Yayasan 1Malaysia commends mosques in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur and Tasek Jaya, Ipoh for holding Chinese New Year celebrations. This is rare in multi-religious Malaysia. It should be encouraged for a number of reasons.

By organising such celebrations, mosque committees and Muslim leaders demonstrate to Muslims in Malaysia at large that partaking in cultural activities of this sort does not in any way compromise their Muslim identity or tarnish the image of their religion. In the process, they help Malays and Muslims to distinguish culture from religion. Hopefully, this will lead to a more open and accommodative attitude towards the cultures of communities other than one’s own.

For the Chinese community in Malaysia, a Chinese New Year celebration initiated by a mosque shows that Islam welcomes its culture. It serves to overcome to some extent at least some of the misconceptions about Islam among a segment of the Chinese community. It is quite conceivable that some members of the community will develop a more positive attitude towards not only Islam but also the Malays as a whole.  A CNY celebration in a mosque also provides a hint to the Chinese of the tremendous cultural diversity that has always been part of Islamic civilization.

Given the history and evolution of the Malaysian nation which is still a work in progress, this gesture by two mosques is a positive step towards the internalisation of the Chinese community and its culture. This is a process that must happen in the interest of national integration. Both sides Malays and Muslims, on the one hand, and Chinese and non-Muslims, on the other, must play their roles in this endeavour.

A Chinese New Year celebration in a mosque is a magnificent bridge-building event. Such events initiated by citizen groups strengthen immeasurably the foundation of our multi-ethnic society.

Image source: www.thestar.com.my

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