Malaysia (also known as Bolehland, meaning roughly 'can-do land', also Malaysia boleh!) is the name of that country which makes up the lands between Thailand and Singapore, with a chunk of Borneo thrown in too. Malaysia has a peculiar political atmosphere that is perplexing even to locals. There are a large number of ethnic groups, both indigenous and immigrant (or descended from immigrants).
Generally overshadowed by its neighbours, it is best known internationally for its flag carrier Malaysia Airlines suffering double air crashes (MH 370 and MH 17) within a short space of time in 2014, or the 1MDB scandal involving its former prime minister Najib Razak.
Religion, ethnicity and law
Muslims make up about 60% of the population, including — by constitutional definition — the entire Malay ethnic group (about 50%). The next largest ethnic group is the Chinese (about 25%), who, like Chinese people elsewhere, observe a combination of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity and other traditions. The Indian minority (about 7% of the population) includes Hindus and Muslims. Some 9% of the population is Christian. Malaysia is also the only country in the world where candidates are required to state their ethnicity and religious views before sitting for a public examination.
Malaysia's laws are a strange mixture of secular and religious, with different standards applied to different groups. The constitution requires that every ethnic Malay be a Muslim — but the other groups can believe what they like. Muslims are legally subject to Sharia law, meaning that activities such as premarital sex[notes 1] and imbibing alcohol — which are perfectly normal among the Chinese community, some of the Indian community, and tourists — are legally punishable for ethnic Malays and other Muslims. Those wishing to abandon Islam or convert to another faith may still be referred to a Sharia court for punishment, since both the secular and Sharia court might not recognise the conversion, and they could be held liable for the crime of apostasy. Insulting Islam can lead to a prison sentence.
Corporal punishment (by caning) is practised by both the secular and Sharia courts for some offences. Capital punishment (by hanging) is the usual sentence for serious crimes, and is mandatory for convicted murderers.
Bumiputra (de facto Apartheid)
Though the word Bumiputra (or Bumiputera, literally "son of the land") does not appear in the constitution, the word in Malaysian politics refers specifically to Article 153 of the Federal Constitution. It effectively refers to ethnic Malays, and indigenous people of Sarawak and Sabah — in contrast to ethnic Chinese, ethnic Indians and Orang Asli. The Orang Asli are the indigenous people of the Malay Peninsula, and are among the poorest and most vulnerable people in Malaysia.
In contrast, ethnic Malays, who represent half the population, and most of the political power, have a constitutionally-defined program working in their favor. Some government departments have included Orang Asli as a protected class, but this is not constitutionally-enshrined. Privileges for the Bumiputra include: minimum 30% Bumiputra ownership of stocks listed on the stock exchange, housing preferences, government contract preferences, education preferences, and automobile import preferences; in effect, institutionalised racism. Some, if not all, of these preferences have led to corruption.
In 1994, the government banned anyone who is homosexual, bisexual or transsexual from appearing in the state-controlled media and in 2001, the former Prime Minister stated that the country will deport any visiting foreign cabinet ministers or diplomats who are gay. Many similar examples could be cited, but you get the picture.
Former Prime Minister Najib Razak made clear in a speech in August 2015 that he believed Malaysia should not support LGBT rights. Razak stated that his administration would do its best to uphold human rights but only within the confines of Islam and that Malaysia could not defend the more "extreme aspect of human rights", such as gay, bisexual and transexual rights. This prompted Human Rights Watch to suggest that Malaysia
fuck off withdraw from the United Nations if the government was not serious about upholding human rights for all.
In practice the Prime Minister has always been a member of the United Malays National Organisation, the party which was in power from independence in 1957 until 2018. Members of the opposition, including one who has held office as lofty as Deputy Prime Minister, can expect imprisonment and beatings by the police as reward for their efforts.[notes 3]
Secular organisations in Malaysia
Due to the very low population of atheists and agnostics in Malaysia, there is currently no official secular organisation in Malaysia. There was a Facebook group known as MAFA (Malaysian Atheist Freethinkers and Agnostics) but it is now defunct.
On 13 May 1969 an opposition party won the election for the control of the state of Selangor. During the party's victory celebration, their supporters clashed with the ruling party's supporters who also insisted on doing their own celebration. Many Malaysians (mostly Chinese) died during the incident.
In 2007, the first Bersih rally was held in Kuala Lumpur with an estimated 30,000 attendees marching for free and fair elections. The event was broken up violently by the police. Subsequent Bersih rallies were organised in 2011, 2012 and 2015, with the latter passing off peaceably and drawing a crowd estimated as high as 250,000 with the focus on calling for Prime Minister Najib Razak's resignation in light of recent corruption scandals.
In 2014, after Germany defeated hosts Brazil 7-1 in the men's soccer World Cup, a Malaysian Member of Parliament, Bung Mokhtar Radin, tweeted "WELL DONE..BRAVO...LONG LIVE HITLER." He then doubled down by refusing to apologize for what might have been the oddest application yet of Godwin's Law.
A bomoh is the Malay terminology for a shaman, and originally they were mostly traditional herbalists/healers with a bit of astrology and geomancy thrown into the mix. Until the Islamic revival started in the 1970s, bomohs went quietly about their woo-tastic business, pretty much as they had done for centuries. The serious young Islamic Malay men then started to view bomohs as deviant from the Muslim faith and today many are viewed with suspicion (a classic case of being right for all the wrong reasons).
A notable charlatan is Raja Bomoh (king of the bomohs) who shot to worldwide attention in the aftermath of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disaster. To great media fanfare he attempted to locate the missing plane with bamboo binoculars looking inside a traditional fish trap. This was followed days later by the very televisual ritual of banging two coconuts together. The result? (Aside from Da Fuck?) He proclaimed that the plane was suspended in the air somewhere between three "locations" - the Philippines, the South China Sea and somewhere else. And we can't find it because it was hidden by the Bunian people — a supernatural race. That cleared it all up.
Food and culture
Food is diverse in Malaysia. Local Favourites include Assam Laksa, Nasi Goreng, Sambal Ikan, Roti Canai and Bak Kut Teh. Seafood cuisine is popular in Malaysia as well. Food hygiene is a major concern in Malaysia as many local food operators are not subject to as much scrutiny as their counterparts in Singapore. Kang kongs are cheap in Malaysia according to their prime minister Najib.
Malaysia has a diverse culture of Chinese, Indians, and Malays. Chinese celebrates their holidays together with Indians and Malays and most of the populace a cohesive and united. There are certain factions of ultra nationalist malay groups who believe that Malaysia should only have malays but they are generally concentrated in suburbs rather than cities.
Prostitution in Malaysia
Prostitution is considered Haram (forbidden) and therefore illegal in Malaysia. However, the Chinese and Indian communities in Malaysia are exempted from such rules so long they do not provide their services to the Muslim communities or dress provocatively in public. Many spas located in hotels provide package services at RM200 - RM 250 which includes an hour of massage that ends with sex. Pubs in major cities like Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru and Penang have callgirls who can be booked for around RM 300 - 1000 a night depending on the quality of the girls. There are some Malay girls who work in this industry but it is rare to find any as the punishment is usually death by hanging. Most prostitutes are from China, Vietnam or Thailand and usually there to earn a quick buck before heading home.
Hindu statue near the Batu caves.
- 5 Traits Of 'Bolehland' That Could Work In Europe by Red Bull (January 13, 2016) Red Bull
- Malaysian Singer Arrested for “Insulting Islam” in Video Intended to Promote Religious Harmony
- Malaysia court rules non-Muslims cannot use 'Allah', BBC, 14 October 2013
- The full Malaysian Federal Constitution
- Study and Review of the Socio-Economic Status of Aboriginal Peoples (Orang Asli) in Peninsular Malaysia for the Formulation of a National Development Plan for the Orang Asli
- Being ‘mixed’ is no privilege
- Orang Asli not Bumiputera, say experts
- The NEP and corruption: Why Malaysia is lagging behind
- Old poison, new bottle
- Quit UN if not keen to defend human rights for all, watchdog tells Putrajaya
- May 13, 1969: Truth and reconciliation
- Malaysia police break up protest
- A sea of yellow in Kuala Lumpur as protesters demand Najib's resignation
- Stephanie Burnett, "A Malaysian Legislator Tweets Praise to Hitler After Germany's Soccer Triumph," 'Time', July 9th, 2014. Accessed June 16th, 2019.
- Missing MH370: Bomoh vows result with fish trap hook, bamboo binocular
- Missing MAS flight: Shaman arrives to help find missing plane