Freedom of religion in Malaysia

Freedom of religion is enshrined in the Malaysian Constitution. First, Article 11 provides that every person has the right to profess and to practice his or her religion and (subject to applicable laws restricting the propagation of other religions to Muslims) to propagate it. Second, the Constitution also provides that Islam is the religion of the country but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony (Article 3).

The status of freedom of religion in Malaysia is a controversial issue. Questions including whether Malaysia is an Islamic state or secular state remains unresolved. In recent times, there has been a number of contentious issues and incidents which has tested the relationship between the different religious groups in Malaysia.

Religious demography

Malaysia has a population of just over 31 million. 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 and other belief systems.[1] However, these figures may be misleading as professing the religion of Islam is a requirement for being a Malay in the sense of the Malaysian Constitution.[2] Moreover, Muslims who wish to leave Islam face strong disincentives.