Malabaris In Malaysia

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titleThe Malabar Muslims  Demography

The Kerala Muslims came from different areas in Kerala. As the saying goes ‘birds of the same feather flock together’, people of the same background, in similar line of work and from the same area in Kerala came together and started staying in the same locality.  As such, specific patterns of demographic distribution, although not absolute, began to appear.

Most of the Malabaris stayed in the west coast of Peninsular Malaya, the stretch from Kedah to Singapore. The traders and office workers settled in the town areas of Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bharu and Singapore. Estate workers on the other hand were mostly settled in rubber and later oil palm plantations in Southern Perak, Northern Selangor and Johor. Workers in the ports settled in Singapore and Penang. Construction and railway line workers found their way to the towns as well as the rural areas, mainly confined to the above mentioned stretch along the west coast of Malay Peninsula.

The migration pattern can also be generalized based on the place of origin in Kerala. The office workers who were then better educated, originated from towns  in Kerala mainly from Trivandrum (South), Thrissur District (central) and and Kannoor (North). The estate workers came mainly from the more interior Malappuram and Palakkad districts. Skilled construction workers were mainly from the Southern Kerala. In the cities, the trading community from the same in Kerala settled in the same locality. Traders in Johor Bharu for instance are mainly from Northern Kerala where as In Kuala Lumpur the traders were mainly from Central Kerala (i.e. Southern Malabar). The townsfolk in Alor Setar, Kedah came mainly from northern Kerala.

Subsequently migration in the country itself formed further dispersion and redistribution of people in Malaya. Opening of FELDA schemes in the 1960s for instance, resulted in the movement of Malabari from Johor as settlers. In the rural areas where Malabaris came with their families set up communities of their own. Malabaris villages were set up when opening of new agricultural areas. These villages has since dwindled in size and number due to migration to urban areas. These villages can still be found in Ulu Tiram and Masai in Johor as well as Bilut valley in Pahang.  Madrasahs were set up for religious education of their children.  Malayalam mediums schools, few in number, were confined to plantation, set up by the British for Malayalees living there.


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