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CHINESE-STYLE MOSQUES IN 3 MALAYSIAN STATES


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Three new mosques with Chinese-style architecture will soon be built in three different states, in a bid by the government to win over the Chinese community.
The mosques, to be built in Rawang in Selangor, Malacca and Perak, will be ready in the next two years.
  • Like Malaysia's first Chinese-style mosque, which was completed recently in Kelantan, they will combine classic Chinese and Islamic architectural styles. Familiar pagoda-style roofs replace the usual domes alongside minarets.
  • And while sermons in mosques here are usually delivered only in Malay, they will be given in Malay and Mandarin at the three new mosques.
  • The government had given approval to the building of the mosques, said Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Mashitah Ibrahim, to help the Chinese community understand Islam better.
  • “It is a form of dakwah (spreading the message of Islam),” she told The Straits Times. We also want to get closer to the Chinese and help them to understand that Islam does not promote hatred towards other religions.” Mashitah said.
  • Mashitah, who is in charge of Islamic affairs, added that the mosques will focus on promoting Chinese culture such as art, herbs and food.
  • The mosques, which are being funded by the government and the Chinese-Muslim community, will also organize non-religious festivities during festivals such as Chinese New Year and the mooncake festival. They are part of efforts to reach out to the Chinese people, many of whom believe that Islam imposes rigid rules on Muslim converts.
  • Many believe that embracing Islam would mean losing their racial identity and cutting ties with their family members.
  • Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (Macma) president Datuk Mustapha Ma acknowledged this misconception among the Chinese.
  • “Perhaps it is our mistake for not doing enough to explain Islam to the community,” he said. But now, it will be easier for us as we can organise non-religious activities in Chinese mosques and invite the non-Muslims.”
  • According to Ma, the Chinese Muslim population has been growing, from only 57,000 a decade ago to an estimated 70,000 now.
  • Still, the community remains a minority among the Chinese, who make up 6.7 million of Malaysia's 28 million population.
  • The association had been asking the government to build Chinese-style mosques over the past 10 years, but their applications had been turned down.
  • One of the reasons, explained Datuk Abdullah Zin, religious adviser to the Prime Minister, was that the state religious authorities felt that there should not be various types of mosques as Islam promoted unity.
  • Some Chinese Muslims also said there was little need for such mosques and sermons in Mandarin.
  • “Most Chinese understand Malay here,” said Kedah teacher Ani Aishah Fatimah Leong Abdullah, 42.
  • Still, Macma's Ma believes that the building of the Chinese-style mosques could help to ease current racial tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims.
  • “We can show that Islam is a universal religion by building such mosques,” he said.
  • “Non-Muslims can attend non-religious activities there, and the mosques can be used by all Muslims, not only Chinese Muslims, for prayer.”
Source: The Malaysian Insider, The Straits Times
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