Chinese Converts Demand Own Mosques in Malaysia

February 19, 2007

Source: Gulf Times

KUALA LUMPUR: Chinese Malaysians who have embraced Islam are testing the government over a mosque issue that analysts say highlights a racial divide in the multi-ethnic country.

Malaysia, which boasts of religious diversity and where just over half of its population are Muslims of Malay descent, has spurned applications by Chinese Muslims to open their first mosques, officials said. The authorities argued that having separate mosques would segregate Muslims and could anger the majority Malays, who by definition are Muslims.

Mohamed Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, a convert championing the cause of his fellow 70,000-strong Chinese Muslims, said Malaysia must show that Islam transcends race and culture.

“We have to change the perception that Islam only belongs to a particular race, for example the Malays and the Arabs,” the 42-year-old Islamic scholar said.

“We have to show the universality of Islam by allowing Chinese mosques,” he said at the weekend. “The authorities have to do away with the stereotypes.”