Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Religions of my country - Malaysia

My country is known for its multi-racial community. Everyone lives in harmony and there is no racial tension even though our official religion is Islam. We, the non-muslims, are lucky to be able to practice and believe in our own faith openly. According the Malaysian constitution, the majority ethnic group, the Malays, are legally defined as Muslim. They constitute 58% of the population, with the remainder consisting mostly of Indians, who are generally Hindus, and Chinese, who are generally Buddhists or Christians. As for the natives in East Malaysia such as Iban, Bidayuh, Kadazan etc. are generally Christians.

Let's talk about Islam first as it's the offical religion of Malaysia. Majortiy of the believers are Malay. There are also other races that embrace Islam as their religion but all Malays are automatically Muslims. While there is no actual legal restraint against Muslims renouncing their faith in favour of another faith, in practice very few Muslims actually convert. This is partly due to the fact it is extremely difficult for Muslims to convert, as there are serious legal implications and Islam plays a major role in the Malay community for centuries thus resulting into very strong adherents.

The muslims prayers are aired on TV, radio and tru' PA system from the mosque 5 times everyday. They fast during Ramadhan and end their fast when Syawal is here which the celebration is widely known as Aidilfitri or Eid ul-Fitr. Be it the Muslim or non-muslims, everyone will be visiting friend that celebrate it. We share the celebration even we are non-muslims. We have fun mingling around with each other and are served with various yummylicious food. *DROOL* Something worth a mention here is that, when our muslims friends are fasting, usually we won't eat or drink in front of them to show our respect to them unless they told you that it's OK for us to drink and eat in front of them. However, for me, even if they said that it's OK, I will still avoid eating and drinking in front of them, I just don't feel it's right for me to do that.

There are too many of them, I will just cover those common religions. The followings are not in particular order. :

The major Christian denominations in Malaysia include the Charismatic churches, Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church and Methodists. Churches are allowed in Malaysia though there are some restrictions on construction of new churches. No pre-existing churches have been closed down by the government and no standing congregations have been disbanded. It has been the practice of the church in Malaysia to not actively proselytize to the Muslim community. Christian literature are required by law to carry a caption "for non-muslims only". Actual modes of worship such as the liturgy used and the sermons are not actively censored or controlled by the government. Occasional surveillance of worship by clandestine operatives does occur. Christians celebrate Christmas and Good Friday.

As a religion without a supreme head to direct its development in Malaysia, Buddhism is practised in various forms, which, although rarely in open conflict, can sometimes lead to confusion among Buddhists. Buddhism has often been described as a gentle religion which does not carry out an active program to seek converts. They celebrate Wesak Day, a holiday commemorating the birth of the Buddha. The common rituals you will come across are chanting of sutras, lamps lit, flowers offered, jossticks burning, heaven or hell money burning etc.

Approximately nine percent of the population of Malaysia are Tamil Indians, of whom close to 95 percent are practicing Hindus. Malaysian Hinduism is diverse, with large urban temples dedicated to specific deities, and smaller temples located on estates. The estate temples generally follow the tradition of the Indian region from which the temples' worshippers originate. The hindus celebrate Deepavali.

No matter what is our belives, we celebrate and share them together, we respect each other religion's practice. Thank goodness Christmas, Deepavali, Wesak are not banned unlike some countries that banned people from celebrating Christmas because they said that it's a disrespect to other people of other religions. Believe it or not? Even in Malaysia we are from different religions, we still wish each other wishes like "Merry Christmas", "Happy Deepavali","Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri"(Happy Eid ul-Fitr) etc. even though we might not be celebrating it.

It's no big deal ok? There's nothing wrong in sharing the celebrations. I really don't understand how some people think that if you are not belong to certain religion, you cannot share the joy of the celebration. We should share the joy and happiness with those around you. If only everyone is open in accepting each other differences, the world would be a better place to live. Well... I'm not saying that Malaysia is perfect, there are of course little tensions here and there among races but it's very minimal as we are just human. However, when it comes to celebration, all those little tensions will lossen up and everyone will join in the fun and so far we had not heard of anything like people spoiling others' celebrations. The 13th May 1969 incident is a lesson for us to learn and we don't want to have that happen again.

Peace to everybody!

~Posted by Sweet Surrender~

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Blogger Mo said...

What a lovely post. I wish people in Scotland were so tolerant of each other. Yes, it's lovely to celebrate other faiths' celebrations.

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Irene said...

mo, :) If only everyone can be tolerant to each other, it's really make the world a nicer place to live.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous cole said...

Your post is great. Very detailed. It is funny to me though that religion is something that is supposed to unify people peacefully and preaches tolerance, kindness and love for your fellow man but rarely do religious groups tolerate anything well, except each other. I do of course exclude the buddists and hindu's and some other religions which are similiar. If you do not have one supreme ruler that everyone competes with for attention, so to speak, the people tend to be less judgemental and more accepting because their religions put more emphasis on what the individual does versus what god may think of you and what you do. More personal responisiblity, I guess. The Judeo-Christian religions tend to be judgemental, individualistic and exclusionary, IMO.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Juank said...

It is really nice to read your post, specially having been in Malaysia, and having some Malaysian friends myself, I can definitely say it is great how open-minded most Malaysians are, and how you respect each other's faith and even share the celebrations!
Sometimes I feel like religion should not exist at all, but it is when I see places like Malaysia when I think how great it would be if simply they just could coexist together so peacefully!
Actually I just made a post in my own blog about that, if you can read more...

11:43 AM  

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