Picture a rectangle with 14 red and white alternating stripes and a dark blue square in the top left–hand corner. The lines represent the 13 states of Malaysia and the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putra Jaya. Inside the square, the blue symbolises the harmony of Malaysian people, is a vertical half-moon and a star. The ‘C’-shaped moon signifies Islam. Each point on the 14-point star represents each of the Malaysian states and Federal territory in the same way as the stripes.
In 1947, an architect named Mohamed Hamzah entered a competition to design the Malaysian flag. With influences from the former British East India Company’s style of alternative stripes with the Union Jack in the top left–hand corner, a public vote chose his design out of 373 others. According to some, the Malaysian flag shares similarities to the United States. But the appearance is purely coincidental. The Malaysian flag was first raised on September 16, 1963 after the declaration of the Federated States of Malaya, North Borneo (Sabah), Sarawak and Singapore. Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad asked the country to name the Malaysian flag in 1997. The public chose ‘Jalur Gemilang’, or Stripes of Glory in English.
The original star featured 11 points. Three more were added when Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore joined Malaya. In 1965, however, Singapore left Malaysia becoming an independent nation. One extra point remained. A decade later, Kuala Lumpur became a Federal Territory along with Labuan and Putra Jaya in later years. The star’s fourteenth point today is often said to symbolise the Federal Government rather than any individual state.
Each of Malaysia’s 13 states, as well as the Federal Territories, have their own flags. Visit different parts of the country and expect to see both the region and Malaysian national flag hanging side-by-side. Sabah often gets positive feedback for their design featuring Mount Kinabalu on a light blue background.