Malaysia is a melting pot of people from various races. Its population consists of an interesting mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Eurasian, Sikh, Iban, Kadazan, Peranakan and other ethnic communities. Despite the mélange of cultures and traditions, mutual respect and tolerance are the qualities that bind all Malaysians together.

The diversity of cultures in Malaysia is evident in the colourful spectrum of traditions, festivals and cuisines. Islam is the official religion; however, other religions are practised freely. People from various races and cultural backgrounds practise Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism and other faiths.

This multiracial population has given rise to many places of worship. Mosques, Buddhist and Taoist temples, Indian and Sikh temples, Thai wats and churches of different denominations dot the streets of Malaysia. It is not impossible to find, within the same area, various religious houses attesting to different faiths. Interestingly, there are places where a mosque, Buddhist temple, Hindu temple, a church and Sikh temple co-exist on the same street, if not side by side.

These streets have been nicknamed the “Street of Religious Harmony” and some   have existed for 100 years. Among such places are Jalan Masjid Kapitan Kling in Penang, Jalan Tokong and Jalan Tukang Emas in Malacca, Jalan Yam   Tuan and Jalan Dato’ Bandar Tunggal in Negeri Sembilan as well as Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur.

With so many cultures co-existing in harmony within its shores, Malaysia naturally boasts a myriad of festivals celebrated throughout the year. The major festivals are Aidilfitri (Eid-ur-Fitr), Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Christmas, Vasakhi, Gawai Dayak and Tadau Ka’amatan.

During these festivals, Malaysians practice a concept called ‘open house’, an occasion to receive well-wishers. There will be feasting and merry-making as everyone partakes in the gaiety of the ocasion. Malaysians of all races and religions join in the festivities.

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