Malaysia Culture and History


One of the few traits common to most of the Malaysian people is the open and hospitable character, inclined to sharing, to sociability, typical of Islamic culture; The multiculturalism is in fact the aspect that distinguishes the different expressions of civilization Malay. If art in the strict sense, painting and sculpture, was little encouraged by the restrictions imposed by Islam, the privileged mirror of this heterogeneity formed over the centuries, were music, literature (inserted in the Indochinese core), craftsmanship. The Malay musical tradition has as a characteristic sign the presence of two types of ensemble, with different repertoires and functions: the gamelan, of Indonesian origin, plays percussion and string instruments; the nobat, royal orchestra, plays solemn court music mainly with wind instruments. In close connection with music are the many forms of dance, whose origins lead to Thailand, Java, China, India. Among the many, the Joget, the most popular and widespread, and the Malay Mak Yong, created for the entertainment of princesses and queens, deserve a mention. Today, especially in large urban centers, the most evident influence is the Western one: in food, in the way of dressing, in architecture, in favorite leisure activities. On the other hand, the cultural institutions, which have their headquarters in the cities, have for years been committed to enhancing the Malaysian cultural heritage. TO Kuala Lumpur are, among others, the Museum of Islamic Art, the National Mosque (one of the many and suggestive scattered throughout the nation), the Istana Budaya (National Theater), where traditional and contemporary performances are staged. Also of high historical and artistic value are the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum, St. Paul’s Hill with the Portuguese fort and the Kampung Hulu mosque (from 1728, the oldest in the country) in Malacca. In the same area, in 2008 UNESCO declared Melaka and George Town, historic cities of the Strait of Malacca, a World Heritage Site for their important architectural and historical heritage, testimony to the Portuguese, Dutch and English presences. The same recognition was conferred in 2012 to the archaeological heritage of the Lenggong Valley which houses the oldest evidence of human presence outside the African continent. See itypeauto for Malaysia literature.


On the basis of a common constitution, the Malay Confederation (Malay Peninsula, History), Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah came together on September 16, 1963 to form the “Federation of Malaysia”. The founding of Malaysia was met with opposition from the Philippines and v. a. Indonesia, both of which made territorial claims in the eastern part of the Federation (Sarawak and Sabah). In addition, the Indonesian President A. Sukarno saw the federation as a construction of colonialism. In the course of a “confrontation” with Malaysia in 1964/65 there was fighting with Indonesian troops v. a. on the border with Sarawak. After the fall of Sukarno The new leadership of Indonesia ended the policy of confrontation (official settlement of the conflict with the treaty of August 11, 1966).

Political rivalries, ethnic tensions (1964/65 serious clashes between Malays and Chinese in Singapore) and economic conflicts of interests v. a. between Malaysia (protection of the domestic industry) and Singapore (open world trade) led to Singapore leaving the federation on August 9, 1965. In 1967 Malaysia participated in the founding of ASEAN. The establishment of a defense alliance between Malaysia, Singapore, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand (ANZUK Pact 1971) was intended to replace Great Britain’s presence in the region.

The »alliance«, the party alliance made up of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), became the strongest political force while expanding its influence to the eastern parts of Malaysia (since 1973 under the name Barisan Nasional; expansion by other parties, but changing their existence). The UMNO provided all prime ministers from 1963–2018: Abd ar-Rahman Putra (1963–70), T. Abd ar-Razak(1970–76), Datuk Husain bin Onn (1976–81), Mahathir bin Mohammed (1981–2003), Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi (2003-09) and Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak (2009-18).

Social and ethnic tensions led to serious unrest in 1969 and the imposition of a state of emergency (until 1971). The governments of Malaysia tried in the 1970s and 1980s to reduce ethnic tensions, promote economic growth and redistribute the national product in favor of the majority of the Malay population. They pursued a policy of slow Malayization and Islamization. The moderately interpreted Islam served Prime Minister Mahathiras a modernization ideology. Under his aegis, Malaysia developed into one of the leading emerging markets in Asia. However, there were also clear reservations about his preference for prestige projects (the temporarily tallest buildings in the world: the Petronas Twin Towers, the new administrative capital Putrajaya, the “national car” Proton, etc.) and against the close dovetailing of the bureaucracy and the Barisan Nasional with private ones Large entrepreneurs. Mahathir achieved constitutional amendments in parliament in 1993, through which the sultans lost some of their traditional privileges. He also made sure that the independence of the judiciary was gradually undermined. In his own UMNO party, too, he increasingly seized power.

Malaysia Culture