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KUALA LUMPUR: They are not asking the government for money or land; they are merely hoping for approval to build a mosque for the Chinese Muslim community. Yet certain state leaders’ lukewarm response is baffling.
There is also a question: Why do Chinese Muslims have to come up with their own money and land to build a mosque when it is the duty of state governments to provide places of worship for Muslims?
Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (MCMA) national vice-president Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah admitted that he had to accept political reality.
"That is why we don’t mind working hard to find money and land to build our mosque. In fact, our mosque will not be exclusive for Chinese as it will be open to everybody.
"All we want is an approval from the state government," he said.
Yet he was also sad when certain senior Muslim leaders failed to understand that Islam was beyond race, culture and geography.
Claiming that Selangor had about 20,000 Chinese Muslims, he said there were no reasons for the state authorities to deny the rights of their fellow Muslims to have a mosque.
"Think of dakwah, think of Chinese Muslims’ well-being taken care of and provided with counselling, think what non-Muslims and foreigners will say about Malaysia when they see the government’s commitment to Islam regardless of race," he added.
While some state leaders have expressed willingness to consider Chinese Muslims’ applications to build a mosque, they also appeared to be reluctant.
Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Mohd Ali Rustam, insisting that the state was not interested in allowing a Chinese mosque, had argued that it would segregate Muslims.
Refuting his claims, religious scholar Maszlee Malik said: "If segregation is an issue, why do all mosques in Malaysia only cater for the Malays and provide sermons and lectures in Malay? Isn’t that segregation?"
The MCMA Malacca branch, whose application to build a mosque was rejected three years ago, plans to submit a fresh application.
However, Mohd Ali’s argument that such a mosque would not be appropriate for a "small" state would hamper the hopes of some 3,000 Chinese Muslims living in Malacca.
Perlis mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin who mooted the idea of a Chinese mosque recently said size did not matter.
Upset with certain Malay leaders who failed to grasp the universality of Islam, he said such an attitude gave a negative image about Islam being the exclusive right of Malays.
"It’s not about race or skin colour. This is about dakwah (propagation of Islam) and caring for all Muslims, including Chinese Muslims.
"I don’t know why some leaders expressed their reservations. Is Islam only for the Malays?"
To overcome the problem, Dr Mohd Asri called on the government to have the political will to provide such mosques. He also hoped state religious scholars would truthfully advise their state leaders to be "colour blind".