Muslim Faces of Malaysia


My trip to Malaysia brought me into some amazing times and left me with lots of great memories.  Most of them came in the form of the many faces of the cultures there.  For this blog entry, I have chosen to include only those faces of the Muslim religion that I saw in Malaysia on my latest trip.  Other entries will come later.  But, for now, I thought I might just reflect on my experiences while observing this new world of diversity.

Muslim Face in Malaysia

Traveling throughout Southeast Asia, I have been wrongfully assuming that all or most of the religious coverage here would have Buddhist roots.  I have been pleasantly surprised to see that rather than a selective idea of solidarity within the confines of the last 5000 years of a unified history of very limited contact with the outside world, there is, in my opinion, more diversity per square kilometer in Malaysia than in most western and even Latin places that I have visited.

There is more or less a uniformly diversified spacial and biological diversity

A man sits at a local cafe staring into the streets in Penang Malaysia

across the globe.  We are changing that through our global communities and deforestation.  But we presently have a pretty good spread of expansive additives to our pool of diverse places and life in all its forms.

However, because of the differing beliefs in spacial ownership (or quite possibly the complete lack thereof), Asia is one of those places where it is not considered impolite to share only a single wall that divides people from their neighbors.  There is an unspoken expectation that people will take up space here.  Now, they have a unique way of delegating just how much space that winds up being for a given demographic.  But for the most part, the roads, apartment blocks, shopping centers, markets and transportation vessels (buses, trains, planes, etc.) are simply jam-packed to the gills with people in places like this.

And not just any people — people who come from India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Taiwan, Tibet and on and on and on.  People in Malaysia have been attracted to live there because of its mostly embracing nature and worldly eclectic style.  All the way down to Kuala Lumpur and beyond, I have heard, this strain of understanding holds true.

Then there is Indonesia.  From Banda Aceh to Jakarta, from Bali to Jayapura and up to East Timor, I have heard that this trend continues.  There seems to be a major Muslim influence, but many different people come to settle in these places and each for a different reason.

A Muslim man smokes along a roadway in Malaysia

Nevertheless, the newest album that I have posted on my picasa page (picasaweb.google.com/cyleodonnell/MuslimFaces#) is a selection of the interesting faces that make up the unique Islamic dress.  I have enjoyed being exposed to this side of Islam.  It seems strange to have been attacked as a country by the radical extremists of this religion and soon after, be standing smack in the middle of the thickest concentration of Muslims I have ever seen.  And I have tried my hardest to follow the expected customs of the Muslim guidelines so as to not offend or leave a bad example for other western visitors. But I can definitely see that the range of diversity, even among the Indian, Malay  and even Chinese Muslims is one of immense proportions.  And I am only seeing a small part of it here.  There are definitely places in the world with higher concentrations of Muslims.  But the interesting part of this particular locale is that there are so many different ethnic additions to the melting pot.

I, for one, am proud to have had the opportunity to have experienced a small taste of a belief system so foreign to what I was raised with.  After all, how can one really know and believe in their own system of thought if they don’t seek out and study the others?  How is he to know he’s right, wrong or better yet, that everyone is right as long as they truly believe in what they say they believe in.  How does it go so long into our past that we have not seen this as an option for universal peace.  Well, it appears here in Malaysia, that might be just what’s happening.

There are certainly conflicts happening — and Malaysia is no exception.  But for what I have seen, there is clearly at least a few places on earth where even dense populations of diverse interests can cohabitate in relative comfort and peace.

Be sure to check out the “Muslim Faces” album HERE.

Journal Eight:Malaysia was Awesome!  The most incredible part: The Hindu Celebration in Little India on the island of Penang.  It was really something.  There I was sitting in front of a little cafe right on the road and the next thing I know, there were these bells and sirens and horns and then a caravan of two huge cows and it was accompanied by Hindus on their way to the pre-New Year celebrations just a few blocks down the road.  I grabbed my camera and sprung into action.  I hadn’t been that engaged in a photo-op in a very long time.  It was like the rush I had working for the newspapers back in the states.

By the time it was done the processor in my camera was hot to the touch and I was soaked in sweat.  But all the while, it was such a great rush.  These photos can be found at this address:  But to cover what happened; I would have to say that it was a pretty remarkable experience.

After the caravan moved downt he road and turned the corner to the temple, it sat out front with people throwing powdered colors everywhere and placing a single colored dot in the centers of others’ foreheads, they positioned the main staple of the celebration, a large, chrome stag mounted atop the caravan, to move into the temple.  Before long, I was noticed as a photographer that was there for the duration.  I was moving throughout the crowd catching amazing faces and drummers and celebratory movements.  Just after I shot a breathtaking picture of the leader of the ceremony in a cold pause atop his eulogy, he came down to me and calmly invited me into the temple to take photos in the better spot.  He lead me right to where the action would be taking place — right where the statue was to be placed.  It was quite an honor.

While I waited for the crew to unload the item, I continued to walk around and snap shots of the precession.  What I walked away with was really incredible.  And I got some pretty nice photos, too.

Be sure to check out the photo album for this event. The feeling of that night will remain with me for a long time.  It was something I think few people would appreciate or even have the opportunity to experience.  And it’s all because I got up and sprang into action, jumped into the action and didn’t wait for permission.  I think I have found that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.  One still allows for the experience to have taken place.  These photos can also be seen on my website: cyleodonnell.com

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