Monday, July 13, 2009

Religion in Malaysia

2:04 AM

Malaysia is a multi-religious society and Islam is the official religion. According to the Population and Housing Census 2000 figures, approximately 60.4 percent of the population practiced Islam; 19.2 percent Buddhism; 9.1 percent Christianity; 6.3 percent Hinduism; and 2.6 percent traditional Chinese religions. The remaining was accounted for by other faiths, including Animism, Folk religion, Sikhism and other faiths while 1.1% either reported as having no religion or did not provide any information.[64][65]

All ethnic Malays are considered Muslim (100%) as defined by Article 160 of the Constitution of Malaysia.[66] Additional statistics from the 2000 Census indicate that ethnic Chinese are predominantly Buddhist (75.9%), with significant numbers of adherents following Taoism (10.6%) and Christianity (9.6%). The majority of ethnic Indians follow Hinduism (84.5%), with a significant minority identifying as Christians (7.7%) and Muslims (3.8%). Christianity is the predominant religion of the non-Malay bumiputra community (50.1%) with an additional 36.3% identifying as Muslims and 7.3% identifying as adherents to what is officially classified as folk religion.[65]

The Malaysian constitution theoretically guarantees religious freedom. Non-Muslims experience restrictions in activities such as construction of religious buildings and the celebration of certain religious events in some states.[67][68] Muslims are obliged to follow the decisions of Syariah courts when it comes to matters concerning their religion. The jurisdiction of Syariah court is limited only to Muslims over matters of Faith and Obligations as a Muslim, which includes marriage, inheritance, apostasy, religious conversion, and custody among others. No other criminal or civil offenses are under the jurisdiction of the Syariah courts, which have a similar hierarchy to the Civil Courts. Despite being the supreme courts of the land, the Civil Courts (including the Federal Court, the highest court in Malaysia) in principle cannot overrule any decision made by the Syariah Courts; and presently are reluctant to preside over cases involving Islam in any nature or question or challenge the authority of the Syariah courts. This has caused notable problems, particularly involving civil cases between Muslims and non-Muslims, in which civil courts have ordered non-Muslims to seek recourse from the Syariah Courts.

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