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Roughly 63 percent of the population practice Islam; 18 percent Buddhism; 7 percent Christianity; 6 percent Hinduism; and 2 percent traditional Chinese religions such as Taoism. The remaining numbers are accounted for by other faiths, including Animism, Folk religion, Sikhism, while 1 percent has no religion.
While the Malaysian constitution guarantees religious freedom, Malay Muslims are obliged to follow the decisions of Syariah courts when it comes to matters concerning Islam. Converting out of Islam in Malaysia is a largely problematic issue, and while it has been attempted by some, it is a process that requires long legal battles and is not well-received by the majority of the Muslim faithful. The Islamic judges in the Syariah courts are expected to follow the Shafi`I school of Islam, which is the main denomination of Islam in Malaysia. The power of the Shariah court is limited only to Muslims over matters such as marriage, inheritance, apostasy, religious conversion, and custody. No other criminal or civil offenses are under the jurisdiction of the Syariah courts. But there have been moves by the Pan Islamic Party to implement the hudud law, or Islamic law.
That was a lot to digest. But it’s worth understanding how culture, race and religion work in Malaysia in order to understand Malaysian life. Now go out and see if you can recognize who’s Malay, who’s Chinese, who’s Indian, and who’s, as we Malaysians love to say, Lain-lain, or others.
Let’s take a quick look at the Malaysian economy now.
Spice trade used to be big business in Malaysia during the time of the Malaccan Sultanate. When the British took over, rubber and palm oil trees became big business. Soon, Malaysia became the world’s largest producer of tin, rubber, and palm oil. With these three lucrative commodities, Malaysia was poised for great economic growth.
During this growth period, the government tried to eradicate poverty with the controversial New Economic Policy, or the NEP, after the May 13 Incident of racial rioting in 1969. At that time, the economies were raced based- the Malays worked as farmers in the paddy fields or civil servants, the Chinese owned businesses and the Indians tapped rubber trees in the rubber estates. The policy’s main objective was the elimination of the association of race with economic function as it was during the time of the British. However, the New Economic Policy was laden with controversial affirmative policies that favoured the Malays, and it was a source of discontent even until today.
Back then, Malaysia was very reliant on agriculture. It needed to move to an economy based on manufacturing. Inspired by the Asian Tigers in the 70s, which were South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, Malaysia moved from being reliant on mining and agriculture to an economy based on manufacturing. Then, Malaysia consistently achieved more than 7% GDP growth along with low inflation in the 1980s and the 1990s. Today, Malaysia is home to one of the world’s largest computer hard disk manufacturing sites.
The Asian Financial Crisis hit in the fall of 1997 and delivered a shock to Malaysia’s economy. Foreign direct investment fell sharply and, as capital flowed out of the country, the value of the ringgit dropped from 2.50 Ringgit versus 1 US Dollar to, at one point, 4.80 Ringgit versus 1 US Dollar. baju muslim modern