In Malaysia, the Malay population is defined by Article 160 of the Malaysian Constitution as someone born to a Malaysian citizen who professes to be a Muslim, habitually speaks the Malay language, adheres to Malay customs, and is domiciled in Malaysia or Singapore. This definition is loose enough to include people of a variety of ethnic backgrounds, and it therefore differs from the anthropological understanding of what constitutes an ethnic Malay. This understanding of the meaning of “Malay” in Malaysia has led to the creation of an ethnoreligous identity, where it has been suggested that a Malay cannot convert out of Islam as illustrated in the Federal court decision in the case of Lina Joy. As of 2004, Malays made up an estimated 64.5% of the population of Malaysia. It is predicted that this proportion will rise due to birth rates higher than other ethnic groups.
A higher education textbook conforming to the government Malaysian studies syllabus states: “The non-Malay thought that is when a non-Malay embraces Islam, he is said to masuk Melayu, or become a Malay, due to the ethnoreligious identity of the Malay-Muslim. That person is automatically assumed to be fluent in the Malay language and to be living like a Malay as a result of his close association with the Malays.” Hari Singh similarly observes that “[to] convert to Islam” means “assuming [a] Malay identity (masuk Melayu). In essence, it requires the non-Malay to renounce his cultural heritage and adopt Malay ways and customs.”
Some of the Malay Malaysians are able to speak the Tamil or Chinese language due their surroundings, and/or being taught in Chinese or Tamil language medium schools. There is also a small proportion of constitutional Malays who prefer speaking Tamil or Chinese as a first language having come from the respective ethnic roots.
Malaysian Malay is a Malaysian of Indonesia origin. Most are descendants of Malaysian Malay arrived between the thirteen and the mid-fifteen centuries.
Malays have two big Festivals which are the Hari Raya Aidilfitr and Hari Raya Aidiladha.