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Malaysia: Unity in Diversity

Malaysia: Unity in Diversity
on January, 28 2014

Malaysia is known for being a multiracial country. There are three major races that live in the country. These are the Bumiputra Malays, Chinese and Indians. The majority of the population is composed of the Bumiputras, at 71%, followed by the Chinese with 21% and Indians with 8%. Despite coming from different races, they are all Malaysians. Hence, the country has a slogan called “Satu” Malaysia or One Malaysia. This only means that despite diversity, unity thrives in the country.

The Bumiputra Malays

This is the dominant group inhabiting the country. They make up more than half of the country’s population and play a major role in the country’s political status. According to the Constitution, Malays are Muslims who practice the Malay lifestyle and traditions. Therefore, anyone can be considered Malay as long as he or she practices Islam. Bumiputra rights will also be given. The official language of Malays is Bahasa Malaysia, which is also the country’s national language.

Aside from the Malays in the Peninsular Malaysia, there are other non Malays who are given the Bumiputra status. Most of them are in East Malaysia and are considered indigenous people. Some others belong to the oldest inhabitants of the country. The groups are collectively called “Orang Asli” and they comprise about 5% of the country’s population. The major groups include the Iban or Bidayuh in Sarawak. These people mostly live in longhouses until now while some others have started building modern houses. Sabah also has the Kadazans who are mostly Christians. Most of the Orang Aslis though belong to the Negrito tribe that originated from Papua New Guinea.

The Chinese Malays

This group is the second largest in the country. Most of their ancestors came from the traders in the 20th century who decided to stay in Malaysia. Cities that have dominant Chinese population are Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur while Penang is the only state where there are more Chinese than Bumiputras. Most of the early Chinese settlers worked in the country for mining and construction jobs. Eventually, they started owning businesses and have produced some of today’s largest conglomerates in Malaysia. Most of the Chinese still practice Buddhism and speak Mandarin, Hokkien and Cantonese.

The Indian Malays

This group comprises the smallest of the three major races in the country. They are further divided into groups of Tamils, Malayalees, Telugus and Sikh Punjabis. The history of Indians in Malaysia can be traced back in the 19th century when traders began trading in the country. Some others came to teach or became skilled workers. In today’s time, a lot of Indians have already remarried and practiced Islam. However, majority of the Indian population still remained with their traditional practices. They still follow Hinduism as their religion. There is also a strong population of Sikh Punjabis who were once hired as guards and soldiers in the country.

Migration Wave

Being an open country, Malaysia has accepted a lot of foreign workers from other countries on top of the races that already reside there. Indonesians have the most number of migrant workers in Malaysia with almost 1 million. Filipinos have over 400,000 workers and Nepalese with over 200,000. Some Filipinos who lived in the Sulu archipelago have chosen to live in East Malaysia. There are in fact over 200,000 Tausugs in the country.

Despite the fact that there are a lot of races living in the country, Malaysia is still a peaceful and united country. It has strict laws against racism and the people observe the holiday celebration of all major ethnic groups. This country is a proof that indeed, there could be unity in diversity.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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