POPULATION29,179,952 (July 2012 est.)
GDP PER CAPITA$15,800 (2011 est.)
RELIGIONSMuslim (or Islam - official) 60.4%, Buddhist 19.2%, Christian 9.1%, Hindu 6.3%, Confucianism, Taoism, other traditional Chinese religions 2.6%, other or unknown 1.5%, none 0.8% (2000 census)
ALSO IN SOUTHEAST ASIAAustralia
AT THE CENTER
The Religious Lives of Migrant Minorities: Great Britain, Malaysia, and South Africa (PART ONE) (Full Screen)
Religion, ethnicity, and politics are all profoundly intertwined in Malaysia, and the country’s ethno-religious dynamics have shaped its history even prior to independence from the United Kingdom in 1957. The introduction of Islam in the 13th century led to the decline of Indian-imported Buddhism and Hinduism among Malays. Beginning in 1511, Malay lands experienced successive colonization by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British Empires. The British imported Chinese and Indian workers during their rule, the forebears of modern Malaysia’s 40% non-Muslim minority. The Malaysian Constitution defines all ethnic Malays as Muslims, thereby inextricably fusing ethnic Malay identity with Sunni Islam. Though the official state religion is Islam, minorities are guaranteed freedom of religion. Malaysian politics is characterized by a balancing act between ethnically based political parties, many of which seek to either increase or decrease Islam’s sociopolitical influence. Despite Prime Minister Najib Razak’s recent efforts to deemphasize ethno-religious differences, friction between immigrant populations, Islamists, and the Islamic-influenced moderate Malay government has proven a constant threat to political stability.