KUALA LUMPUR: A mosque in Bangsar has decided to celebrate the best of Malaysia’s diversity by throwing its doors open for a Chinese New Year celebration.
Expecting only 100 to 150 people to turn up for its do, the organisers were stumped to see at least 400 people arrive at the event which saw Muslims dining on the same table with their non-Muslim friends.
During the two-hour event held at a hall in the mosque, the people sampled Malaysian favourites such as rendang, ketupat and nasi minyak as well as mandarin oranges.
Many even turned up in traditional red, donning red batik shirts or red baju kurung.
The chairman of Masjid Saidina Abu Bakar As-Siddiq, Datuk Ibrahim Thambychik, said he decided to hold the Chinese New Year open house to show that the mosque was an open place that welcomed everyone.
“If you look at the history of Islam, a mosque has many functions. Apart from prayers, it can also serve as a social centre for Muslims and non-Muslims,” he said.
Saying that this is the first time the mosque has organised a Chinese New Year celebration, Ibrahim said an open house was a good opportunity for Muslims and non-Muslims from the neighbourhood to mingle and get to know each other better.
Due to the good response from the community, he is planning to host it again next year.
Iman Ustaz Mohd Bukhai Hakah said they anticipated about 100 to 150 people but he estimated that at least 400 people turned up based on the amount of food served.
Datuk George Joseph, president of Bangsar Baru Residents Association, believed that it was the first time a mosque had organised a Chinese New Year celebration in the country.
A Chinese Muslim who attends weekly classes at the mosque, Mohd Willieuddin Lim, said most of his friends were surprised when he forwarded the mosque’s invitation: “Can ah? They asked me.”
Lim said he continued to celebrate the Lunar New Year after converting to Islam decades ago as it was not a religious but cultural occasion.
One of the guests, Collin Swee, 49, said it was a meaningful occasion for him.
“I think this is wonderful. It’s very needed right now as people of different races and religions are growing further and further apart compared to the old days.
“This gesture by the mosque is very timely. We need more of these gestures to unite people,” said Swee.
Maizura Shamsuddin, who is principal assistant director at the Department of Federal Territory Islamic Affairs, said she was supportive of the event.
Former actress Shila Lama Abdullah, who also attended the event, said it was a great opportunity to foster goodwill among people of different races and religions.