Malaysia’s Complex Ties With Islam
A closer look at a country in the global headlines
1. Malaysia is a moderate Muslim country with a complex relationship with Islam.
2. Malaysia is not known as a base for radical Islamist terrorism.
3. Malaysia’s success in managing its multi-ethnic population under the banner of moderate Islam has turned the country into an important ally for the United States.
4. Malaysia was at the forefront of nations condemning the 9/11 attacks on the United States – and it provided logistical support and use of its air space for the U.S.-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
5. Malaysia’s constitution established Islam as the state religion when the country achieved independence from Britain in 1957.
6. Malays make up 60% of the population, with a quarter ethnic Chinese and the rest Indians and other minorities.
7. The Malay part of the population is constitutionally required to be Muslims.
8. About 35% of the remaining population is Buddhist, Christian or Hindu.
9. Prime Minister Najib Razak faces pressure from his own United Malays National party (Umno). Fearful of losing the rural Malay – and overwhelmingly Muslim – vote, Umno is using religion as a wedge issue.
10. The government had designated 2014 “Visit Malaysia” year, as part of a plan to boost tourist arrivals to 36 million – 6 million more than the country’s population – by 2020.
From Focus shifts to Malaysia’s complex ties with Islam by Jeremy Grant (Financial Times)