KUALA LUMPUR • Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin yesterday said Malaysians waste too much time on "stupid issues", following an uproar in the Muslim community over what appeared to be white crosses on the rooftops of some new houses in Langkawi.
His comments add to those by former Cabinet minister Zaid Ibrahim, who lamented the "crass commercialisation of religion" by referring to two business models that capitalise on Islam for profit.
Datuk Zaid was referring to the new Mara Digital Mall which has Malay traders only, and the syariah-compliant new Rayani Air.
Issues involving Muslims and tensions with Malaysia's non-Muslim population have become more pronounced in recent years as Malay Muslims, who form some 60 per cent of the country's 30 million people, become more conservative.
The fight for Malay votes between the two biggest parties - Prime Minister Najib Razak's United Malays National Organisation and the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia - has also contributed to the rising conservatism as each tries to show it is more Islamic.
Last week, Malaysian Muslims used social media to spread pictures of the rooftops; some said the white vertical roof beams of these homes and their white air wells made the structures look like large white crosses. The state government of Kedah, which includes Langkawi, told the developer to repaint the roof beams dark brown.
Mr Khairy yesterday tweeted a selfie in front of the houses: "The houses with the 'crosses' in Langkawi. Now repainted... We waste too much time on stupid issues."
Meanwhile, Mr Zaid said an all-Malay mall was a bad idea. The government opened the mall after a fight involving Malay customers and Chinese phone sellers at the Low Yat Plaza IT mall.
And Rayani Air - founded by a Malaysian Hindu couple - took to the skies this month. It does not serve alcohol, its stewardesses don tudung (headscarves) and Islamic prayers are read on take-off.
Mr Zaid wrote on his blog: "I would have felt better if the idea of turning everything 'Islamic' revolved around things that mattered and not just gimmickry."