At the end of March 2019, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), in cooperation with the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB), published a new report scrutinizing the protection and enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief in Malaysia. Malaysia may not be a state that comes to mind when one thinks of restrictions on religious freedom or of religious persecution. Yet, as the report clearly identifies, there are several challenges pertaining to the right to freedom of religion or belief in the country that need to be addressed.
Malaysia is a predominately Muslim country with 61.3% Sunni Muslim (data published by the Malaysian Department of Statistics in 2010, up to date data is not available). The remaining population consist of 19.8% Buddhist; 9.2% Christian; 6.3% Hindu; 1.3% adherents of traditional Chinese religions and 0.4% other religions. Malaysia is also ethnically diverse. Religion and ethnicity have always played an important role in politics and society. Indeed, as the report confirms “Ethnicity and religion have often been utilized by political parties to advance their agenda.”