The Diaspora Malay
A cluster of 8 Maly groups in 8 different countries.
While the Malay are spread throughout southeastern Asia, the majority are centered in the country of Malaysia. There, they make up about half of the population, sharing the country with Chinese and Indian minorities. The dispersal of the Malay was in progress by the fifth century A.D., when the Malay began to dominate local trade in southeastern Asia and long distance trade between northwestern India and southern China. Their domination of sea trade continued until the 1500's and even into the European colonial period.
In addition to sea trade, some Malay may have been transported as slaves in the 1700's; others were political exiles. The most important Malay minorities live in Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, and Thailand. Almost 400,000 live in Singapore, where Malay is one of the national languages. In Thailand, they are the majority population of the four southernmost provinces. There are smaller communities in Madagascar, Taiwan, Myanmar, Yemen, the United Kingdom, and the southern Philippines. In these countries they are referred to as "Coastal Malay."
What are their lives like?
In general, courtesy is a very important aspect of Malay society. Most of their groups are loosely structured, their commitments are not strong, and loyalty to a group is not as important as being courteous. The "pure Malay" is considered to be kind towards women, children and animals; introspective; polite; slow to speak; passive; and indolent. Yet, when angered, a Malay may lose all self-control and get into a frenzy. Of course, there are many variations of what a "true Malay" is, depending on the countries in which they now live. Cleanliness is typically a feature of most Malay homes. As Muslims, they generally do not eat pork or drink alcohol.
Most Malay families consist of a husband, his wife, and their children. In Malay society, marriage is expected of every person. According to Islamic law, a man may have as many as four wives. However, most marriages are monogamous (having only one wife). Although many marriages are arranged, the consent of both parties is required. There are no descent or kinship groups among the Malay.
The strongest characteristic of Malay identity that remains consistent regardless of their location is their adherence to the Islamic faith. Malays worldwide recognize a Malaysian law that defines a Malay as "a person belonging to any Malayan race who habitually speaks Malay (or any Malayan language) and professes the Muslim religion."
What are their beliefs?
The Malay observe the traditional Islamic holidays. Muslim rites are also performed at the beginning and ending of every ceremony—even those that are Hindu-Buddhist in content—especially weddings.
What are their needs?
Increased intercession and missionary efforts are needed to see the Malay reached with the Gospel. Perhaps Christian teachers and businessmen will have the most opportunities to share the love of Jesus with them.
See also: The Malay of Malaysia.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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