With a population of about 18 million, one of the extraordinary
facets of Malaysia is indeed its people. Malaysia has traditionally
been a meeting point for traders and travelers from both the East
and West because of its central location, between the Indian Ocean
and the South China Sea. As a result, Malaysia has a multicultural
and multiracial population consisting of Malays, Chinese, Indians
and numerous indigenous people. The country's racial, religious
and cultural harmony is something you'll truly come to appreciate.
Naturally, from this richly mixed populace spawns an endless list
of festivals and celebrations, all year round.
Indigenous Malays constitute roughly 62 percent of the population.
But immigrants, especially Chinese (who make up 30 percent of the
population), have a tremendous presence in the country. Most of
the nation's millionaires, outside royalty, are Chinese. Indians
constitute about 10 percent of the population. The rest are small
numbers of Arabs, Indonesians, Filipinos, and Pakistanis.
Although Malaysia's ethnic mix is generally harmonious, the various
communities remain largely separate, and things have not always
been so peaceful. Malaysia has adopted many Chinese customs. The
entire country celebrates Chinese New Year, when streets are lined
with banners and lion-dancers weave through excited crowds. Indians
were among the first traders to arrive on Peninsular Malaysia, their
numbers growing in the 1800s. Unlike Malays and Chinese, Indians
are clustered in a handful of areas, notably Penang, Perak, and
Selangor, but their influence on Malaysian culture is profound.
Malaysia's indigenous inhabitants are the Orang Asli, which means
"original people". The Orang Asli belong to many different races
and tribes. Among them are Negritos. The major population in Sarawak
are made up of different races mainly the Ibans, Chinese, Malay,
Bidayuh, Melanau, and other ethnic groups. Sabah population is made
up of Kadazan, Chinese, Dusun, and other ethnic groups.
Bahasa Malaysia is the official language, but when members of these
communities talk to each other, they normally use English-the official
international language. English has been the medium of instruction
in tertiary education for many years. But now, Bahasa Malaysia has
been reinstated in many learning institutions to be the official
language of instruction.
The official religion in Malaysia is Islam and all the Malays in
Malaysia are Muslims. Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism constitute
the rest of the population's religion.