• Lebanon!

    Lebanon: House in Byblos. Go Now!

    Lebanon
    This country is home to a wide range of people from conservative Muslims and Christians to liberals who embrace the changing world. Explore Lebanon!

  • Bangladesh!

    Bangladesh: Traditional houses. Go Now!

    Bangladesh
    This low-lying country has historic ties to India and Pakistan, but today maintains a wholly unique culture. Explore Bangladesh!

  • Indonesia!

    Indonesia: Lombok. Go Now!

    Indonesia
    This archipelago nation is culturally diverse from big cities to isolated islands. Begin Your Journey!

  • Mongolia!

    Mongolia: Desert. Go Now!

    Mongolia
    This vast country has a culture that spans past and present... a nomadic life shifting to a modern & sedentary society. Begin Your Journey!

  • Kyrgyzstan!

    Kyrgyzstan: Tian Shan Mountains. Go Now!

    Kyrgyzstan
    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

Ethnicity, Language, & Religion of Malaysia

Ethnicity

Just over half of the people in Malaysia are ethnically Malay, an ethnic group related to the people of both Micronesia and Polynesia, with further relations to the people of Indonesia and China. The next largest ethnic group is Han Chinese, who make up nearly a quarter of the population. There are various other ethnic groups represented in the country that together make up the final quarter of the population, including Indians and various indigenous people.

Language

Malaysia has numerous languages, but only Malaysian is an official language. Malaysian is distantly related to all the Polynesian languages, but its closest relative is Indonesian as native speakers of each can generally understand most of what the other says. Various Chinese languages, most commonly Cantonese and Mandarin, are also spoken natively by a large number of people as is Tamil and smaller indigenous languages. English is a common second language in Malaysia and is often the language of communication between groups.

Religion

Islam is the official religion of Malaysia and about 60% of the people follow this faith. Another 20% are Buddhist (primarily the ethnic Chinese), 10% are Christian and the rest adhere to numerous other religions, most notably Hinduism.

Islam (the name of the religion, whose followers are called Muslims) is a monotheistic religion, whose holy book is called the Qur'an. The Qur'an is believed to be the word of God spoken through the prophet Muhammad from 609-632 CE (Common Era is preferred over AD (Anno Domini or "year of the Lord") since the Islamic world doesn't believe Jesus was the messiah). Islam believes Muhammad was the last prophet sent to earth by God, the last in a long line of prophets, which includes Moses, Abraham, and Jesus among others.

Muslims follow five pillars of their faith: testimony, prayer, alms-giving, fasting, and pilgrimage. These pillars, and other tenants of their faith, can give great structure to their lives as some foods, like pork, are forbidden and every Muslim is expected to pray five times a day. However, the level of participation in each of these pillars and to what degree Islam influences an individual's life varies from person to person and community to community.

This page was last updated: May, 2014