KUALA LUMPUR • A mosque in the Bangsar suburb of Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur has celebrated the country's diversity by throwing open its doors for a Chinese New Year event. And it was amply rewarded when more than 400 Malaysians - many in the Chinese traditional lucky colour red - showed up, a crowd that far exceeded organisers' expectations.
At the two-hour event on Saturday, Malaysians of various ethnicities and faiths sat and ate together, sampling local favourites like rendang, ketupat and nasi minyak as well as mandarin oranges, a must-have fruit to welcome in the Chinese New Year.
The chairman of Masjid Saidina Abu Bakar As-Siddiq, Datuk Ibrahim Thambychik, said he decided to hold the open house to show that the mosque was a 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 was the first time the mosque had organised a Chinese New Year celebration, Mr Ibrahim added that 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 the event again next year.
Imam Mohd Bukhai Hakah said the mosque anticipated about 100 to 150 guests. 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, believes it was the first time a mosque in Malaysia had organised a Chinese New Year celebration.
Mr Mohd Willieuddin Lim, a Chinese Muslim who attends weekly classes at the mosque, said most of his non-Muslim friends were surprised when he forwarded them the mosque's invitation for the event. "Can ah? They asked me," he said.
Mr Lim said he continued to celebrate Chinese New Year after converting to Islam a few decades ago as it was not a religious but cultural occasion.
One of the guests at the event, Mr Collin Swee, 49, said it was a meaningful occasion for him.
"I think this is wonderful. It's very much needed right now as people of different races and religions are growing further and further apart compared with the old days. This gesture by the mosque is very timely. We need more of these gestures to unite people," said Mr Swee.
Ms Maizura Shamsuddin, principal assistant director of the Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department, said she was supportive of the event.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK