Islamic Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia is what some call a secular Islamic nation, religious while maintaining a society that functions well on a secular level. Though some parts of the more remote countryside may not offer the same openness and tolerances, within Kuala Lumpur, Islam exists alongside non-religious life in a way that allows inquiry from the traveler without either side intruding on the other.

As you wander about your tourism business in Kuala Lumpur, it is easy to notice the influence of Islam everywhere. In large food stores, for example, there are Halal and Non-Halal butchers, physically separate to insure that meats prepared for Muslim dietary rules do not mix with meats not prepared appropriately. Many restaurants display notices stating they are Halal, and you can often see mention of this on menus. Keep an eye out for notices on when prayer times are; we saw them listed in newspapers, announced on the radio and even displayed on an electronic sign along the highway. Even the architecture of office buildings seems to contain echoes of Islamic style.

As you walk around, you will see Malaysia's easy mix of veiled women alongside non-veiled women. With the exception of the mosques themselves, there are no dress restrictions in urban Kuala Lumpur on visiting women. General modesty is advised, and most people will feel comfortable if they have tops with sleeves, modest shorts or skirts and generally avoiding clothing that might be considered “revealing.” I don't think anyone would seriously trouble you no matter what you wore, but this is all a matter of fitting in and being comfortable in someone else's sandbox.

Few mosques are open for tourists, and most are closed completely to outsiders during prayer times. When select areas are open, restrictions will be in place. In most cases women and older girls will need to cover up (spare cover is usually available), and some areas will be open to men only. Shoes are removed; you'll see where to do it. Photography is prohibited inside, though in most cases you are free to take pictures outdoors. There will be clear signs on what the rules are in any given place, don't worry.

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