Mufti: Allow Chinese to build mosques
28 Jan 2007
Wan Hamidi Hamid
KUALA LUMPUR: Itís time for Malaysia to have Chinese mosques run by the Chinese for the Chinese community.
Perlis Mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin said state governments, particularly religious departments, should allow Chinese Muslims to build mosques and surau for their community.
He said it was unfair of state governments to deny the right of the Chinese Muslims based on the misunderstood conception that Islam could only mean Malay language, customs and traditions.
"The idea that Islam in Malaysia must be Malay in all forms is wrong.
It discourages non-Muslims from wanting to know about Islam and at the same time denies the non-Malay Muslims the right to worship in their mother tongue.
"Chinese from China have been Muslim hundreds of years before the Malays accepted Islam. I believe state authorities should give permission for Chinese Muslims to build their mosques."
There are about 57,000 Chinese Muslims in Malaysia, according to the 2000 census, making up one per cent of the 5.69 million Chinese population in the country.
The late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, who tried to bridge the racial gap between Malays and Chinese, formed the Islamic Welfare Association (Perkim) to enable more Chinese to understand Islam, and if possible, to embrace the religion.
Dr Mohd Asri said Perkim and other associations continued to exist but the right for Chinese Muslims to worship was limited due to language and cultural barriers.
"We can no longer pretend that Islam means Malay. The Chinese and, the Indians who accepted Islam are equally Muslim and must have the full rights as Muslims," he said.
He also said the current situation made it difficult for Chinese who converted to Islam because they had to "masuk Melayu" (assimilate into the Malay culture), too, alienating them from their non-Muslim family and friends.
"If a mosque or a surau for the Chinese is allowed to be built, their non-Muslim community will still accept them as they are still considered Chinese by continuing to practise their language and traditional customs, which are not at odds with Islam," he said.
Dr Mohd Asri called on state governments and state religious authorities to provide the permit to build Chinese mosques and surau.
"For example, if there are enough Chinese Muslims in Perlis wanting to build a mosque, I will gladly advise the state government to issue the permit.
"But I hope state governments in Penang, Perak, Selangor, Malacca and Johor would approve the applications to build Chinese mosques.
"Iím sure when permission is granted, the wealthier Chinese community would be able to contribute to the building of the mosques on their own. To deny this is racism, discrimination and against Islam."
The Great Mosque of Xian, China - A 17th century gate (360 years old) providing entry into the first courtyard.