Malaysian Culture

Religion

In the last Malaysian census, 61.3% of Malaysian people identified as Muslim. Another 19.8% of the population identified as Buddhists, 9.2% as Christians and 6.3% as Hindu. A minority (1.3%) followed traditional Chinese religions such as Taoism.


Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, reflecting the faith of the Malay majority. Adherence to this religion has become a key identifying factor in distinguishing between Malays and non-Malays. Malays are defined in law as being Muslim, and all Malaysians are required to carry national identification cards that specify whether they are Muslim or not.


The other religious orientations of the nation also tend to correlate with people's’ ethnicities. Indians are generally Christians and Hindu, and the Chinese are mostly Buddhist, Christian or Taoist. Some Orang Asli (aboriginal tribes) have adopted Islam, but many continue to practise their traditional spirituality while others are Christian. As one’s ethnicity in Malaysia has a strong correlation to a certain religion, Malaysians whose beliefs and practices differ from the norm will likely be sharply aware of it. For example, a Malay that is Christian may have to deliberately identify themselves as a non-Muslim.


The 2011 Australian census recorded that the major religious affiliation amongst Malaysian-born people in Australia is Buddhism at 25.2%. A further 14.5% are Catholic Christians, 6.2% are Muslim and 16.3% stated “no religion”. This reflects the ethnic migration of more Chinese-Malaysians to Australia than Malays. Traditional Chinese philosophies are not always considered to be ‘religions’ as defined by the Australian census, and therefore some of those who stated “no religion” may still have an association with Taoism or Confucianism.

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