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  • مليسيا‎ (Jawi)
Motto: Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu
Ethnic groups
Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King)
Ibrahim Iskandar
Anwar Ibrahim
Mutang Tagal
Johari Abdul
Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat
North Borneo self-governance
31 August 1963[7]
16 September 1963
ISO 3166 codeMY

Malaysia (UK: /məˈlziə/ mə-LAY-zee-ə; US: /məˈlʒə/ mə-LAY-zhə; Malay: [malɛjsia] ) is a country in Southeast Asia. The federal constitutional monarchy consists of 13 states and three federal territories, separated by the South China Sea into two regions: Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo's East Malaysia. Peninsular Malaysia shares a land and maritime border with Thailand and maritime borders with Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. East Malaysia shares land and maritime borders with Brunei and Indonesia, as well as a maritime border with the Philippines and Vietnam. Kuala Lumpur is the national capital, the country's largest city, and the seat of the legislative branch of the federal government.

43rd-most populous country. Malaysia is tropical and is one of 17 megadiverse countries; it is home to numerous endemic species. Tanjung Piai in the Malaysian state of Johor is the southernmost point of continental Eurasia

The country has its origins in the

World War Two, British Malaya, along with other nearby British and American colonies, was occupied by the Empire of Japan.[15] Following three years of occupation, Peninsular Malaysia was unified as the Malayan Union in 1946 and then restructured as the Federation of Malaya in 1948. The country achieved independence on 31 August 1957. On 16 September 1963, independent Malaya united with the then British crown colonies of North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore to become Malaysia. In August 1965, Singapore was expelled from the federation and became a separate, independent country.[16]

The country is

official religion, the constitution grants freedom of religion to non-Muslims. The government is modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system, and the legal system is based on common law. The head of state is an elected monarch, chosen from among the nine state sultans every five years. The head of government is the prime minister

After independence, the



English Map of Southeast Asia, "MALAYSIA" typeset horizontally so that the letters run across the northernmost corner of Borneo and pass just south of the Philippines.
Malaysia used as a label for the Malay Archipelago on a 1914 map from a United States atlas

The name

Geographia that used the name Malayu Kulon for the west coast of Golden Chersonese, and the 7th-century Yijing's account of Malayu.[23]

At some point, the

ethnoreligious identity in Malacca, with the term Melayu beginning to appear as interchangeable with Melakans. It may have specifically referred to local Malays speakers thought loyal to the Malaccan Sultan. The initial Portuguese use of Malayos reflected this, referring only to the ruling people of Malacca. The prominence of traders from Malacca led Melayu to be associated with Muslim traders, and from there became associated with the wider cultural and linguistic group.[23] Malacca and later Johor claimed they were the centre of Malay culture, a position supported by the British which led to the term Malay becoming more usually linked to the Malay peninsula rather than Sumatra.[30]

Before the onset of European colonisation, the Malay Peninsula was known natively as

Austronesian people predominantly inhabiting the Malay Peninsula and portions of the adjacent islands of Southeast Asia, including the east coast of Sumatra, the coast of Borneo, and smaller islands that lie between these areas.[37]

The state that gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1957 took the name the Federation of Malaya, chosen in preference to other potential names such as Langkasuka, after the historic kingdom located at the upper section of the Malay Peninsula in the first millennium CE.[38][39] The name Malaysia was adopted in 1963 when the existing states of the Federation of Malaya, plus Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak formed a new federation.[40][d] One theory posits the name was chosen so that si represented the inclusion of Singapore, North Borneo, and Sarawak to Malaya in 1963.[40] Politicians in the Philippines contemplated renaming their state Malaysia before the modern country took the name.[42]


Map showing the extent of the Malacca Sultanate, covering much of the Malay Peninsula and some of Sumatra
The Malacca Sultanate played a major role in spreading Islam throughout the Malay Archipelago.

Evidence of modern human habitation in Malaysia dates back 40,000 years.

Parameswara, a runaway king of the former Kingdom of Singapura linked to the old Srivijayan court, founded the Malacca Sultanate.[51] The spread of Islam increased following Parameswara's conversion to that religion. Malacca was an important commercial centre during this time, attracting trade from around the region.[52]

Dutch fleet vs Portuguese armada
The Dutch fleet battling with the Portuguese armada as part of the Dutch–Portuguese War in 1606 to gain control of Malacca

In 1511,

Sultan of Brunei and the Sultan of Sulu transferred their respective territorial rights of ownership, between 1877 and 1878.[56] In 1842, Sarawak was ceded by the Sultan of Brunei to James Brooke, whose successors ruled as the White Rajahs over an independent kingdom until 1946, when it became a crown colony.[57]

In the

British possessions in the Malay Peninsula with the exception of Singapore, was quickly dissolved and replaced on 1 February 1948 by the Federation of Malaya, which restored the autonomy of the rulers of the Malay states under British protection.[60]

Leader of the Malayan Communist Party Lee Meng holding a rifle during the Malayan Emergency, 1951

During this time, the mostly ethnically Chinese rebels under the leadership of the Malayan Communist Party launched guerrilla operations designed to force the British out of Malaya. The Malayan Emergency (1948–1960) involved a long anti-insurgency campaign by Commonwealth troops in Malaya.[61] On 31 August 1957, Malaya became an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations.[62] Subsequently, a comprehensive plan was devised to unite Malaya with the crown colonies of North Borneo (known as Sabah upon joining), Sarawak, and Singapore. The envisioned federation was originally intended to take place on 31 August 1963, to coincide with the commemoration of Malayan independence. However, due to the necessity of conducting a survey on the level of support for the federation in Sabah and Sarawak by the United Nations, as requested by opponents of the federation such as Indonesia's Sukarno and the Sarawak United Peoples' Party, the date of the federation was postponed until 16 September 1963. This delay allowed sufficient time for the completion of the aforementioned survey.[63][64]

The federation brought heightened tensions including a

Tun Abdul Razak, trying to increase the share of the economy held by the bumiputera.[68] Under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad there was a period of rapid economic growth and urbanization beginning in the 1980s. The economy shifted from being agriculturally based to one based on manufacturing and industry. Numerous mega-projects were completed, such as the Petronas Towers, the North–South Expressway, the Multimedia Super Corridor, and the new federal administrative capital of Putrajaya.[40]

In the late 1990s, the

a political crisis that coincided with health and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.[72] This was then followed by an earlier general election in November 2022, which resulted in the first hung parliament in the nation's history.[73] On 24 November 2022, Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as the 10th Prime Minister of Malaysia, leading a grand coalition government.[74]

Government and politics

White tall building and two arches
The Parliament of Malaysia, the building that houses the members of the Dewan Rakyat

Malaysia is a

Malay states. The other four states, which have titular Governors, do not participate in the selection. By informal agreement the position is rotated among the nine,[76] and has been held by Ibrahim Iskandar of Johor since 31 January 2024. The King's role has been largely ceremonial since changes to the constitution in 1994, picking ministers and members of the upper house.[77]

Legislative power is divided between federal and state legislatures. The bicameral federal

Senate.[78] The 222-member House of Representatives is elected for a maximum term of five years from single-member constituencies. All 70 senators sit for three-year terms; 26 are elected by the 13 state assemblies, and the remaining 44 are appointed by the King upon the Prime Minister's recommendation.[52] The parliament follows a multi-party system and the government is elected through a first-past-the-post system.[52][79] Parliamentary elections are held at least once every five years,[52] the most recent of which took place in May 2018.[71] Before 2018, registered voters aged 21 and above could vote for the members of the House of Representatives and, in most of the states, for the state legislative chamber. Voting is not mandatory.[80] In July 2019, a bill to lower the voting age to 18 years old was officially passed.[81]

Large building with a series of flags in front of it
The Perdana Putra houses the office of Malaysia's Prime Minister.

political crisis in 2020. In March 2020, the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition formed under Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin,[82] before Muhyiddin lost majority support and was replaced by deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, a veteran politician from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), in August 2021.[83][84] As a result of the 2022 Malaysian general election, a hung parliament was elected. Anwar Ibrahim of the PH coalition was appointed as the new Prime Minister to lead the coalition government of PH, Barisan Nasional, Gabungan Parti Sarawak, Gabungan Rakyat Sabah
and several other political parties and independents. Meanwhile, PN, the only political coalition not in the coalition government became the Opposition.

high courts, one for Peninsular Malaysia and one for East Malaysia. Malaysia also has a special court to hear cases brought by or against royalty.[86]

Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party with the support of UMNO state assemblymen in the state legislative assembly of Kelantan have been blocked by the federal government on the basis that criminal laws are the responsibility of the federal government.[90][91][92]

After UMNO lost power at the

Press Freedom Index increased by 22 places to 101st compared to the previous year, making it one of two countries in Southeast Asia without a 'Difficult situation' or 'Very Serious situation' with regards to press freedom.[94] However, it fell 18 places the following year due to the policies of the PN government.[95]

Malaysia is marked at 48th and 62nd place according to the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index, indicating above average levels of corruption. Freedom House noted Malaysia as "partly free" in its 2018 survey.[96] A lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice alleged that at least $3.5 billion involving former prime minister Najib Razak had been stolen from Malaysia's 1MDB state-owned fund, known as the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal.[97][98][99]

Administrative divisions

Malaysia is a

districts, which are then divided into mukim. In Sabah and Sarawak districts are grouped into divisions.[101]

Governance of the states is divided between the federal and the state governments, with different powers reserved for each, and the Federal government has direct administration of the federal territories.

Chief Ministers,[52] who are state assembly members from the majority party in the assembly. In each of the states with a hereditary ruler, the Chief Minister is normally required to be a Malay, appointed by the ruler upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister.[103] Except for state elections in Sarawak, by convention state elections are held concurrently with the federal election.[77]

Lower-level administration is carried out by local authorities, which include city councils, district councils, and municipal councils, although autonomous statutory bodies can be created by the federal and state governments to deal with certain tasks.[104] The federal constitution puts local authorities outside of the federal territories under the exclusive jurisdictions of the state government,[105] although in practice the federal government has intervened in the affairs of state local governments.[106] There are 154 local authorities, consisting of 14 city councils, 38 municipal councils and 97 district councils.

The 13 states are based on historical Malay kingdoms, and 9 of the 11 Peninsular states, known as the

royalties have occasionally led to statements about secession from leaders in several states such as Penang, Johor, Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak, although these have not been followed up and no serious independence movements exist.[111][112][113][114]


A list of thirteen states and each state capital (in parentheses):

Federal territories
  1. Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur
  2. Labuan Federal Territory of Labuan
  3. Putrajaya Federal Territory of Putrajaya

Foreign relations and military

With Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad
Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Prime Minister's Office in Putrajaya, 2018

A founding member of ASEAN[115] and OIC,[116] the country participates in many international organisations such as the United Nations (U.N.),[117] APEC,[118] the D-8 Organization for Economic Cooperation,[119] and NAM.[120] It has chaired ASEAN, OIC, and NAM in the past.[52] A former British colony, it is also a member of the Commonwealth.[121] Kuala Lumpur was the site of the first EAS in 2005.[122]

Malaysia's foreign policy is officially based on the principle of neutrality and maintaining peaceful relations with all countries, regardless of their political system.[123] The government attaches a high priority to the security and stability of Southeast Asia,[122] and seeks to further develop relations with other countries in the region. Historically the government has tried to portray Malaysia as a progressive Islamic nation[123] while strengthening relations with other Islamic states.[122] A strong tenet of Malaysia's policy is national sovereignty and the right of a country to control its domestic affairs.[77] Malaysia signed the U.N. treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.[124][125]

The Spratly Islands are disputed by many states in the area, and a large portion of the South China Sea is claimed by China. Unlike its neighbours of Vietnam and the Philippines, Malaysia historically avoided conflicts with China.[126] However, after the encroachment of Chinese ships in Malaysian territorial waters,[127] and breach of airspace by their military aircraft, Malaysia has become active in condemning China.[128][129] Brunei and Malaysia in 2009 announced an end to claims of each other's land, and committed to resolve issues related to their maritime borders.[130] The Philippines has a dormant claim to the eastern part of Sabah.[131] Singapore's land reclamation has caused tensions,[132] and minor maritime and land border disputes exist with Indonesia.[131][133]

PT-91M MBT tank; and Malaysian Army paratrooper with M4

The Malaysian Armed Forces have three branches: the Malaysian Army, Royal Malaysian Navy and the Royal Malaysian Air Force. There is no conscription, and the required age for voluntary military service is 18. The military uses 1.5% of the country's GDP, and employs 1.23% of Malaysia's manpower.[134] Malaysian peacekeeping forces have contributed to many U.N. peacekeeping missions, such as in Congo, Iran–Iraq, Namibia, Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Somalia, Kosovo, East Timor and Lebanon.[52][135]


southern Philippines[citation needed] and southern Thailand[146] would spill over into Malaysia. Because of this, Malaysia began to increase its border security.[citation needed

Human rights

Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia,[147][148] and authorities have imposed punishments such as caning and imprisonment.[149][150] Human trafficking and sex trafficking in Malaysia are significant problems.[151][152] There have also been cases of vigilante executions and beatings against LGBT individuals in Malaysia.[153][154] The illegality of homosexuality in Malaysia has also been the forefront of Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy trials, which Anwar has called politically motivated, a characterization supported by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, along with Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch.[155][156][157]


Wan Junaidi pledged to abolish capital punishment and replace it with other punishments at the discretion of the court.[160]

In July 2023, The 1975 lead singer Matty Healy slammed the country's anti-LGBTQ laws by kissing a bandmate on stage at a music festival in Kuala Lumpur causing the Ministry of Communications and Digital to cancel the 3 day event.[161]


Relief map of Malaysia
Topographic map of Malaysia; Mount Kinabalu is the highest summit in the country.

Malaysia is the

66th largest country by total land area, with a total area of 330,803 km2 (127,724 sq mi).[8] It has land borders with Thailand in West Malaysia, and Indonesia and Brunei in East Malaysia.[162] It is linked to Singapore by a narrow causeway and a bridge. The country also has maritime boundaries with Vietnam[163] and the Philippines.[164] The land borders are defined in large part by geological features such as the Perlis River, the Golok River and the Pagalayan Canal, whilst some of the maritime boundaries are the subject of ongoing contention.[162] Brunei forms what is almost an enclave in Malaysia,[165] with the state of Sarawak dividing it into two parts. Malaysia is the only country with territory on both the Asian mainland and the Malay archipelago.[166] The Strait of Malacca, lying between Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia, is one of the most important thoroughfares in global commerce, carrying 40 per cent of the world's trade.[167]

The two parts of Malaysia, separated from each other by the South China Sea, share a largely similar landscape in that both Peninsular and East Malaysia feature coastal plains rising to hills and mountains.[162] Peninsular Malaysia, containing 40 per cent of Malaysia's land area,[166] extends 740 km (460 mi) from north to south, and its maximum width is 322 km (200 mi).[168] It is divided between its east and west coasts by the Titiwangsa Mountains,[169] rising to a peak elevation of 2,183 metres (7,162 ft) at Mount Korbu,[170] part of a series of mountain ranges running down the centre of the peninsula.[166] These mountains are heavily forested,[citation needed] and mainly composed of granite and other igneous rocks. Much of it has been eroded, creating a karst landscape.[166] The range is the origin of some of Peninsular Malaysia's river systems.[citation needed] The coastal plains surrounding the peninsula reach a maximum width of 50 kilometres (31 mi), and the peninsula's coastline is nearly 1,931 km (1,200 mi) long, although harbours are only available on the western side.[168]

East Malaysia, on the island of

Kinabalu National Park, which is protected as one of the four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Malaysia.[173] The highest mountain ranges form the border between Malaysia and Indonesia. Sarawak contains the Mulu Caves, the largest cave system in the world, in the Gunung Mulu National Park which is also a World Heritage Site.[166] The largest river in Malaysia is the Rajang

Around these two halves of Malaysia are numerous islands, the largest of which is Banggi.[174] The local climate is equatorial and characterised by the annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February) monsoons.[168] The temperature is moderated by the presence of the surrounding oceans.[166] Humidity is usually high, and the average annual rainfall is 250 cm (98 in).[168] The climates of the Peninsula and the East differ, as the climate on the peninsula is directly affected by wind from the mainland, as opposed to the more maritime weather of the East. Local climates can be divided into three regions, highland, lowland, and coastal.[166] Climate change will cause sea level rise and increased rainfall, increasing flood risks and leading to droughts.[175]

Biodiversity and conservation

Native species in Malaysia, clockwise from top: Malayan tiger; oriental pied hornbills; hawksbill sea turtle; and proboscis monkey

Malaysia signed the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity on 12 June 1993, and became a party to the convention on 24 June 1994.[176] It has subsequently produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which was received by the convention on 16 April 1998.[177] The country is megadiverse with a high number of species and high levels of endemism.[178] It is estimated to contain 20 per cent of the world's animal species.[179] High levels of endemism are found on the diverse forests of Borneo's mountains, as species are isolated from each other by lowland forest.[166]

There are about 210 mammal species in the country.

Sipadan island are the most biodiverse in the world.[179] Bordering East Malaysia, the Sulu Sea is a biodiversity hotspot, with around 600 coral species and 1200 fish species.[184] The unique biodiversity of Malaysian Caves always attracts lovers of ecotourism from all over the world.[185]

Nearly 4,000 species of fungi, including lichen-forming species have been recorded from Malaysia. Of the two fungal groups with the largest number of species in Malaysia, the

toadstools have been studied, but Malaysian rust and smut fungi remain very poorly known. Without doubt, many more fungal species in Malaysia are yet to be recorded, and it is likely that many of those, when found, will be new to science.[186]

Red flower made of 5 petals surrounding a depressed centre, on the forest floor surrounded by dead leaves and small green plants
Some species of Rafflesia can grow up to 1 m (3 ft 3 in) in diameter, making them the largest flowers in the world.

About two thirds of Malaysia was covered in forest as of 2007,

mangroves in Malaysia,[168] and a large amount of peat forest. At higher altitudes, oaks, chestnuts, and rhododendrons replace dipterocarps.[166] There are an estimated 8,500 species of vascular plants in Peninsular Malaysia, with another 15,000 in the East.[188] The forests of East Malaysia are estimated to be the habitat of around 2,000 tree species, and are one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, with 240 different species of trees every hectare.[166] These forests host many members of the Rafflesia genus, the largest flowers in the world,[187] with a maximum diameter of 1 m (3 ft 3 in).[189]

overconsumption and the use of animal parts for profit endangering many animals, from marine life[184] to tigers.[191] Marine life is also detrimentally affected by uncontrolled tourism.[193]

The Malaysian government aims to balance economic growth with environmental protection, but has been accused of favouring big business over the environment.

28 national parks have been established, 23 in East Malaysia and five in the Peninsula.[189] Tourism has been limited in biodiverse areas such as Sipadan island.[193] Wildlife trafficking is a large issue, and the Malaysian government has held talks with the governments of Brunei and Indonesia to standardise anti-trafficking laws.[194]


Development of real GDP per capita, 1820 to 2018

Malaysia is a relatively

newly industrialised market economy.[195] It has the world's 36th-largest economy by nominal GDP and the 31st-largest by PPP. In 2017, the large service sector contributed to 53.6% of total GDP, the industrial sector 37.6%, and the small agricultural sector roughly 8.8%.[196] Malaysia has a low official unemployment rate of 3.9%.[197] Its foreign exchange reserves are the world's 24th-largest.[198] It has a labour force of about 15 million, which is the world's 34th-largest.[199] Malaysia's large automotive industry ranks as the world's 22nd-largest by production.[200]

Malaysia is the world's 23rd-largest exporter and 25th-largest importer.[201][202] However, economic inequalities exist between different ethnic groups.[203] The Chinese make up about one-quarter of the population, but account for 70 per cent of the country's market capitalisation.[204] Chinese businesses in Malaysia are part of the larger bamboo network, a network of overseas Chinese businesses in the Southeast Asian market sharing common family and cultural ties.[205]

International trade, facilitated by the shipping route in adjacent

rubber and palm oil in the world. Manufacturing has a large influence in the country's economy,[210] although Malaysia's economic structure has been moving away from it.[211] Malaysia remains one of the world's largest producers of palm oil.[212]

World Tourism Organization, Malaysia was the fourteenth-most visited country in the world, and the fourth-most visited country in Asia in 2019, with over 26.1 million visits.[214] Malaysia was ranked 38th in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019.[215] Its international tourism receipts in 2019 amounted to $19.8 billion.[214]

The country has developed into a centre of

Islamic banking, and has the highest numbers of female workers in that industry.[216] Knowledge-based services are also expanding.[211] In 2020, Malaysian exported high-tech products worth $92.1 billion, the second-highest in the ASEAN, after Singapore.[217] Malaysia was ranked 36th in the Global Innovation Index in 2023, and 32nd in the Global Competitiveness Report in 2022.[218][219]


Railway transport in Malaysia is state-run, and spans some 2,783 kilometres (1,729 mi).[220] As of 2016, Malaysia has the world's 26th-largest road network, with some 238,823 kilometres (148,398 mi) of roads. Malaysia's inland waterways are the world's 22nd-longest, and total 7,200 km (4,474 mi).[221] Among Malaysia's 114 airports,[222] among which the busiest is Kuala Lumpur International Airport located south of Kuala Lumpur in Sepang District, which is also the twelfth-busiest airport in Asia. Among the 7 federal ports, the major one is Port Klang,[223] which is the thirteenth-busiest container port.[224] Malaysia's flag carrier is Malaysia Airlines, providing international and domestic air services.[225]


ground water accounting for 90% of the freshwater resources.[229][230] Although rural areas have been the focus of great development, they still lag behind areas such as the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia.[231] The telecommunication network, although strong in urban areas, is less available to the rural population.[226]


A map of Malaysia depicting the expected 2010 estimated population density.
Population density (person per km2) in 2010
Percentage distribution of Malaysian population by ethnic group, 2010
The percentage distribution of Malaysian population by ethnic group based on 2010 census

According to the Malaysian Department of Statistics, the country's population was 32,447,385 in 2020,

age group constitute 69.5 per cent of the total population; the 0–14 age group corresponds to 24.5 per cent; while senior citizens aged 65 years or older make up 6.0 per cent. In 1960, when the first official census was recorded in Malaysia, the population was 8.11 million. 91.8 per cent of the population are Malaysian citizens.[237]

Malaysian citizens are divided along local ethnic lines, with 69.7 per cent considered

Muslims who practise Malay customs and culture. They play a dominant role politically.[239] Bumiputera status is also accorded to the non-Malay indigenous groups of Sabah and Sarawak: which includes Dayaks (Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu), Kadazan-Dusun, Melanau, Bajau and others. Non-Malay bumiputeras make up more than half of Sarawak's population and over two thirds of Sabah's population.[240][241] There are also indigenous or aboriginal groups in much smaller numbers on the peninsular, where they are collectively known as the Orang Asli.[242] Laws over who gets bumiputera status vary between states.[243]

There are also two other non-Bumiputera local ethnic groups. 22.8 per cent of the population are

MyKad at the age of 12, and must carry the card at all times.[247]

The population is concentrated on Peninsular Malaysia,

RELA, a volunteer militia with a history of controversies, to enforce its immigration law.[252]

Largest cities and municipalities in Malaysia
Department of Statistics, Malaysia (2020) [1]
Rank Name State Pop. Rank Name State Pop.
Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur
1 Kuala Lumpur
Federal Territory
1,982,112 11 Ipoh Perak 759,952 Seberang Perai
Seberang Perai
Subang Jaya
Subang Jaya
2 Kajang Selangor 1,047,356 12 Seremban Negeri Sembilan 681,541
3 Seberang Perai Penang 946,092 13 Iskandar Puteri Johor 575,977
4 Subang Jaya Selangor 902,086 14 Kuantan Pahang 548,014
5 Klang Selangor 902,025 15 Sungai Petani Kedah 545,053
6 Johor Bahru Johor 858,118 16 Ampang Jaya Selangor 531,904
7 Shah Alam Selangor 812,327 17 Kota Kinabalu Sabah 500,425
8 George Town Penang 794,313 18 Malacca City Malacca 453,904
9 Petaling Jaya Selangor 771,687 19 Sandakan Sabah 439,050
10 Selayang Selangor 764,327 20 Alor Setar Kedah 423,868


A Map of Malaysia showing religious statistics by state
Dominant religious confessions in Malaysia according to 2020 census.[253]
Dark green: Muslim majority > 50%
Light green: Muslim plurality < 50%
Blue: Christian majority > 50%

The constitution grants freedom of religion, while establishing Islam as the "religion of the Federation".[254][255] According to the Population and Housing Census 2020 figures, ethnicity and religious beliefs correlate highly. Approximately 63.5% of the population practise Islam, 18.7% practise Buddhism, 9.1% Christianity, 6.1% Hinduism and 1.3% practise Confucianism, Taoism and other traditional Chinese religions. 2.7% declared no religion or practised other religions or did not provide any information.[236] The states of Sarawak, Penang and the federal territory of Kuala Lumpur have non-Muslim majorities.[256][257]

nondenominational Muslims.[260] The Malaysian constitution strictly defines what makes a "Malay", considering Malays those who are Muslim, speak Malay regularly, practise Malay customs, and lived in or have ancestors from Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore.[166] Statistics from the 2010 Census indicate that 83.6% of the Chinese population identify as Buddhist, with significant numbers of adherents following Taoism (3.4%) and Christianity (11.1%), along with small Muslim populations in areas like Penang. The majority of the Indian population follow Hinduism (86.2%), with a significant minority identifying as Christians (6.0%) or Muslims (4.1%). Christianity is the predominant religion of the non-Malay bumiputera community (46.5%) with an additional 40.4% identifying as Muslims.[236]

Civil Courts. The Civil Courts do not hear matters related to Islamic practices.[261]


  Areas with multiple languages

The official and national language of Malaysia is

English remains an active second language, with its use allowed for some official purposes under the National Language Act of 1967.[269] In Sarawak, English is an official state language alongside Malay.[270][271][272] Historically, English was the de facto administrative language; Malay became predominant after the 1969 race riots (13 May incident).[273] Malaysian English, also known as Malaysian Standard English, is a form of English derived from British English. Malaysian English is widely used in business, along with Manglish, which is a colloquial form of English with heavy Malay, Chinese, and Tamil influences. The government discourages the use of non-standard Malay but has no power to issue compounds or fines to those who use what is perceived as improper Malay on their advertisements.[274][275]

Many other languages are used in Malaysia, which contains speakers of 137 living languages.

Chavacano language.[282]


Malaysia operates an efficient and widespread

universal healthcare system and a co-existing private healthcare system; provided by highly subsidized healthcare through its extensive network of public hospitals and clinics.[283] The Ministry of Health is the main provider of healthcare services to the country's population.[284] Malaysia's healthcare system is considered to be among the most developed in Asia, which contributes to its thriving medical tourism industry.[285]

Malaysia spent 3.83% of its GDP on healthcare in 2019.

infant mortality rate of 7 deaths per 1000 births.[288] Malaysia had a total fertility rate of 2.0 in 2020, which is just below the replacement level of 2.1.[289] In 2020, the country's crude birth rate was 16 per 1000 people, and the crude death rate was 5 per 1000 people.[290][291]

In 2021, the principal cause of death among Malaysian adults was

Transport accidents are considered a major health hazard, as Malaysia, relative to its population, has one of the highest traffic fatality rates in the world.[293] Smoking is also considered a major health issue across the country.[294]


Ministry of Education, Putrajaya

The education system of Malaysia features a non-compulsory kindergarten education followed by six years of compulsory primary education, and five years of optional secondary education.[295] Schools in the primary education system are divided into two categories: national primary schools, which teach in Malay, and vernacular schools, which teach in Chinese or Tamil.[296] Secondary education is conducted for five years. In the final year of secondary education, students sit for the Malaysian Certificate of Education examination.[297] Since the introduction of the matriculation programme in 1999, students who completed the 12-month programme in matriculation colleges can enroll in local universities. However, in the matriculation system, only 10 per cent of places are open to non-bumiputera[jargon] students.[298]


The wooden frame of a house under construction, with the floor raised off the ground
A traditional house being built in Sabah

Malaysia has a multi-ethnic, multicultural, and multilingual society. Substantial influence exists from

British cultures. Due to the structure of the government, coupled with the social contract theory, there has been minimal cultural assimilation of ethnic minorities.[299] Some cultural disputes exist between Malaysia and neighbouring countries, notably Indonesia.[300]

In 1971, the government created a "National Cultural Policy", defining Malaysian culture. It stated that Malaysian culture must be based on the culture of the indigenous peoples of Malaysia, that it may incorporate suitable elements from other cultures, and that Islam must play a part in it.[301] It also promoted the Malay language above others.[302] This government intervention into culture has caused resentment among non-Malays who feel their cultural freedom was lessened. Both Chinese and Indian associations have submitted memorandums to the government, accusing it of formulating an undemocratic culture policy.[301]

Fine arts

Making Malaysian batik
A craftsman making batik. Malaysian batik is usually patterned with floral motifs with light colouring.

Traditional Malaysian art was mainly centred on the areas of carving, weaving, and silversmithing.

beetle nut sets, and woven batik and songket fabrics. Indigenous East Malaysians are known for their wooden masks.[166] Each ethnic group have distinct performing arts, with little overlap between them. However, Malay art does show some North Indian influence due to the historical influence of India.[304]

Traditional Malay music and performing arts appear to have originated in the

gendang (drum). There are at least 14 types of traditional drums.[305] Drums and other traditional percussion instruments and are often made from natural materials.[305] Music is traditionally used for storytelling, celebrating life-cycle events, and occasions such as a harvest.[304] It was once used as a form of long-distance communication.[305] In East Malaysia, gong-based musical ensembles such as agung and kulintang are commonly used in ceremonies such as funerals and weddings.[306] These ensembles are also common in neighbouring regions such as in Mindanao in the Philippines, Kalimantan in Indonesia, and Brunei.[306]

  • kompang
  • dholak
  • gong
  • geduk

Malaysia has a strong oral tradition that has existed since before the arrival of writing, and continues today. Each of the Malay Sultanates created their own literary tradition, influenced by pre-existing oral stories and by the stories that came with Islam.[307] The first Malay literature was in the Arabic script. The earliest known Malay writing is on the Terengganu stone, made in 1303.[166] Chinese and Indian literature became common as the numbers of speakers increased in Malaysia, and locally produced works based in languages from those areas began to be produced in the 19th century.[307] English has also become a common literary language.[166] In 1971, the government took the step of defining the literature of different languages. Literature written in Malay was called "the national literature of Malaysia", literature in other bumiputera languages was called "regional literature", while literature in other languages was called "sectional literature".[302] Malay poetry is highly developed, and uses many forms. The Hikayat form is popular, and the pantun has spread from Malay to other languages.[307]


The national drink and dish of Malaysia[308][309]

Malaysia's cuisine reflects the multi-ethnic makeup of its population.

spice route.[311] The cuisine is very similar to that of Singapore and Brunei,[189] and also bears resemblance to Filipino cuisine.[166] The different states have varied dishes,[189] and often the food in Malaysia is different from the original dishes.[245]

Sometimes food not found in its original culture is assimilated into another; for example, Chinese restaurants in Malaysia often serve Malay dishes.

stir fried water spinach (kangkung belacan).[313] This means that although much of Malaysian food can be traced back to a certain culture, they have their own identity.[311] Rice is a staple food, and an important constituent of the country's culture.[314] Chili is commonly found in local cuisine, although this does not necessarily make them spicy.[310]


Logo of Radio Televisyen Malaysia, the country's main public broadcaster.

Malaysia's main newspapers are owned by the government and political parties in the ruling coalition,[315][316] although some major opposition parties also have their own, which are openly sold alongside regular newspapers. A divide exists between the media in the two halves of the country. Peninsular-based media gives low priority to news from the East, and often treats the eastern states as colonies of the Peninsula.[317] As a result of this, East Malaysia region of Sarawak launched TV Sarawak as internet streaming beginning in 2014, and as TV station on 10 October 2020[318] to overcome the low priority and coverage of Peninsular-based media and to solidify the representation of East Malaysia.[319] The media have been blamed for increasing tension between Indonesia and Malaysia, and giving Malaysians a bad image of Indonesians.[320] The country has Malay, English, Chinese, and Tamil dailies.[317] Kadazandusun and Bajau news are only available via TV broadcast Berita RTM.[321] Written Kadazan news was once included in publications such as The Borneo Post, the Borneo Mail, the Daily Express, and the New Sabah Times, but publication has ceased with the newspaper or as a section.[322][323]

Printing Presses and Publications Act have also been cited as curtailing freedom of expression.[327]

Holidays and festivals

Temple at night illuminated with light from decorations
Malaysia's largest Buddhist templeKek Lok Si in Penang—illuminated in preparation for the Chinese New Year

Malaysians observe a number of holidays and festivities throughout the year. Some are federally gazetted

public holidays and some are observed by individual states. Other festivals are observed by particular ethnic or religion groups, and the main holiday of each major group has been declared a public holiday. The most observed national holiday is Hari Merdeka (Independence Day) on 31 August, commemorating the independence of the Federation of Malaya in 1957.[166] Malaysia Day on 16 September commemorates federation in 1963.[328] Other notable national holidays are Labour Day (1 May) and the King's birthday (first week of June).[166]

Deepavali, the festival of lights,[329] while Thaipusam is a religious rite which sees pilgrims from all over the country converge at the Batu Caves.[330] Malaysia's Christian community celebrates most of the holidays observed by Christians elsewhere, most notably Christmas and Easter. In addition to this, the Dayak community in Sarawak celebrate a harvest festival known as Gawai,[331] and the Kadazandusun community celebrate Kaamatan.[332] Despite most festivals being identified with a particular ethnic or religious group, celebrations are universal. In a custom known as "open house" Malaysians participate in the celebrations of others, often visiting the houses of those who identify with the festival.[228]


A woman and a man in black outfits with red belts practising the martial art of Silat Melayu
Traditional sports, such as the martial art style Silat Melayu, persist alongside modern sports.

Popular sports in Malaysia include

skate boarding.[228] Football is the most popular sport in Malaysia.[333] Badminton matches also attract thousands of spectators, and since 1948 Malaysia has been one of four countries to hold the Thomas Cup, the world team championship trophy of men's badminton.[334] The Malaysian Lawn Bowls Federation was registered in 1997.[335] Squash was brought to the country by members of the British army, with the first competition being held in 1939.[336] The Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia was created on 25 June 1972.[337] The men's national field hockey team ranked 10th in the world as of June 2022.[338] The 3rd Hockey World Cup was hosted at Merdeka Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, as well as the 10th cup.[339] The country also has its own Formula One track – the Sepang International Circuit, with the first Malaysian Grand Prix held in 1999.[340] Traditional sports include Silat Melayu, the most common style of martial arts practised by ethnic Malays.[341]

The Federation of Malaya Olympic Council was formed in 1953, and received recognition by the IOC in 1954. It first participated in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. The council was renamed the Olympic Council of Malaysia in 1964, and has participated in all but one Olympic games since its inception. The largest number of athletes ever sent to the Olympics was 57 to the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.[342] Besides the Olympic Games, Malaysia also participates in the Paralympic Games.[343] Malaysia has competed at the Commonwealth Games since 1950 as Malaya, and 1966 as Malaysia, and the games were hosted in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.[344][345]

See also


  1. ^ Constitutional capital, ceremonial and legislative
  2. ^ administrative and judicial
  1. ^ Section 9 of the National Language Act 1963/67 states that "The script of the national language shall be the Rumi script: provided that this shall not prohibit the use of the Malay script, more commonly known as the Jawi script, of the national language".
  2. ^ Section 2 of the National Language Act 1963/67 states that "Save as provided in this Act and subject to the safeguards contained in Article 152(1) of the Constitution relating to any other language and the language of any other community in Malaysia the national language shall be used for official purposes".
  3. ^
    Federal Constitution of Malaysia and National Language Act 1963/67
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