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With 1957's independence, a new series of difficult decisions lay ahead of Malaya,

the first of which was to determine exactly what territories would be included in the
new state. In 1961, the term "Malaysia" came into being after Tunku convinced
Singapore, Sabah, and Sarawak to join Malaya in a federal union (Singapore later
opted out of the union, peacefully, in 1965). Afraid that the union would interfere
with his expansionistic plans, Indonesia's president Sukharno launched attacks
against another immediate problem was the determination of a national identity.
Malaysia was a mix of people from many races and cultures, and uniting them under
a common flag was not an easy enterprise. Because Malays represented the
majority, the constitution gave them permanent spots in the government, made
Islam the national religion, and made Malay the national language; but the Chinese
firmly dominated business and trade, and most Malay were suffering economic
hardships. The government, controlled by the United Malay National Organization,
passed the New Economic Policy, which attempted to increase economic opportunity
for the Malay by establishing various quotas in their favor. Unsurprisingly, many
Chinese opposed the new arrangement and formed a significant opposition party. In
1969, after the opposition party won a significant seats, riots swepts through Kuala
Lumpur and the country was placed in a state of emergency for two years. It was a
painful moment in the young nation's history that most Malaysians prefer to forget.
Malaysia in the last two decades, Malaysia has undergone tremendous growth and
prosperity, and has arguably made significant progress in race relations. Many
attribute the country's success to the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister
Mahathir bin Mohammed, who led the country from 1981 through 2003.

Borneo and on the peninsula, all of which were unsuccessful.

Cultures have been meeting and mixing in


Malaysia since the very beginning of its history.
More than fifteen hundred years ago a Malay
kingdom in Bujang Valley welcomed traders from
China and India. With the arrival of gold and silks,
Buddhism and Hinduism also came to Malaysia. A
thousand years later, Arab traders arrived in
Malacca and brought with them the principles and
practices of Islam. By the time the Portuguese
arrived in Malaysia, the empire that they
encountered was more cosmopolitan than their
own.

Malaysia's cultural mosaic is marked by many


different cultures, but several in particular have
had especially lasting influence on the country.
Chief among these is the ancient Malay culture,
and the cultures of Malaysia's two most prominent
trading partners throughout history--the Chinese,
and the Indians. These three groups are joined by
a dizzying array of indigenous tribes, many of
which live in the forests and coastal areas of
Borneo. Although each of these cultures has
vigorously maintained its traditions and
community structures, they have also blended
together to create contemporary Malaysia's
uniquely diverse heritage.

Perhaps the easiest way to begin to understand the highly complex cultural
interaction which is Malaysia is to look at the open door policy maintained during
religious festivals. Although Malaysia's different cultural traditions are frequently
maintained by seemingly self-contained ethnic communities, all of Malaysia's
communities open their doors to members of other cultures during a religious
festival--to tourists as well as neighbors. Such inclusiveness is more than just a way
to break down cultural barriers and foster understanding. It is a positive celebration
of a tradition of tolerance that has for millennia formed the basis of Malaysia's
progress.

The Malay are Malaysia's largest ethnic group, accounting for over half the population
and the national language. With the oldest indigenous peoples they form a group called
bumiputera, which translates as "sons" or "princes of the soil." Almost all Malays are
Muslims, though Islam here is less extreme than in the Middle East. Traditional Malay
culture centers around the kampung, or village, though today one is just as likely to find
Malays in the cities.

One example of the complexity with which Malaysia's immigrant populations have
contributed to the nation's culture as a whole is the history of Chinese immigrants.
The first Chinese to settle in the straits, primarily in and around Malacca, gradually
adopted elements of Malaysian culture and intermarried with the Malaysian
community.

Taking from: www.Malaysia.com.my


21st September 2007
Saujana CC Center, T. S. L

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