Interracial and interfaith relationships aren’t unique to Malaysia, but when the state sees ethnicity and religion as overlapping—and heavily regulates them—things get more complicated.

Under the Federal Constitution, Malays are required to be Muslims, and the Islamic law in Malaysia doesn’t allow one to leave the religion. According to the law, a non-Malay/non-Muslim who wishes to marry a Malay/Muslim must convert to Islam. 

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Ooi Kok Hin is Monbukagakusho scholar and research student at the Graduate School of Political Science, Waseda University and research affiliate at Penang Institute.

Appolonia Tesera is an Indian illustrator and comic artist from Malaysia usually found bent over her desk drawing interesting people and comic journals of her personal series of unfortunate events all while trawling the internet for conspiracy theories and inspiration. Find her on Instagram @opallonia, Twitter @sunsetspice, and get in touch at