February 2007 is 26.6 million consisting of 62% Bumiputeras (including Malays), 24% Chinese, 8% Indians, with other minorities and indigenous peoples (Dept of Stats. Malaysia). Ethnic tensions have been rising in recent months.
The Malays, who form the largest community, are defined as Muslims in the Constitution of Malaysia. The Malays play a dominant role politically and are included in a grouping identified as bumiputra. Their native language is Malay (Bahasa Melayu). Malay is the national language of the country.
Hindus in Kuala Lumpur.
In the past, Malays wrote in Sanskrit or using Sanskrit-based alphabets. After the 15th century, Jawi (a script based on Arabic) became popular. Over time, romanised script overtook Sanskrit and Jawi as the dominant script. This was largely due to the influence of the colonial education system, which taught children in romanised writing rather than in Arabic script.
The largest non-Malay indigenous tribe is the Iban of Sarawak, who number over 600,000. Some Iban still live in traditional jungle villages in long houses along the Rajang and Lupar rivers and their tributaries, although many have moved to the cities. The Bidayuhs, numbering around 170,000, are concentrated in the southwestern part of Sarawak. The largest indigenous tribe in Sabah is the Kadazan. They are largely Christian subsistence farmers. The 140,000 Orang Asli, or aboriginal peoples, comprise a number of different ethnic communities living in peninsular Malaysia. Traditionally nomadic hunter/gatherers and agriculturalists, many have been sedentarised and partially absorbed into modern Malaysia.
The Chinese population in Malaysia is mostly Buddhist (of Mahayana sect) or Taoist. Chinese in Malaysia speak a variety of Chinese dialects including Mandarin Chinese, Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, and Teochew. A large majority of Chinese in Malaysia, especially those from larger cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya and Penang speak English as well. There has also been an increasing number of the present generation Chinese who consider English as their first language. Chinese have historically been dominant in the Malaysian business community.
Penang Rojak in Malaysia.
The Indians in Malaysia are mainly Hindu Tamils from southern India whose native language is Tamil, there are also other Indian communities which is Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi-speaking, living mainly in the larger towns on the west coast of the peninsula. Many middle to upper-middle class Indians in Malaysia also speak English as a first language. A vigorous 200,000-strong Tamil Muslim community also thrives as an independent subcultural group. There are also prevalent Tamil Christian communities in major cities and towns. There is also a sizable Sikh community in Malaysia of over 83,000. Most Indians originally migrated from India as traders, teachers or other skilled workers. A larger number were also part of the forced migrations from India by the British during colonial times to work in the plantation industry.
Eurasians, Cambodians, Vietnamese, Thais, Bugis, Javanese and indigenous tribes make up the remaining population. A small number of Eurasians, of mixed Portuguese and Malay descent, speak a Portuguese-based creole, called Papiá Kristang. There are also Eurasians of mixed Filipino and Spanish descent, mostly in Sabah. Descended from immigrants from the Philippines, some speak Chavacano, the only Spanish-based creole language in Asia. Cambodians and Vietnamese are mostly Buddhists (Cambodians of Theravada sect and Vietnamese, Mahayana sect). Thai Malaysians have been populating a big part of the northern peninsular states of Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Perak, Kelantan and Terengganu. Besides speaking Thai, most of them are Buddhists, celebrate Songkran (Water festival) and can speak Hokkien, but some of them are Muslim and speak the Kelantanese Malay Dialect. Bugis and Javanese make up a part of the population in Johore. In addition, there have been many foreigners and expatriates who have made Malaysia their second home, also contributing to Malaysia’s population.
Chinese and Islamic forms heavily influence Malaysian traditional music. The music is based largely around the gendang (drum), but includes other percussion instruments (some made of shells); the rebab, a bowed string instrument; the serunai, a double-reed oboe-like instrument; flutes, and trumpets. The country has a strong tradition of dance and dance dramas, some of Thai, Indian and Portuguese origin. In recent years, dikir barat has grown in popularity, and the government has begun to promote it as a national cultural icon. Other artistic forms were also shared with and influenced by neighbouring Indonesia, include wayang kulit (shadow puppet theatre), silat (a stylised martial art) and crafts such as batik, weaving, including the ceremonial cloth pua kumbu, and silver and brasswork.
Typical festive fare during Hari Raya Puasa or Hari Raya Haji (clockwise from bottom left): beef soup, ketupat (compressed rice cubes), beef rendang and sayur lodeh.
Malaysians observe a number of holidays and festivities throughout the year. Some holidays are federal gazetted public holidays and some are public holidays observed by individual states. Other festivals are observed by particular ethnic or religion groups, but are not public holidays.
The most celebrated holiday is the «Hari Kebangsaan» (Independence Day), otherwise known as «Merdeka» (Freedom), on 31 August commemorating the independence of the Federation of Malaya in 1957, while Malaysia Day is only celebrated in the state of Sabah on 16 September to commemorate the formation of Malaysia in 1963. Hari Merdeka, as well as Labour Day (1 May), the King’s birthday (first Saturday of June) and some other festivals are federal gazetted public holidays.
Muslims in Malaysia celebrate Muslim holidays. The most celebrated festival, Hari Raya Puasa (also called Hari Raya Aidilfitri) is the Malay translation of Eid al-Fitr. It is generally a festival honoured by the Muslims worldwide marking the end of Ramadan, the fasting month. The sight of the new moon determines the end of Ramadan. This determines the new month, therefore the end of the fasting month. In addition to Hari Raya Puasa, they also celebrate Hari Raya Haji (also called Hari Raya Aidiladha, the translation of Eid ul-Adha), Awal Muharram (Islamic New Year) and Maulidur Rasul (Birthday of the Prophet).
Chinese in Malaysia typically celebrate festivals that are observed by Chinese around the world. Chinese New Year is the most celebrated among the festivals which lasts for fifteen days and ends with Chap Goh Mei(十五瞑). Other festivals celebrated by Chinese are the Qingming Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival. In addition to traditional Chinese festivals, Buddhists Chinese also celebrate Vesak.
The majority of Indians in Malaysia are Hindus and they celebrate Deepavali, the festival of light, while Thaipusam is a celebration which pilgrims from all over the country flock to Batu Caves. Apart from the Hindus, Sikhs celebrate the Vaisakhi, the Sikh New Year.
Other festivals such as Good Friday (East Malaysia only), Christmas, Hari Gawai of the Ibans (Dayaks), Pesta Menuai (Pesta Kaamatan) of the Kadazan-Dusuns are also celebrated in Malaysia.