The Republic of Madagascar, formerly known as the Malagasy Republic, is located off the southeastern coast of Africa on the fourth largest island in the world. It has a diverse population of 20,654,000, chiefly of mixed Afro-Malaysian and Indonesian descent; there are 18 distinct ethnic groups in the country. Its official languages are French and Malagasy. Most residents follow traditional African religious practices.

The first settlers of Madagascar were the Indonesians. Later, refugees from the wars that followed the death of the prophet Muhammad, in the seventh century CE, arrived from Arabia and the surrounding lands, bringing the religion of Islam with them. Over time, slave traders settled along the west coast; other Arabs from East African settlements came to the island and settled in the ...

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