Malaysia is multicultural and multiconfessional. The dominant religion in Malaysia is Islam, whose followers make up 61 per cent of the population. Islam is recognised as the state religion of Malaysia, although the country has a secular constitution. Debate exists about whether Malaysia should be a secular or Islamic state, with politics often becoming entwined with religion. Due to contention with an Islamic opposition, the ruling government has slowly become more Islamic, with Islam beginning to have more influence over day to day life in Malaysia. The government promotes the spread of Islam, which is under the control of individual states.
Religion often follows ethnic lines, with most Muslims being Malays. The code of Islam enforced is Sunni. Islam was introduced by traders, becoming firmly established in the 15th century. The government promotes a moderate form of Islam known as Islam Hadhari. Any teaching which deviates from the official Sunni code is illegal, and no other forms of Islam are allowed. The country has both civil and Shariah courts, with all Muslims having to follow Shariah laws. These are enforced by the government and police forces.
The large Chinese population in Malaysia practices a mix of beliefs, with influences from traditional Chinese religions such as Buddhism and Daoism. Hinduism is practised by the majority of Malaysian Indians. In recent years the government has demolished many Hindu temples, causing concern among the Indian population. Christianity has established itself in some communities, especially in East Malaysia. It is not tied to any specific ethnic group. Other religions, such as the Baha'i Faith and Sikhism also have adherents in Malaysia.
Relations between different religious groups are generally quite tolerant. Christmas, Chinese New Year, and Deepavali have been declared national holidays alongside Islamic holidays. Various groups have been set up to try to promote religious understanding among the different...