2.0 CULTURE OF MALAYSIA
The culture of Malaysia draws on the varied cultures of the different people of Malaysia. The first people to live in the area were indigenous tribes that still remain; they were followed by the Malays, who moved there from mainland Asia in ancient times. Chinese and Indian cultural influences made their mark when trade began with those countries, and increased with immigration to Malaysia. Other cultures that heavily influenced that of Malaysia include Persian, Arabic, and British. The many different ethnicities that currently exist in Malaysia have their own unique and distinctive cultural identities, with some crossover.
Arts and music have a long tradition in ...view middle of the document...
Although festivals often stem from a specific ethnic background, they are celebrated by all people in Malaysia. Traditional sports are popular in Malaysia, while it has become a powerhouse in international sports such as badminton. Malaysia hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1998, the first Commonwealth Games where the torch passed through more countries than England and the host.
The Malaysian government has taken the step of defining Malaysian Culture through the "1971 National Culture Policy", which defined what was considered official culture, basing it around Malay culture and integrating Islamic influences. This especially affected language; only Malay texts are considered official cultural texts. Government control over the media is strong, and most media outlets are related to the government in some way.
Malaysia is multicultural and multiconfessional. The dominant religion in Malaysia is Islam, whose followers make up 61 per cent of the population. Islam is recognised as the state religion of Malaysia, although the country has a secular constitution. Debate exists about whether Malaysia should be a secular or Islamic state, with politics often becoming entwined with religion. Due to contention with an Islamic opposition, the ruling government has slowly become more Islamic, with Islam beginning to have more influence over day to day life in Malaysia. The government promotes the spread of Islam, which is under the control of individual states.
Religion often follows ethnic lines, with most Muslims being Malays. The code of Islam enforced is Sunni. Islam was introduced by traders, becoming firmly established in the 15th century. The government promotes a moderate form of Islam known as Islam Hadhari. Any teaching which deviates from the official Sunni code is illegal, and no other forms of Islam are allowed. The country has both civil and Shariah courts, with all Muslims having to follow Shariah laws. These are enforced by the government and police forces.
The large Chinese population in Malaysia practices a mix of beliefs, with influences from traditional Chinese religions such as Buddhism and Daoism. Hinduism is practised by the majority of Malaysian Indians. In recent years the government has demolished many Hindu temples, causing concern among the Indian population. Christianity has established itself in some communities, especially in East Malaysia. It is not tied to any specific ethnic group. Other religions, such as the Baha'i Faith and Sikhism also have adherents in Malaysia.
Relations between different religious groups are generally quite tolerant. Christmas, Chinese New Year, and Deepavali have been declared national holidays alongside Islamic holidays. Various groups have been set up to try to promote religious understanding among the different groups, with religious harmony seen as a priority by Malaysian politicians. However, it is illegal to convert Muslims to other religions, and disputes have arisen over...