Muslims in Malaysia: one American's view

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

Hi Rev,

 Good to hear from you. Glad you are home safely.


I had read your piece in the review last week. An extremely accurate description of the “new” culture of the far east!. The younger generation here is heavily influenced by TV, movies and the internet.

The commercialization is amazing. I can understand the huge shopping mall across the street from my hotel as we live in the tourist area. But so many of the ads feature European and American models! Clothing is right out of the Gap.  Starbucks is everywhere. Ten years ago coffee to go was sold in a baggie with a straw. Starbucks introduced the paper cup that is now everywhere. And competition for Starbucks is everywhere (Gloria Jean’s, Tea Leaf & Coffee Bean, Olde Towne Coffee, etc). But true to Malay work ethic (or lack of it) none of the coffee shops even open until 10 AM!


Unlike Thailand, Malaysia is a Muslim country. At least 60% is. The Royal Malaysian Police enforce Shariah and civil law. But, shariah only applies to Muslims. Alcohol is sold openly & legally. Gambling is legal (for non-Muslims).  But, you can see the change coming. The Islam here is very liberal. Women need only wear the Hijab (head scarf). While many wear traditional dress you can see young girls with the Hijab and jeans or shorts and a t-shirt. Women work in government and private industry. Unsettling at first to see a female police office or firefighter wearing the hijab while in uniform.


But, the American influence is starting to have an effect. Unlike the Arab spring in the Mideast, here it will be a soft revolution. Vatican II without the Cardinals! The younger generation is starting to move away from tradition. Slowly, but you can see/feel it.


Speaking of commercialization, I just returned from a weekend on the island of Bali in Indonesia. A Hindu influenced area. While the island is 2 to 3 degrees south of the equator and is a rain forest, the main street features McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and everybody else! I think it is a law that every tourist must buy a Bintang beer t-shirt!


I could go on, and probably will in a later missive, but true to the American work ethic it is time to shower and head to work!



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David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2012 7:15 PM

I've been thinking about Malaysia a lot lately (I'll be there in 48 hours). As I read this missive, I kept wondering, if I were Muslim, would I be concerned about the incursions of KFC, Starbuck's, etc. I think I would be.

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