The ethnic composition of Kuala Lumpur's city population varies greatly from the general national pattern. While ethnic Malays are in the national majority, in KL, the Chinese constitute the predominant group, occupying 55% of the population, reflecting the city's origins as a Chinese settlement. There is also a substantial Indian minority, and smaller communities of Eurasians (European immigrants who married locals), Sikhs and Europeans.
The national language is Bahasa Melayu, a form of Malay language which is similar to the one spoken in Indonesia. All locals speak Malay, although Chinese and Indian dialects are especially common in KL. English is also widely spoken in KL.
Malaysia is a democratic, non-secular state, making Islam the official religion of the masses. However, the practice of Islam in Kuala Lumpur is less intense when compared of the eastern states and towns such as Kuantan, Kota Bharu and Kelantan, and certainly not as extreme as some countries in the Middle East. Hence, alcohol is widely available in KL and women do walk about unharrassed without their hijab.
The Chinese are the economic power of Malaysia and KL. They were the earliest settlers in Kuala Lumpur, and in present-day, an overwhelming percentage are in the business, commerce and private sectors. Many Chinese in Kuala Lumpur are English-educated.
Most of the Indians you'll encounter in Kuala Lumpur are of South Indian descent, whose forefathers were brought in mainly by the British to work in rubber plantations. Malaysian Indians are followers of Hinduism, but there is also a small Christian minority.
Starting in the 1970s, the Malaysian government began practicing the Bumiputra (from Sanskrit, bhumiputra, meaning son of the land) policy.The idea, in a nutshell, is this: if you are of Malay descent, opportunities in education and commerce will be set aside for you. Naturally, Malaysian Chinese and Indians do not appreciate this favouring based on race, a sentiment which has created a quiet but palpable divide between the Malays, Chinese and Indians.