Six in 10 polled say diversity makes Malaysia better, most have no problem accepting other faiths as neighbours

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 13 — Six in 10 Malaysians polled in a recent survey agreed that diversity improves the country, with the majority among all four major religious groups accepting those from different faiths as their neighbours.

A survey by Pew Research Center released yesterday however found that Malaysian Muslims have a low opinion of other religions with just over half of those polled feeling that Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism are “peaceful”.

“Hindus, a religious minority across the countries surveyed, generally are more likely than other religious groups in the region to say that diversity makes their country a better place to live.

“Most Christians and Muslims share this view, while Buddhists are less likely to say that having people of different religious, ethnic and cultural groups makes their country a better place to live,” the think tank said in its report.

Around 62 per cent of Malaysian respondents said that religious, ethnic and cultural diversity improves the country, while 33 per cent said it has neither a negative nor positive impact on the country and 4 per cent said it makes the country a worse place.

Malaysian Buddhists were most accepting of others from different faiths as their neighbours, and are most accepting of followers from Chinese traditional religions.

Meanwhile, Christians are most accepting of Muslim and Hindu neighbours, with 89 per cent and 85 per cent of respondents respectively saying they have no problem with it. Additionally, Hindus are most accepting of followers of local beliefs or indigenous religions (91 per cent).

In comparison, Muslim respondents who are accepting of neighbours from other religions hovered between 72 to 78 per cent, with the least acceptance for Buddhists.

Continuing the trend, few Muslim respondents felt that other religions are peaceful, with those believing so at just 51 per cent for Buddhism and Buddhism, and 54 per cent for Christianity.

On the flip side, around nine in 10 Malaysian Hindus saw all other religions as peaceful.

“Among the region’s main religious groups, Hindus and Christians are the most likely to view other religions as peaceful, and Muslims are generally the least likely to describe other religions as peaceful.

“Still, clear majorities of Muslims in most countries do view other religions as peaceful,” the think tank said.

The survey by the US-based non-partisan think tank was carried out in six countries in Asia from June 1 to September 4, 2022, for the report titled “Buddhism, Islam and Religious Pluralism in South and Southeast Asia”, where 13,122 adults were interviewed.

In Malaysia, a total of 1,999 adults were polled through computer-assisted telephone interviewing using mobile phones from June 1 to August 9, 2022 in the languages of Chinese, English and Malay, with a margin of error of 3.0 percentage points.

Out of those, 75 per cent said they were Muslims, followed by Christians (10 per cent), Buddhists (7 per cent), Hindus (5 per cent), while 2 per cent said they have no religion, and 1 per cent said they are followers of Chinese traditional religions (which includes Tao, Confucian, or Chinese local religions).

According to the latest census by the Department of Statistics in 2020, the population is comprised of 63.5 per cent Muslims, followed by Buddhists (18.7 per cent), Christians (9.1 per cent), Hindus (6.1 per cent), and others (2.7 per cent).