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Case Study Of Freedom Of Religion In Malaysia Wikipedia

The status of religious freedom around the world varies from country to country. Over 120 national constitutions mention equality regardless of religion.[1]



Main article: Freedom of religion in Algeria

Freedom of religion in Algeria is regulated by the Algerian Constitution, which declares Islam to be the state religion (Article 2) but also declares that "freedom of creed and opinion is inviolable" (Article 36); it prohibits discrimination, Article 29 states "All citizens are equal before the law. No discrimination shall prevail because of birth, race, sex, opinion or any other personal or social condition or circumstance". In practice, the government generally respects this, with some limited exceptions. The government follows a de facto policy of tolerance by allowing, in limited instances, the conduct of religious services by non-Muslim faiths in the capital which are open to the public. The small Christian and tiny Jewish populations generally practice their faiths without government interference. The law does not recognize marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men; it does however recognise marriages between Muslim men and non-Muslim women. By law, children follow the religion of their fathers, even if they are born abroad and are citizens of their (non-Muslim) country of birth.


Main article: Freedom of religion in Angola

The Constitution of Angola provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice.


Main article: Freedom of religion in Egypt

See also: Egyptian identification card controversy

Egypt has a huge Islamic population. The Constitution of Egypt makes no reference to an official State Church because Egypt is an ArabRepublic that recognizes Islam as the State Religion. Egypt's largest Christian population, which makes up approximately 10% of Egypt's total population, follow the Coptic Orthodox Church.[2] Other churches exist in Egypt, such as the Coptic Catholic Church as well as some Protestant denominations. However, their population composes a very small portion of Egypt's population.

The separation of the state's influence on religion and vice versa is often undetermined; many rights groups have claimed that some laws passed by the State are heavily influenced by the State Religion, and sometimes aimed at particular minorities in Egypt. The Coptic Orthodox Church is in fairly good relations with the State. This was seen when the State officially declared January 7, the Coptic Orthodox Christmas, as an official holiday in Egypt. However, some laws (e.g., the 19th century Hamayouni Decree, which originally required that the Ottoman Emperor, subsequently his successor in authority the King of Egypt and then after the overthrow of the monarchy, the President of Egypt, such authority having since been devolved to governors, must approve any permits to build or repair any church in Egypt) still is seen to aim at persecuting the Coptic Orthodox Church.[3][better source needed][non-primary source needed]


Main article: Freedom of religion in Mauritania

Freedom of religion in Mauritania is limited by the Government. The constitution establishes the country as an Islamic republic and decrees that Islam is the religion of its citizens and the State.

Non-Muslim resident expatriates and a few non-Muslim citizens practice their religion openly with certain limitation on proselytizing of Muslims and transmitting religious materials.

Relations between the Muslim community and the small non-Muslim community are generally amicable.


Nigeria allows freedom of religion.[4] Islam and Christianity are the two major religions.[5] In 12 states of Nigeria which have a sharia-based penal code, conversion from Islam to another religion is illegal and often a capital offense.[6]

South Africa[edit]

Main article: Freedom of religion in South Africa

South Africa is a secular democracy with freedom of religion.

Sudan and South Sudan[edit]

Main article: Freedom of religion in Sudan

Although the 2005 Interim National Constitution (INC) of Sudan provides for freedom of religion throughout the entire country of Sudan, the INC enshrines Shari'a as a source of legislation in the north[7] and the official laws and policies of the Government favor Islam in that part of the country.

The constitution of Southern Sudan provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies of the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) contribute to the generally free practice of religion. There was some improvement in religious freedom during the reporting period. Restrictions on Christians in the north were relaxed, continuing gains realized with the creation of the Government of National Unity (GNU) in 2005. The GoSS generally respects religious freedom in the ten states of the South.

There were some reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice, and religious prejudice remains widespread. Muslims in the north who express an interest in Christianity, or convert to Christianity, face strong social pressure to recant. Muslims who convert to Christianity can face the death penalty for apostasy, see Persecution of Christians in Sudan and Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag.



Main article: Freedom of religion in Afghanistan

The current government of Afghanistan has only been in place since 2002, following a U.S.-led invasion which displaced the former Taliban government. The Constitution of Afghanistan is dated January 23, 2004, and its initial three articles mandate:

  1. Afghanistan shall be an Islamic Republic, independent, unitary, and an indivisible state.
  2. The sacred religion of Islam shall be the religion of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Followers of other faiths shall be free within the bounds of law in the exercise and performance of their religious rights.
  3. No law shall contravene the tenets and provisions of the holy religion of Islam in Afghanistan.


Main article: Freedom of religion in Armenia

The Constitution of Armenia as amended in December 2005 provides for freedom of religion; however, the law places some restrictions on the religious freedom of adherents of minority religious groups, and there were some restrictions in practice. The Armenian (Apostolic) Church, which has formal legal status as the national church, enjoys some privileges not available to other religious groups. Some denominations reported occasional discrimination by mid- or low-level government officials but found high-level officials to be tolerant. Jehovah's Witnesses reported that judges sentenced them to longer prison terms for evasion of alternative military service than in the past, although the sentences were still within the range allowed by law. Societal attitudes toward some minority religious groups were ambivalent, and there were reports of societal discrimination directed against members of these groups.


Main article: Freedom of religion in Azerbaijan

The Constitution of Azerbaijan provides that persons of all faiths may choose and practice their religion without restriction; however, some sources state that there have been some abuses and restrictions. Some religious groups reported delays in and denials of registration. As in previous years, there continued to be some limitations upon the ability of groups to import religious literature.[8] Most religious groups met without government interference; however, local authorities monitored religious services, and officials at times harassed and detained members of "nontraditional" religious groups. There were some reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice. The US. State Department reported prejudice against Muslims who convert to other faiths and hostility toward groups that proselytize, particularly evangelical Christian and other missionary groups, as well as Iranian groups and Salafists, who are seen as a threat to security.[8]


Main article: Freedom of religion in Bangladesh

 Bangladesh was founded as a secular state, but Islam was made the state religion in the 1980s. However, in 2010, the High Court held up the secular principles of the 1972 constitution.[9] The Constitution of Bangladesh establishes Islam as the state religion but also allows other religions to be practiced in harmony.[10]

Burma (Myanmar)[edit]

Main article: Freedom of religion in Burma

Every year since 1999 the U.S. State Department has designated Burma as a country of particular concern with regard to religious freedom.[11] Muslims in particular face discrimination at the hands of the Buddhist majority, often with governmental indifference or even active encouragement.


Article 43 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia reads: "Khmer citizens of either sex shall have the right to freedom of belief. Freedom of religious belief and worship shall be guaranteed by the State on the condition that such freedom does not affect other religious beliefs or violate public order and security. Buddhism shall be the State religion."[12]


Main article: Freedom of religion in the People's Republic of China

The Constitution of the People's Republic of China provides for freedom of religious belief; however, the Government restricts religious practice to government-sanctioned organizations and registered places of worship and controls the growth and scope of the activity of religious groups. Despite formal recognition of religious liberty, "religious freedom is accorded little respect in China."[13] Every year since 1999 the U.S. State Department has designated China as a country of particular concern with regard to religious freedom.[14]


Main articles: Freedom of religion in Cyprus and Freedom of religion in Northern Cyprus

Following the 1974 division of Cyprus, religious freedom for Muslim Turkish Cypriots has considerably improved in the predominantly Greek-inhabited Republic of Cyprus. While in Turkish occupied Northern Cyprus, freedom of religion is constitutionally protected, vandalized and looted Orthodox churches have been repurposed as stables, mosques or military camps.[15] A controversial 2016 decision restricts most Orthodox churches to celebrate a single religious service per year.[16]


Main article: Freedom of religion in India

The Indian constitution's preamble states that India is a secular state. Freedom of religion is a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution. According to Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, every citizen of India has the right to "profess, practice and propagate religion", "subject to public order, morality and health" and also subject to other provisions under that article.[17]


Main article: Religion in Indonesia

See also: Islam in Indonesia, Christianity in Indonesia, Buddhism in Indonesia, and Confucianism in Indonesia

The constitution accords “all persons the right to worship according to their own religion or belief” and states that “the nation is based upon belief in one supreme God.” The first tenet of the country’s national ideology, Pancasila, similarly declares belief in one God. The government does not allow for nonbelief. Government employees must swear allegiance to the nation and to the Pancasila ideology. Other laws and policies at the national and regional levels restrict certain types of religious activity, particularly among unrecognized religious groups and “deviant” sects of recognized religious groups.[18]

The Indonesian Constitution states "every person shall be free to choose and to practice the religion of his/her choice" and "guarantees all persons the freedom of worship, each according to his/her own religion or belief".[19] The government, however, officially only recognises six religions, namely Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.[20][21]


Main article: Freedom of religion in Iran

The Iranian constitution was drafted during the Iranian Constitutional Revolution in 1906;[22] While the constitution was modelled on Belgium's 1831 constitution, the provisions guaranteeing freedom of worship were omitted.[23] Subsequent legislation provided some recognition to the religious minorities of Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians, in addition to majority Muslim population, as equal citizens under state law, but it did not guarantee freedom of religion and "gave unprecedented institutional powers to the clerical establishment."[23] The Islamic Republic of Iran, that was established after the Iranian revolution, recognizes four religions, whose status is formally protected: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.[24] Members of the first three minority religions receive special treatment under Iranian law; however, under Article 177 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, no amendment can be made which in any way contradicts the Islamic principles declared earlier; the country must be governed perpetually under the Islamic principles determined by the Council of Guardians.

Additionally, adherents of the Bahá'í Faith, Iran's largest religious minority, are not recognized and are persecuted. Bahá'ís have been subjected to unwarranted arrests, false imprisonment, executions, confiscation and destruction of property owned by individuals and the Bahá'í community, denial of civil rights and liberties, and denial of access to higher education.[24] Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iranian Bahá'ís have regularly had their homes ransacked or been banned from attending university or holding government jobs, and several hundred have received prison sentences for their religious beliefs.[24] Bahá'í cemeteries have been desecrated and property seized and occasionally demolished, including the House of Mírzá Buzurg, Bahá'u'lláh's father.[25] The House of the Báb in Shiraz has been destroyed twice, and is one of three sites to which Bahá'ís perform pilgrimage.[25][26][27]


Main article: Freedom of religion in Iraq

Iraq is a constitutional democracy with a republican, federal, pluralistic system of government, consisting of 18 provinces or "governorates." Although the Constitution recognizes Islam as the official religion and states that no law may be enacted that contradicts the established provisions of Islam, it also guarantees freedom of thought, conscience, and religious belief and practice.

While the Government generally endorses these rights, unsettled conditions have prevented effective governance in parts of the country, and the Government's ability to protect religious freedoms has been handicapped by insurgency, terrorism, and sectarian violence.

Since 2003, when the government of Saddam Hussein fell, the Iraqi government has generally not engaged in state-sponsored persecution of any religious group, calling instead for tolerance and acceptance of all religious minorities. However, some government institutions have continued their long-standing discriminatory practices against the Baha'i and Sunni Muslims.

Radical Islamic elements continued to exert tremendous pressure on other groups to conform to extremist interpretations of Islam's precepts. In addition, frequent sectarian violence, including attacks on religious places of worship, hampered the ability to practice religion freely. This sectarian violence was heightened by the February 22, 2006, attack on the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, one of the most significant Shi'amosques in the world, containing the mausoleums of the 10th and 11th imams.

Most recently, uprisings of the Islamic State (IS), formerly called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), have led to violations of religious freedom in certain parts of Iraq. IS is a Sunnijihadist group that claims religious authority over all Muslims across the world[28] and aspires to bring most of the Muslim-inhabited regions of the world under its political control beginning with Iraq.[29] ISIS follows an extreme anti-Western interpretation of Islam, promotes religious violence and regards those who do not agree with its interpretations as infidels or apostates. Concurrently, IS aims to establish a Salafist-orientated Islamist state in Iraq, Syria and other parts of the Levant.[30]


Main articles: Freedom of religion in Israel and Religion in Israel

Further information: Jewish state

English Common Law, rather than Judaic Talmudic Law, is the legal tradition of Israel. However, Judaic law applies in many civil matters, such as laws relating to marriage and divorce, and politics concerning the Temple Mount. Israeli authorities have codified a number of religious laws in the country's political laws, including an official ban on commerce on Shabbat[31] and a 1998 ban on the importation of nonkosher meat.[32]

According to the 2009 US Department of State report on Israel and the occupied territories, "The Israeli Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty provides for freedom of worship and the Government generally respected this right in practice."[33] However, Pew Research Center has identified Israel as one of the countries that places high restrictions on religion,[34] and the U.S. State Department notes that there have been limits placed on non-Orthodox streams of Judaism.[35] Likewise, the Israeli police enforces a controversial ban against both Jewish and Christian prayer at the Temple Mount where the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque stand. This is a move to prevent any attempts on part of the Muslims or the Waqf (an "Islamic Religious Endowments" organization) to claim offence and start attacking Jews and Christians as a result of the said offence.[35][36][37][38]


Main article: Freedom of religion in Japan

Historically, Japan had long tradition of mixed religious practice between Shinto and Buddhism since the introduction of Buddhism in the 7th century. Though the Emperor of Japan is supposed to be the direct descendant of Amaterasu Ōmikami, the Shinto sun goddess, all Imperial family members, as well as almost all Japanese, were Buddhists who also practiced Shinto religious rites as well. Christianity flourished when it was first introduced by Francis Xavier, but was soon violently suppressed.

After the Meiji Restoration, Japan tried to remodel the state in line of modern European constitutional monarchy. Upon learning that many European states sourced their constitutional authority to the Christian God, which Japanese religious tradition did not have, the emperor itself was substituted to its position. Buddhism and Shintoism were officially separated and Shintoism was set as the state religion. The Constitution specifically stated that Emperor is "holy and inviolable" (Tennou ha shinsei nishite okasu bekarazu). During the period of Emperor Showa, the status of emperor was further elevated to be a living god (Arahito gami). This ceased at the end of World War II, when the current constitution was drafted. (See Ningen-sengen.)

Article 20 the constitution of Japan drafted by the US occupation forces, in 1946 and currently in use, mandates a separation of religious organizations from the state, as well as ensuring religious freedom: "No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority. No person shall be compelled to take part in any religious act, celebration, rite or practice. The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity."

Like Germany, which has the CDU, Japan is not without a religiously affiliated political party. The New Komeito Party is affiliated with Sōka Gakkai, a minor religion in Japan. Japanese in general mix Buddhism, Shinto, and secularism in practice. Japanese often have "Christian" weddings, though Japan is less than one percent Christian, but generally have Buddhist funerals. A secular form of Christmas is widely observed. Tenrikyo and other Japan-centered faiths are also present.


Main article: Freedom of religion in Jordan

The Constitution of Jordan provides for the freedom to practice the rights of one's religion and faith in accordance with the customs that are observed in the kingdom, unless they violate public order or morality. The state religion is Islam. The Government prohibits conversion from Islam and proselytization of Muslims.[39]

In June 2006 the Government published the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in the Official Gazette, which, according to Article 93.2 of the Constitution, gives the Covenant the force of law. Article 18 of the ICCPR provides for freedom of religion (See Legal and policy framework). Despite this positive development, restrictions and some abuses continued. Members of unrecognized religious groups and converts from Islam face legal discrimination and bureaucratic difficulties in personal status cases. Converts from Islam additionally risk the loss of civil rights. Shari'a courts have the authority to prosecute proselytizers.[39]

Relations between Muslims and Christians generally are good; however, adherents of unrecognized religions and Muslims who convert to other faiths face societal discrimination. Prominent societal leaders took steps to promote religious freedom.[39]


Main article: Freedom of religion in Kazakhstan

The Constitution of Kazakhstan provides for freedom of religion, and the various religious communities worship largely without government interference. Local officials attempt on occasion to limit the practice of religion by some nontraditional groups; however, higher-level officials or courts occasionally intervene to correct such attempts.[40]

The government's enforcement of previously amended laws led to increased problems for some unregistered groups. As of 2007[update], the law on religion continues to impose mandatory registration requirements on missionaries and religious organizations. Most religious groups, including those of minority and nontraditional denominations, reported that the religion laws did not materially affect religious activities. Unregistered religious groups experienced an increase in the level of fines imposed for nonregistration in addition to stronger efforts to collect such fines. Most registered groups experienced no problems, but the Hare Krishna movement, a registered group, suffered the demolition of 25 homes as part of the Karasai local government's campaign to seize title to its land based on alleged violations of property laws.[40][41]

The population maintained its long tradition of secularism and tolerance. In particular, Muslim, Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Jewish leaders reported high levels of acceptance in society. During the reporting period, the dominant Islamic and Russian Orthodox leaders publicly criticized a number of nontraditional religious groups. The number of registered religious groups and places of worship increased during 2007 for virtually all religious groups, including minority and nontraditional groups.[40]

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom issues with the Kazakhstan government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. The ambassador and other U.S. officials supported the country's efforts to increase links and mutual understanding among religious groups. U.S. officials engaged in private and public dialogue at all levels to urge that proposed amendments to the religion laws are consistent with the country's constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and with the country's tradition of religious tolerance. U.S. government officials visited religious facilities, met with religious leaders, and worked with government officials to address specific cases of concern. During 2007, the Embassy sponsored exchange programs for leaders of various religious groups to meet with a diverse range of counterparts in the United States. Embassy officials maintained an ongoing dialogue with a broad range of groups within the religious community.[40]

North Korea[edit]

Main article: Freedom of religion in North Korea

The North Korean constitution guarantees freedom of belief; however, the US Department of State International Religious Freedom Report for 2011 claims that "Genuine religious freedom does not exist."[42]

South Korea[edit]

According to the US Department of State, As of  2012[update], the constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.[43]

Article 11 [Equality], paragraph 1, of the Constitution declares: "All citizens are equal before the law, and there may be no discrimination in political, economic, social, or cultural life on account of sex, religion, or social status."[44]


Main article: Freedom of religion in Kyrgyzstan

The Constitution and the law of Kyrgyzstan provide for freedom of religion in Kyrgyzstan, and the Government generally respected this right in practice; however, the Government restricted the activities of radical Islamic groups that it considered threats to stability and security and hampered or refused the registration of some Christian churches. The Constitution provides for the separation of religion and state, and it prohibits discrimination based on religion or religious beliefs. The Government did not officially support any religion; however, a May 6, 2006 decree recognized Islam and Russian Orthodoxy as traditional religious groups.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report. The Government continued to monitor and restrict Islamist groups that it considered to be threats to security. Some Christian groups continued to face delays in registration. The State Agency for Religious Affairs (SARA), formerly called the State Commission on Religious Affairs (SCRA), is responsible for promoting religious tolerance, protecting freedom of conscience, and overseeing laws on religion. All religious organizations, including schools, must apply for approval of registration from SARA.

Although most religious groups and sects operated with little interference from the Government or each other, there were several cases of societal abuse based on religious beliefs and practices. There was an increase in tensions between Muslims and former Muslims who had converted to other religious groups. In one case, a mob upset at a Baptist pastor's conversions of Muslims to Christianity publicly beat the pastor and burned his Bibles and religious literature (see section 3).


Main article: Freedom of religion in Laos

The Constitution of Laos provides for freedom of religion; however, the Government restricted this right in practice. Some government officials committed abuses of citizens' religious freedom. During the period covered by this report, the overall status of respect for religious freedom did not significantly change. While respect for non-Protestant groups appeared to improve slightly, respect for Protestant groups appeared to decline in several parts of the country. In most areas, officials generally respected the constitutionally guaranteed rights of members of most faiths to worship, albeit within strict constraints imposed by the Government. Authorities in some areas continued to display intolerance for minority religious practice especially by Protestant Christians. The Lao Front for National Construction (LFNC), a popular front organization for the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP), was responsible for oversight of religious practice. The Prime Minister's Decree on Religious Practice (Decree 92) was the principal legal instrument defining rules for religious practice. Decree 92 also institutionalized the Government's role as the final arbiter of permissible religious activities. Although this decree has contributed to greater religious tolerance since it was promulgated in 2002, authorities have increasingly used its many conditions to restrict some aspects of religious practice.

During the period covered by this report, some local officials pressured minority Protestants to renounce their faith on threat of arrest or forceful eviction from their villages. Such cases occurred in Bolikhamsai, Houaphan, and Luang Namtha provinces. Arrests and detention of Protestants occurred in Luang Namtha, Oudomsai, Salavan, Savannakhet, and Vientiane provinces. Two Buddhist monks were arrested in Bolikhamsai Province for having been ordained without government authorization. In some areas, minority Protestants were forbidden from gathering to worship. In areas where Protestants were actively proselytizing, local officials have sometimes subjected them to “reeducation.”

A Christian man in Salavan Province was arrested on April 1, 2006 for refusing to renounce his faith and placed under house arrest until his release in late July 2006. At the end of the period covered by this report, there were four known religious prisoners, as well as at least seven other Protestants who were apparently being detained without charges for other than religious reasons, but in whose cases religion was suspected to have played a role. Conflicts between ethnic groups and movement among villages sometimes exacerbated religious tensions. The efforts of some Protestant congregations to establish churches independent of the Lao Evangelical Church (LEC) continued to cause strains within the Protestant community.


Main article: Freedom of religion in Lebanon

The Constitution of Lebanon provides for freedom of religion and the freedom to practice all religious rites provided that the public order is not disturbed. The Constitution declares equality of rights and duties for all citizens without discrimination or preference but establishes a balance of power among the major religious groups. The Government generally respected these rights; however, there were some restrictions, and the constitutional provision for apportioning political offices according to religious affiliation may be viewed as inherently discriminatory. There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice. There were, however, periodic reports of tension between religious groups, attributable to competition for political power, and citizens continued to struggle with the legacy of a 15-year civil war that was fought largely along sectarian lines. Despite sectarian tensions caused by the competition for political power, churches, mosques, and other places of worship continued to exist side-by-side, extending a centuries-long national heritage as a place of refuge for those fleeing religious intolerance.


Main article: Freedom of religion in Malaysia

The status of religious freedom in Malaysia is a controversial issue. Islam is the official state religion and the Constitution of Malaysia provides for limited freedom of religion, notably placing control upon the 'propagation' of religion other than Islam to Muslims, a fundamental part of a number of other religions. Religions are also limited to only a select popular few. However, questions including whether Malays can convert from Islam and whether Malaysia is an Islamic state or secular state remains unresolved. For the most part the multiple religions within Malaysia interact peacefully and exhibit mutual respect. This is evident by the continued peaceful co-existence of cultures and ethnic groups.


Main article: Freedom of religion in Mongolia

The Constitution of Mongolia provides for freedom of religion, and the Mongolian Government generally respects this right in practice; however, the law somewhat limits proselytism, and some religious groups have faced bureaucratic harassment or been denied registration. There have been few reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice.


Main article: Freedom of religion in Nepal

Nepal is a secular state under the Interim Constitution, which was promulgated on January 15, 2007. The Interim Constitution provides for freedom to practice one's religion. The Interim Constitution also specifically denies the right to convert another person. The now-defunct constitution of 1990, which was in effect until January 15, 2007, described the country as a "Hindu Kingdom," although it did not establish Hinduism as the state religion. The Government generally did not interfere with the practice of other religious groups, and religious tolerance was broadly observed; however, there were some restrictions.

The Government took positive preliminary steps with respect to religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy contributed to the generally free practice of religion. The Interim Parliament, through the Interim Constitution, officially declared the country a secular state in January 2007; however, no laws specifically affecting freedom of religion were changed. Nonetheless, many believed that the declaration made it easier to practice their religion freely.

Adherents of the country's many religious groups generally coexisted peacefully and respected places of worship, although there were reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious belief or practice. Those who converted to another religious group at times faced violence and occasionally were ostracized socially but generally did not fear to admit their affiliations in public. But overall, Nepal is viewed as a religiously harmonious place for its state of development.


Main articles: Freedom of religion in Pakistan and Blasphemy law in Pakistan

Religious freedom in Pakistan has come into conflict with sharia law. The Constitution of Pakistan does not discriminate between Muslims and non-Muslims. However, critics[who?] have claimed Blasphemy laws stifle free speech. Speaking in opposition to Islam and publishing an attack on Islam or its prophets are prohibited. Pakistan's penal code now mandates the death penalty for anyone defiling the name of the Prophet Muhammad. This penal code mandates life imprisonment for desecrating the Quran, and up to 10 years' imprisonment for insulting another's religious beliefs with intent to outrage religious feelings.

The Pakistan government does not ban formally the public practice of the Ahmadi Muslim sect, but its practice is restricted severely by law. A 1974 constitutional amendment declared Ahmadis to be a non-Muslim minority because, according to the Government, they do not accept Muhammad as the last prophet of Islam. However, Ahmadis consider themselves to be Muslims and observe Islamic practices. In 1984, under Ordinance XX the government added Section 298(c) into the Penal Code, prohibiting Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslim or posing as Muslims; from referring to their faith as Islam; from preaching or propagating their faith; from inviting others to accept the Ahmadi faith; and from insulting the religious feelings of Muslims.[45]


Main article: Freedom of religion in the Philippines

By passing through the numerous phases of colonial occupation, the relationship of the church and state in the Philippines has gradually changed from the collaboration of the Roman Catholic Church with the government during the Spanish era to the constitutionally mandated separation today.

Republic of China (Taiwan)[edit]

Article 13 of the constitution of the Republic of China provides that the people shall have freedom of religious belief.[46]

Saudi Arabia[edit]

Main article: Freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an Islamic theocratic monarchy in which Islam is the official religion; the law requires that all Saudi citizens be Muslims, but permits non-Muslim visitors or foreign workers to live among and deal with Muslims except in certain areas. The Saudi Mutaween (Arabic: مطوعين), or Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (i.e., the religious police), prohibits the public practice of non-Muslim religions. The Government claims to recognize the right of non-Muslims to worship in private; however it does not always respect this right in practice.


Main article: Freedom of religion in Singapore

Freedom of religion in Singapore is guaranteed under the Constitution. However, the Government of Singapore restricts this right in some circumstances. The Government has restricted the Jehovah's Witnesses and banned the Unification Church. The Government does not tolerate speech or actions that it deems could adversely affect racial or religious harmony.

Sri Lanka[edit]

Further information: Freedom of religion in Sri Lanka


Main article: Freedom of religion in Syria

The constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic guarantees freedom of religion. Syria has had two constitutions: one passed in 1973, and one in 2012 through a referendum. Opposition groups rejected the referendum; claiming that the vote was rigged.[47]

Syria has come under international condemnation over their alleged "anti-Semitic" state media, and for alleged "sectarianism towards Sunni Muslims".[48] This is a claim that Damascus denies. While secular, Syria does mandate that all students go through religious education of the religion that their parents are/were.


Main article: Freedom of religion in Tajikistan

Freedom of religion in Tajikistan is provided for in Tajikistan's constitution. However, respect for religious freedom has eroded during recent years, creating some areas of concern.

Tajikistan's policies reflect a concern about Islamic extremism, a concern shared by much of the general population. The government actively monitors the activities of religious institutions to keep them from becoming overtly political. There were no closures of officially registered mosques, although the government of Tajikistan closed several unregistered mosques, prayer rooms, and madrassahs, and made the registration process to establish new mosques difficult. A Tajikistan Ministry of Education policy prohibited girls from wearing the hijab at public schools. The government uses the registration process to hinder some organizations' religious activity. Some religious organizations and individuals face harassment, temporary detention, and interrogation by government authorities. The Tajikistan government, including President Emomali Rahmon, continue to enunciate a policy of active secularism.


Main article: Freedom of religion in Turkey

See also: Religion in Turkey and Secularism in Turkey

Nominally, 99.0% of the Turkish population is Muslim[49] of whom a majority belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. The percentage of non-Muslims was much higher in the Ottoman Empire. A sizeable minority of the population (10%-30%) is affiliated with the Alevi sect.[50] The remainder of the population belongs to other beliefs, particularly Christian denominations (Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Syriac Orthodox, Chaldean Catholic, Church of the East), Judaism, Yezidism and others are nonreligious.[51]

There were reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Threats against non-Muslims created an atmosphere of pressure and diminished freedom for some non-Muslim communities. Many Christians, Baha’is, Jews, and Alevis faced societal suspicion and mistrust, and some elements of society continued to express anti-Semitic sentiments. Additionally, persons wishing to convert from Islam sometimes experienced harassment and violence from relatives and neighbors.[52]

Religious minorities complain that they are effectively blocked from careers in state institutions because of their faith. Christians, Baha'is, and some Muslims face societal suspicion and mistrust, and more radical Islamist elements continue to express anti-Semitic sentiments. Additionally, persons wishing to convert from Islam to another religion sometimes experience social harassment and violence from relatives and neighbors.

According to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll 2005,[53]Turkey is a country with a strong stance of secularism since the republican revolution of October 29, 1923 and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's modernization movement on March 3, 1924 which, among other things, abolished the Caliphate and removed all religious influence over the affairs of the state. Even though the state has no official religion nor promotes any, it actively monitors the area between the religions. The constitution recognises freedom of religion for individuals, whereas religious communities are placed under the protection of the state; but the constitution explicitly states that they cannot become involved in the political process (by forming a religious party, for instance) or establish faith-based schools. No party can claim that it represents a form of religious belief; nevertheless, religious sensibilities are generally represented through conservative parties.[54]


Main article: Freedom of religion in Turkmenistan

The Constitution of Turkmenistan provides for freedom of religion and does not establish a state religion; however, in practice the Government imposes legal restrictions on all forms of religious expression. All groups must register in order to gain legal status; unregistered religious activity is illegal and may be punished by administrative fines. While the 2003 law on religion and subsequent 2004 amendments had effectively restricted registration to only the two largest groups, Sunni Muslim and Russian Orthodox, and criminalized unregistered religious activity, presidential decrees issued in 2004 dramatically reduced the numerical thresholds for registration and abolished criminal penalties for unregistered religious activity; civil penalties remain. As a result, nine minority religious groups were able to register, and the Turkmenistan government has permitted some other groups to meet quietly with reduced scrutiny.

There was no substantial change in the degree of religious tolerance by the Turkmenistan government during the period covered by this report, and there were troubling developments in the treatment of some unregistered groups. Following a sharp decrease in harassment of both registered and unregistered groups in late 2006, mistreatment of some registered and many unregistered religious minority group members, similar to that in previous reporting periods, resumed in February 2007. On December 21, 2006, President Saparmurat Niyazov died. The State Security Council appointed Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers and Minister of Health Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov Acting President; Berdimuhammedov was elected President in February, 2007. During the reporting period there were no indications the Turkmenistan government planned to rescind or modify previous policies regarding religious freedom. The Turkmenistan government threatened members of minority religious groups with fines, loss of employment and housing, and imprisonment because of their beliefs.

There were no reports of societal abuses or violence based on religious beliefs or practice. The overwhelming majority of citizens identify themselves as Sunni Muslim; ethnic Turkmen identity is linked to Islam. Ethnic Turkmen who choose to convert to other religious groups, especially the lesser-known Protestant groups, are viewed with suspicion and sometimes ostracized, but Turkmenistan society historically has been tolerant and inclusive of different religious beliefs.


Main article: Freedom of religion in Uzbekistan

The Constitution of Uzbekistan provides for freedom of religion and for the principle of separation of church and state; however, the Government continued to restrict these rights in practice. The Government permits the operation of what it considers mainstream religious groups, including approved Muslim groups, Jewish groups, the Russian Orthodox Church, and various other Christian denominations, such as Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Baptists. Uzbek society generally tolerates Christian churches as long as they do not attempt to win converts among ethnic Uzbeks; the law prohibits or severely restricts activities such as proselytizing, importing and disseminating religious literature, and offering private religious instruction.

Exterior view of the Hagia Sophia, once a Christian cathedral

Malaysia is a multicultural and multiconfessional country, whose official religion is Islam. As of the 2010 Population and Housing Census, 61.3 percent of the population practices Islam; 19.8 percent Buddhism; 9.2 percent Christianity; 6.3 percent Hinduism; and 1.3 percent traditional Chinese religions. The remainder is accounted for by other faiths, including Animism, Folk religion, Sikhism, Baha'i Faith and other belief systems.[1] Numbers of self-described atheists in Malaysia are few; the state has come under criticism from human rights organisations for the government's discrimination against atheist, with some cabinet members saying that "the freedom of religion is not the freedom from religion".[2][3]

Islam in Malaysia is represented by the Shafi'i version of Sunni theology and jurisprudence, with other Muslim theology and jurisprudence being banned[4][5] Islam was spread by traders arriving from Arabic countries, China and India. It became firmly established in the 15th century. The Federal Constitution as the Supreme Law makes Islam as the "religion of the Federation".[6] The king is the defender of Islam in the country and members of the royal family may lose certain privileges if they leave Islam and convert to another religion, if for some reason they were allowed to leave the religion[6]

Malaysian Chinese practice various faiths: Mahayana Buddhism and Chinese traditional religions (including Taoism). Hinduism is practised by the majority of Malaysian Indians. 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 such as Muhammad's birthday etc. Various groups have been set up to try to promote religious understanding among the different groups, with religious harmony seen as a priority by Malaysian politicians. However, Muslims are prevented from converting to other religions by law,[7] despite article 11 of the constitution declaring freedom of religion. Restrictions on religious freedom exist, especially for Muslims who are not allowed legally convert to other religions, and are often forced into forced-rehabilitation camps if they attempt to.[8][9]

Religious distribution[edit]

All the world's major religions have substantial representation in Malaysia.[10] The Population and Housing Censuses figures shows approximately these proportions of the population following these religions:[11]

YearIslamBuddhismChristianityHinduismConfucianism, Taoism and other traditional Chinese folk religionNo religionOther religions or no information

All the Malaysian Malay people are Muslim by law, which clearly violets the principles stated in the Quran. Most Malaysian Chinese follow Mahayana Buddhism or Chinese traditional religions (including Taoism, Confucianism, ancestor-worship or newer sects).[10] Statistics from the 2010 Census indicate that 83.6% of Malaysia's ethnic Chinese identify as Buddhist, with significant numbers of adherents following Taoism (3.4%) and Christianity (11.1%).[11] Actually, the percentage of practitioners of the Chinese folk religions may be higher, as many practise both Buddhism and folk religions.

Christianity is the predominant religion of the non-Malay Bumiputra community (46.5%) with an additional 40.4% identifying as Muslims.[11] Many indigenous tribes of East Malaysia have converted to Christianity, although Christianity has made fewer inroads into Peninsular Malaysia.[10]

Law and politics[edit]

Malaysia is a multi-religious society, the Malaysian constitution does not guarantees freedom of religion, Islam is the official religion of the federation, as well as the legally enforced faith of all ethnic Malays. No ethnic Malay is allowed to leave Islam, while non-Malay Muslims seeking to apostacise require permission from a sharia court, which is never granted.[12] Religious beliefs follow ethnic lines.[13] Holidays have been declared for holy days in numerous religions,[12] although only Islam has more than one national holiday.[13] Whether a religion obtains approval of the government is determined by the Registrar of Societies, part of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Only upon approval do they qualify for government benefits. However, unrecognised groups such as the Falun Gong can practise by registering themselves under the Companies Act, although this means that technical violations of the act can result in a fine.[12]

The government believes the constitution provides a strong enough guarantee of religious freedom and should not be changed. Some restrictions are made on Malay texts from non Islamic religions in Peninsula Malaysia, however there are much less restrictions in East Malaysia. The Hijab are mandatory for non-Muslims in certain situations.[12] The MyKad identity card states whether the holder is a Muslim or not.[13]

As Islam is the state religion, the government provides financial support to Islamic establishments and forced the Sunni form of Islam. State governments imposes a few Islamic law on Muslims, and the government will offer grants to private Muslim schools that allow a government-approved curriculum and supervision. The government also indirectly funds non-Islamic communities, although to a much smaller degree. The government interferes with the religious practices of non-Muslim communities. Public schools offer an Islamic religious instruction course which is compulsory for Muslim students, and non-Muslim students take a morals and ethics course because it is believed that they aren't religious enough.[12]

The government prohibits any publications that it feels will incite racial or religious disharmony,[12] and has asked that religious matters not be discussed in public due to their sensitivity.[14] It claims nobody has been arrested under the Internal Security Act for religious reasons. The government may demolish unregistered religious places of worship, and nongovernmental organisations have complained about the demolition of unregistered Hindu temples. These were often constructed on privately owned plantations prior to independence in 1957. After independence plantations became government property. In 2006 the state of Negeri Sembilan announced the demolition of a Hindu temple, although the temple sought injunction and took it to court.[12] State governments control mosques, appoint imams, and provide guidance for sermon content.[12] The conflict between the federal and state governments over religious authority led to a slow pace of reform and development of laws relating to Islam.[15] Other religious groups, such as the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), have supported political rallies.[16]

Both Barisan Nasional (BN) and the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) party have attempted to deliver political messages using mosques in the states they govern. All civil servants must attend government-approved religion classes. BN has banned opposition-affiliated imams from mosques, enforced restrictions on sermons, replaced opposition sympathetic mosque leaders and governing committees, and closed down unauthorised mosques affiliated with the opposition. The state government of Selangor in August 2005 withheld visas from foreign imams to try to increase the number of local imams. PAS, which controls the state of Kelantan restricts imams affiliated with BN from their mosques. It is thought that support for a moderate Islam led to the 2004 election victory of BN over PAS in the state of Terengganu.[12] Both parties became more Islamic in the 1980s and 1990s to try to obtain more of the Malay vote.[17] Political problems are often portrayed as religious issues.[18]


Despite the recognition of Islam as the state religion in the constitution, when created it was explicitly noted that the status was merely a symbolic one. It was not seen as something to be used as a basis of law, except by some Malay nationalists.[19] Currently a dispute exists between those who promote a secular interpretation of the federal constitution and those who believe Shariah courts and Islamic law should have supremacy.[20] The movement towards a more Islamic society, known as dakwah, is often viewed as an effort to resist western influences.[19] Secular values are often favoured by the Malay elite, who welcome the shared goals of industrial development. It is however opposed by Muslims who see it as an invasion of western culture and worldview..[21] Support for a more Islamic society often comes from the more rural population of Malays.[19]

As modernisation has increased, it has brought along with it an increase in secularism. In urban areas, the switch to more western dress such as miniskirts and jeans is of concern to religious authorities.[22] Nightclubs and bars thrive in the cities. However, in the time since independence other areas have become more islamicised. At the time of independence women wore tight-fitting outfits, but now wear headscarves. Muslim prayers are played through the speaker systems of government buildings, and some feel Malaysia is becoming a more Islamic than secular state, with critics complaining that Islam is gaining greater influence in governance. [23] The issue of how the Malay identity should be developed has increasingly come under debate. While the ruling government believes that attaining economic power will empower the Malay population, PAS sees that as an erosion of Islamic values. However, PAS is often seen as to not be able to relate Islamic beliefs to modern society, especially in multicultural Malaysia.[24]

Historically Malaysia was considered secular, with the first prime minister stating "this country is not an Islamic state as it is generally understood.[25] In September 2001 debate was caused by then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's announcement that Malaysia was already an Islamic State.[26] In 2007 Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi first called Malaysia an Islamic state. Earlier that month he had made another statement, saying Malaysia was neither a theocratic or secular state.[27] A similar statement was made by Prime Minister on 12 March 2009, where he stated Malaysia was a "negara Islam".[25] The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), a political group representing Malaysian Chinese, expressed reservations over this announcement. The MCA's position is that Malaysia is a fully secular state, and that the law transcends religion.[25] The Prime Minister has asserted the continuing debate about secularism has been caused by opposition parties to advance their own political interests.[27]

When PAS was defeated in Terengganu, enforcement of female dress codes was reduced. The state PAS government in Kelantan bans traditional Malay dance theatres, banned advertisements depicting women who are not fully clothed, and enforced the wearing of headscarves, although they allowed gender segregated cinemas and concerts. Some government-controlled bodies pressure non-Muslims to also wear headscarves, and all students of the International Islamic University of Malaysia and female officers in the Royal Malaysian Police are required to wear headscarves in public ceremonies.[citation needed]

Freedom of religion[edit]

Main article: Freedom of religion in Malaysia

Freedom of religion, despite being guaranteed in the constitution, faces many restrictions in Malaysia.[28] Legally, a Malay in Malaysia must be a Muslim.[29] Non-Malays are more free to shift between religions.[30] Attempts by Muslims to convert to other religions are punished by state governments, with punishments ranging from fines to imprisonment. The federal government does not intervene in legal disputes over conversion, leaving it to the courts. The secular courts of Malaysia have ruled they do not have the authority to decide these cases, referring them to the Syariah courts. These Islamic courts have unanimously ruled that all ethnic Malays must remain Muslims. Even non-Malays who have converted to Islam are not allowed to leave Islam, and children born to Muslim parents are considered to be Muslims.[29] A non-Muslim who wishes to marry a Muslim must first convert to Islam.[31]

Many Muslims who have attempted to convert have received death threats.[32] Those who have converted lead a secret double life. The civil court claims that conversions are under the jurisdiction of the Syariah courts, but converts contend that as they are no longer Muslim the Syariah courts hold no power over them.[14] Authorities only allow Sunni Islam to be practised, arresting those who stray from those beliefs.[12] Converts taken to be rehabilitated by Islamic authorities are forced to dress and act as Muslims. In at least one case a professed Hindu, who was listed as a Muslim because her parents were even though she was raised by her grandmother as a Hindu, was forced to eat beef.[33] Only one person is known to have had their conversion from Islam accepted, an 89-year-old woman who converted to Buddhism in 1936 and had her decision accepted after her death in 2006.[29]

The debate over laws about conversion has been strong in academic and political circles, with the many non-Muslims against the law conflicting with the Muslim group who strongly support the law, causing the government a dilemma. It is illegal to disseminate any non-Islamic religious material to Muslims. The PAS party wishes that the death penalty be enacted for Muslims who attempt to convert, as part of their ultimate desire to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state.[28]

In recent years, there have been some issues over non-Muslims eating during Muslim fasting month,[34] religious terminology used by non-Muslims,[35] and non-Muslim religious sites affected by intolerant Muslim authorities.[36]

Interfaith relations[edit]

See also: Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism

The separate religious communities have a generally tolerant relationship.[12] Festivals are held for all major religions, which are participated in by people from that religion and others in a Malaysian practise known as 'Open House'.[10] Malaysia has a reputation for being a successful multicultural country, with the only two serious occurrences of racial violence in modern history occurring in 1946 and 1969.[17] Other countries have examined Malaysia as an example for handling Islamic fundamentalism.[37]

However, some politicians allege that there is a creeping Islamisation of Malaysian society, and due to the links between race and religion it is thought the economic status of different races causes many religious problems.[17] The predominance of Islam and its slow spread into everyday life in Malaysia has caused worry for non-Muslim groups.[30] The Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2004 appeared at a Christian gathering to read from the Bible and called for religious unity despite differences. This was done at a time when Malaysia was head of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.[38]

In February 2005 the Malaysian Bar Council organised the discussion of an interfaith commission, although several Islamic groups refused to participate claiming the commission would "weaken Islam". Several Muslim groups boycotted and condemned an interfaith council, claiming Islam should only be discussed by Muslims. The government states the commission was not necessary, but encourages and promotes interfaith dialogue. Some non-Muslim interfaith organistaions do exist, such as the MCCBCHS, the Malaysian Council of Churches, and the Christian Federation of Malaysia.[12]

In 2006 a memorandum was presented to the prime minister by non-Muslim cabinet members asking for a review of constitutional provisions affecting the rights of non-Muslims. After protests by Muslim leaders in the governing coalition, this was withdrawn. It is forbidden for non-Muslims to try to convert Muslims, although Muslims are allowed to convert others.[12] Malay politicians have asked the Chinese and Indian communities not to question Malay rights, for fear of igniting ethnic violence, with harmony between the races and religions being seen as a necessity.[39]


Main article: Islam in Malaysia

Islam is the predominant religion of the country and is recognised as the state's official religion.[12] It is practised by about 60 per cent of Malaysians. Many Muslim holy days are national holidays, including the end of Ramadan, the end of the Hajj, and the birthday of Mohammad.[13] Islam is thought to have been brought to Malaysia around the 12th century by Indian traders.[40] In the early 15th century the Malacca Sultanate, commonly considered the first independent state in the peninsula, was founded.[41] Led by a Muslim prince the influence of Malacca led to the spread of Islam throughout the Malay population.[42]

Although most people in Malaya were Muslim by the 15th century, the tolerant form of Islam brought by the Sufi meant that many traditional practices were incorporated into Islamic traditions.[13] Islam is generally practised liberally, although in the last 20 years strict adherence to Islamic practice has increased.[13] The official code of Islam in Malaysia is Sunni, and the practice of any other form of Islam is heavily restricted. The government opposes what it calls "Deviant" teachings, forcing those who are deemed to follow these teachings to undergo "rehabilitation". In June 2006, 56 deviant teachings had been identified by the certain state religious authorities, including Shi'a, transcendental meditation, and Baha'i teachings. However, Department of Islamic Development Malaysia later clarified that Baha'i Faith was erroneously declared a deviant offshoot of Islam by one of the state religious authorities as the 14th Muzakarah (Conference) of the Fatwa Committee of the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs Malaysia held on 22–23 October 1985 decided that the Baha'i doctrine is not part of Islam and the religion is recognised by the Registration Department and national census as an independent religion.[43]

In June 2005 religious authorities reported that there were 22 "deviant" religious groups with around 2,820 followers in Malaysia. No statistics are given on rehabilitations, and the government actively monitors Shi'a groups. Restrictions have been imposed on Imams coming from overseas.[12]

The Malaysian government promotes a moderate version of Sunni Islam called Islam Hadhari. Islam Hadhari was introduced by former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. It is meant to encourage a balanced approach to life, and encourages inclusivity, tolerance, and looking outwards. The qualities it values are knowledge, hard work, honesty, good administration, and efficiency. The Islamic party PAS desires a stricter interpretation of Islam and the promotion of Islamic law. Due to Islam being the state religion, many mosques and other religious services are supported by the government.[13] Control of the mosques is usually done on a state rather than a federal level.[12] The charitable Zakāt tax is collected by the government, and the government supports those wishing to make the pilgrimage to Mecca.[13] In 1985 Kassim Ahmed wrote a book called Hadith: A Re-evaluation which promoted Quranism, but it was subsequently banned by the Malaysian government.[citation needed]

Per Article 160 of the Constitution of Malaysia one must be Muslim to be considered Malay.[44] In practice, Muslims cannot convert to another religion due to the Shari'a courts denying conversion claims,[12] and if a Malay did convert they would lose their status as bumiputera.[13] People of non-Muslim origins are required to convert to Islam if they marry a Muslim person. Public schools are required to offer Islamic religious instruction, although alternative ethics classes are provided for non-Muslims.[12] Many women wear the tudong, which covers the head but leaves the face exposed, although there is no law requiring this.[13] Islamic police monitor the Muslim population. Regulation of sexual activities among the Muslim population is strict, with laws prohibiting unmarried couples from occupying a secluded area or a confined space, to prevent suspicion of acts considered islamically immoral.[45]

Muslims are obliged to follow the decisions of Syariah courts in matters concerning their religion. The Islamic judges are expected to follow the Shafi`i legal school of Islam, which is the main madh'hab of Malaysia.[46] These courts apply Sharia law.[12] The jurisdiction of Shariah courts is limited only to Muslims in matters such as marriage, inheritance, divorce, apostasy, religious conversion, and custody among others. No other criminal or civil offences are under the jurisdiction of the Shariah 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) do not hear matters related to Islamic practices.[47] Cases concerning a Muslim and a non-Muslim are usually handled by the civil courts, although in cases such as child custody or property settlement the non-Muslim has no say.[13]

Buddhism and Chinese religions[edit]

Main articles: Malaysian Chinese religion, Buddhism in Malaysia, and Template:Buddhist temples in Malaysia

Many Malaysian Chinese practice various faiths, including Mahayana and other sects of Buddhism, the Chinese folk religions, Confucianism and Daoism. Although Buddhism was influential prior to the arrival of Islam, the majority of the current Chinese population arrived during British rule of Malaya. Chinese New Year is celebrated as a national holiday.[13] For many Chinese, religion is an essential part of their cultural life.[48]

It is rare for any Malaysian Chinese to be an absolute follower of a particular belief. Many nominally claim membership in a certain belief, yet respect beliefs from multiple religions into their lives. The Chinese traditional religion has become a strong influence in life, and new sects have arisen trying to integrate different religious teachings. Beliefs in Malaysia have also often adopted influence from local animism.[49]

Around 19% of the current population classify themselves as Buddhist. Each religious building is autonomous, and most Malaysian Chinese follow the Mahayana branch, while Thai and Sinhalese minorities in Malaysia follow the Therevada branch. A Malaysian Buddhist Council has been created to promote the study and practice of Buddhism and promote solidarity among Malaysian Buddhists. Vesak day is a national holiday, and joint celebrations take place in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor by both branches of Buddhism.

Chinese temples mostly enshrine gods from the Chinese provinces of Guangdong and Fujian. Malaysia has over 150 Daoist temples served by 12000 priests, with the Daoist communities sharing links with those in Taiwan and Mainland China. Although the religion is not as organised as others, a Malaysia Daoist Association was formed in 1995 and a Daoist Organisation League was formed in 1997.[13]

A Chinese population known as the Hui people practised Islam yet retained Chinese culture and have unique traditions. Communities existed in Singapore, Pangkor Island, and Sitiawan before the Second World War. The last established community, in Penang, was dispersed when they were evicted from their homes due to development projects.[50]

In 2013, a video of a group of Buddhist practitioners from Singapore conducting religious ceremonies in a surau had become viral on Facebook. Malaysian police have arrested a resort owner after he allowed 13 Buddhists to use a Muslim prayer room(surau) for their meditation at Kota Tinggi, Johor.[51] The incident has been a frown upon Muslims in Malaysia. It has also become a hot topic in the social media. Following up at 28 August 2013, the controversial prayer room was demolished by the resort management within 21 days from the date of receipt of the notice after much protests by the residents of Kota Tinggi.[52][53] At the time, Syed Ahmad Salim, the resort owner explained that he had allowed the group of Buddhists to use the surau for a meditation session as he was unaware that it was an offence. [54]


Main article: Hinduism in Malaysia

The majority of the Tamils who make up 9% of Malaysia's population practice Hinduism. Hinduism was influential prior to Islam, but current adherents are mostly descended from migrant communities from Tamil Nadu who came to Malaya to work on British rubber plantations. A small community of migrants from North India also exists.[13]

Urban temples are often dedicated to a single deity, while rural temples are often home to many different deities. Most were brought with immigrants. Most temples follow the Saivite tradition from Southern India, for the worship of Siva. The Hindu holiday of Thaipusam and Deepavali is a national holiday.[13] Practice of the Hindu religion is strongly linked with the cultural identity of Malaysian Indians. Those who convert to another religion may be ostracised by their family and the Indian community.[55]

There is growing anger in the Hindu community over what they believe is a government-backed drive to demolish Hindu temples under the guise that they are illegal structures.[39] The Hindu Rights Action Force, a coalition of 50 Hindu-based NGOs, has accused the government of an unofficial policy of "temple cleansing", with much of the demolition focused around the capital city, Kuala Lumpur.[56] An Indian minister in the cabinet even threatened to boycott Deepavali in response to these demolitions.[39]


Main article: Christianity in Malaysia

About 10% of the population of Malaysia are Christians, mostly non-Malay Bumiputera, also including some Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Indian minorities. The most common denominations are Anglican, Methodist, and Roman Catholic. Most Christians are found in East Malaysia, where Good Friday is a public holiday in the states of Sabah and Sarawak. Christmas is a national holiday, although Easter is not.[13]

Traders with links to Christianity from the Middle East arrived in what is now Malaysia in the 7th century. Catholicism was brought by the Portuguese in the 15th century, followed by Protestantism with the Dutch in 1641. As Portuguese influence declined Protestantism began to eclipse Catholicism. Christianity spread further through missionaries who arrived during British rule in the 19th century and introduced Christianity to East Malaysia.[57] Initial conversions focused mainly on the Straits Settlements. When missionaries began to spread through the peninsula, they were discouraged from converting Malays, focusing on Chinese and Indian immigrants.[30]

Christianity has become restricted as Malaysia has become more Islamic. Restrictions have been placed on the construction of new churches, although existing ones are allowed to operate. Christians are not allowed to attempt the conversion of Muslims and their literature must have a note saying it is for non-Muslims only. Similarly, the film The Passion of the Christ was restricted only to Christian viewers.[13] In April 2005 two Christians were arrested for distributing Christian material in front of a mosque, although charges were later dropped. The restrictions of the dissemination of Malay-language Christian material is much less strict in East Malaysia than in the west. Good Friday is also an official holiday in East Malaysia, although not a national one.[12]

The use of the Malay word "Allah" for God has caused a dispute in Malaysia, with Malay language Bibles banned due to the use of this word.[13] It was argued that as the Bibles could be used to spread religions other than Islam, they were against the constitution. Other ministers opposed this discrimination. In 2005 Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz tried to enforce this, although some of his ministers argued the national language could be used for any purpose.[58] The Bible in the indigenous Iban language was allowed, as that language has no alternate word besides "Allah" for God.[13]


See also: Malaysian folk religion, Sikhism in Malaysia, Animism in Malaysia, Datuk Keramat, Sky Kingdom, and History of the Jews in Malaysia

A small Sikh community exists in Malaysia, brought by the British to form police units. They follow Sikhism, and open their places of worship to all races ages and genders. No Sikh holiday has been declared a national holiday,[13] although there are 120,000 in the country. Sikhs have, like Christians, come under pressure not to use the word "Allah" for God in their religious texts.[59]

A small Jewish community existed on the island of Penang. Jews first came into contact with the Malay peninsula during the 11th century when Jewish traders traded with the Kedah Sultanate and Langkasuka. Many Jews in Malaysia came from Persia. After the communist revolution in China, more Jews fled to Southeast Asia. However, the Jewish community declined, with many emigrating to countries such as Australia. Due to not having enough members to hold some Jewish rituals, the only synagogue in Penang, established in 1932, was shut down in 1976. The last burial in Penang's Jewish cemetery took pace in 1978.[60] By the 1990s the community had disappeared, and it is now thought that there are only two Jews who hold Malaysian passports.[61]

A small Bahá'í group exists in Malaysia, with members from Chinese, Eurasian, Indian, Indigenous communities. It was introduced to Malaya by an Iranian couple in 1950, with the first National Spiritual Assembly being elected in 1964.[62] A community of around 2500 Jains lives in Malaysia, with the state of Ipoh hosting the only Jain temple in Southeast Asia. Most are Gujaratis, who are thought to have arrived in Malacca in the 15th or 16th century.[63]

Traditional beliefs are still practised by the Orang Asal people. Loosely classified as animism, the beliefs are not recognised by the state as a religion. Animistic beliefs are passed down through oral tradition due to the lack of a writing system in indigenous groups, who call their beliefs agama adat (traditional or customary religions). The different religions are rather varied, with different names and concepts for their supreme god and other supernatural deities. Most of the beliefs are heavily influenced by the environment, with physical features such as mountains, trees, valleys, and rivers being sacred. A close relationship with nature is nurtured, and the relationship of humans and nature is a strong part of the religion, with everyday activities such as hunting and gathering having spiritual significance.[64]


  1. ^"Population Distribution and Basic Demographic Characteristic Report 2010 (Updated: 05/08/2011)". Department of Statistics, Malaysia. Retrieved 11 March 2017. 
  2. ^"Putrajaya: Freedom of religion does not equal freedom from religion". 2017-11-23. Retrieved 2018-03-10. 
  3. ^Robert Evans (9 December 2013). "Atheists face death in 13 countries, global discrimination: study". Reuters. 
  4. ^Ambiga Sreenevasan (18 July 2007). "PRESS STATEMENT: Malaysia a secular State". The Malaysian Bar. Retrieved 11 March 2017. 
  5. ^Wu & Hickling, p. 35.
  6. ^ ab"Federal Constitution of Malaysia"(PDF). Attorney General's Chambers. 
  7. ^"Malaysia (Religion)"(PDF). US Department of State. Retrieved 11 March 2017. 
  8. ^Jane Perlez (24 August 2006). "Once Muslim, Now Christian and Caught in the Courts". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 March 2017. 
  9. ^"Converts from Islam in Malaysia Detained in 'Faith Purification Centers'". Morning Star News. 14 July 2016. Retrieved 11 March 2017. 
  10. ^ abcd"Religion". Tourism Malaysia. Retrieved 15 July 2011. 
  11. ^ abc"Taburan Penduduk dan Ciri-ciri Asas Demografi"(PDF). Jabatan Perangkaan Malaysia. p. 82. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  12. ^ abcdefghijklmnopqrst"Malaysia". United States Department of State. Retrieved 15 July 2011. 
  13. ^ abcdefghijklmnopqrst"Malaysia - Religion". Michigan State University. Retrieved 13 July 2011. 
  14. ^ abPressly, Linda (15 November 2006). "Life as a secret Christian convert". BBC. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  15. ^Virginia Matheson Hooker, Norani Othman (2003). Malaysia: Islam, society and politics. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 57. ISBN 981-230-161-5. 
  16. ^Tarani Palani (1 July 2011). "Religious council throws its weight behind all three rallies". Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  17. ^ abc"Pressure on multi-faith Malaysia". BBC. 16 May 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2011. 
  18. ^Lee, Raymod (April 1988), "Patterns of Religious Tension in Malaysia", Asian Survey, 28 (4): 400–418, doi:10.1525/as.1988.28.4.01p0154q, JSTOR 2644735 
  19. ^ abcWesterlund, David (22 November 1996). "Questioning the Secular State: The Worldwide Resurgence of Religion in Politics". C. Hurst & Co. Publishers – via Google Books. 
  20. ^"Once Muslim, Now Christian and Caught in the Courts". The New York Times. 24 August 2006. 
  21. ^Lee, Raymond L. M.; Ackerman, Susan Ellen (22 November 1997). "Sacred Tensions: Modernity and Religious Transformation in Malaysia". Univ of South Carolina Press – via Google Books. 
  22. ^"Home - Asia Sentinel". Asia Sentinel. 
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  25. ^ abc"MCA: Malaysia is a secular state - The Nut Graph". 
  26. ^A., Martinez, Patricia (1 December 2001). "The Islamic State or the State of Islam in Malaysia". Contemporary Southeast Asia. 23 (3).

Religion in Malaysia (2010)

  Islam (61.3%)

  Buddhism (19.8%)

  Christianity (9.2%)

  Hinduism (6.3%)

  Confucianism, Taoism and other traditional Chinese religions (1.3%)

  Atheism (0.7%)

  Other or no information (1.4%)

An Ustaz reading during a Malay wedding
Reclining Buddha in Wat Photivihan, Kelantan.