Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Low crime rate in Malaysia

I'm looking at self-report and victim data (which I can't give details on) that shows that crimes of all types are much more common in the U.S. than Malaysia. Why such a huge difference? The sociologist would expect the poor country to be the criminogenic one, but he's an idiot so we'll leave him aside. The HBD-er might answer that Malaysia is an Asian country, and Asians are law-abiding.

I wanted to see if Islam and sharia might have something to do with it. I looked up the most recent homicide counts (WHO) for Malaysia and Thailand--a contiguous, non-Islamic Asian country--and calculated rates. The rate for Malaysia is .5 victims per 100,000 total population. For Thailand, it's 6.2--12 times the Malaysian rate. This is consistent with the view that crime levels are lower in societies with intense religious cultures.

UPDATE: The plot thickens: I see Wikipedia lists homicide rates. While its data shows that Thailand is worse than Malaysia, Indonesia has a high rate. Also--rates are below average in the the Near East/Middle East/SW Asian region.


  1. Black Death8:03 AM

    I looked at the Wikipedia lists too. Most Muslim-majority countries are on the low side, although Pakistan and Indonesia are high. I've never been to either country, and i really don't know why, other than for what I've been reading in the news about Pakistan. I have been to Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore several times. By far, the lowest homicide rate is in Singapore, which is only about 15% Muslim. Malaysia has a homicide rate much higher than Singapore's but still about half that of the US. Malaysia is about 60% Muslim and does have Sharia courts, but I don't know how far their jurisdiction extends. Thailand has a homicide rate more than twice that of Malaysia and slightly higher that the US. Thailand is almost entirely Buddhist; there's a small (4-5%) Muslim population, almost entirely in the south, which makes a lot of trouble. Now, looking at these three countries, well, Singapore is the easy one. If you've ever been there, you'll understand why all crime rates are low. Plus, you can drink the water in Singapore! As to Malaysia and Thailand, I really don't know. Both have seemed very peaceful to me. There are a lot more Muslims in the former than the latter, but I'm just not sure if this makes any difference. Thailand and Malaysia are both democracies, Singapore, not so much. And why does Indonesia, heavily Muslim and just across the straights from Singapore, have such a high homicide rate? I don't have a clear answer.

  2. There is an even simpler explanation. I'll call it the "Cheers" phenomenon. You know the place where "everybody knows your name".

    There are no serial killers in a village because there is no privacy. Think of the villagers in the first scenes of Apocalypto everyone knows everything about everybody. Plenty of violence but few mysteries.

    For many crimes you need some urban anonymity.


  3. Of course all this presumes that the countries in question fairly and accurately report their crime rates.

  4. Podgenut5:01 AM

    Peter's point is a good one. The Malaysian government tightly controls information flowing out of the country and seems the type to underreport murders.

    OTOH, and based only on my observations from time spent in Malaysia and Indonesia, I think Malaysia is the more prosperous country, and the Islam there is usually of a stricter sort than is practiced in Indonesia.

    As for the 50 percent of Malaysians who aren't Malay-Muslim, they are overwhelmingly Chinese and Indian, and better educated and more affluent than the Malay majority. So within the country you have three principal groups that each, for reasons of affluence, education, or religion, are disinclined to violent crime.

  5. I should note that while much of the Wikipedia data is from law enforcement, mine is self-report and coroner data.

  6. I am moved to mention the significance of gender in this debate! In some Muslim countries a woman's rights are so undermined that her murder, justified by husband, father, etc would not even be considered as such and no charges would be brought. Also count women who are considered below consideration - prostitutes and other 'low class' women and I would surmise that there may be quite a number of 'invisible' murders in some Muslim countries.

  7. Anonymous7:47 AM

    Low crime rate? You gotta be kidding me!

    You are assuming the Malaysian govt could or would provide honest and accurate data on crime rates.
    I wouldn't bet my last dollar on a pariah and racist nation like Malaysia to do just that.

    My family used to live in KL and my mum, my sisters, sister in law and my wife were robbed on different occasions within 5 years. Of course, we don't live there anymore.

    Most of the violent crimes are committed by illegal migrants from Indonesia, Bangladesh, nigeria etc., and no thanks to the corrupt police force either.

  8. Anonymous8:03 PM

    Singapore is well developed, with CCTV almost everywhere. And it has a tight rule enforcement. Being a small country, you had literally nowhere to hide if the authority are after you. So who in Sinangapore would risk to commit crimes that promise them a dead-end, they would rather work as a sanitors to earn some decant dollars.

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  10. Anonymous9:19 PM

    This is funny. I'm Singaporean and to most people in Singapore, Malaysia is absolutely crime ridden.

    Low crime rate and Malaysia do not go together.

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