ALOR SETAR - A Langkawi housing project's rooftop air wells that resembled crosses from afar has prompted the project's developer to paint over the structures after they created a stir on social media, Malaysia's The Star reported.
The project's developer had begun repainting the structures at the project in Kelibang, near Kuah in Langkawi, which resembled crucifixes on Monday (Dec 28), the Real Estate and Housing Developers' Association (Rehda) said.
Photos of the roof features hit social media on Dec 22, with some Muslims expressing their displeasure, while others brushed it off as a harmless coincidence.
Kedah and Perlis Rehda chairman Rick Cheng Wooi Seong confirmed that the rectification work began on Monday (Dec 28) and would take about two weeks to complete.
He said he had spoken to the developer and the Langkawi district council to explain the issue, which went viral on social media on Christmas eve.
The appearance of the air wells was just an oversight on the developer's part, he said, and called on the public not to put pressure on the company on the matter.
Datuk Cheng said air wells are necessary structures in a housing project especially for terraced houses.
"They provide extra lighting and ventilation," he added. "Many buyers of our members' housing projects in Kedah are Malay, and I condemn the irresponsible people who posted such pictures online."
The Star had earlier reported that some of the units were built along the coast. When seen from the sea, they had white features along the red-tiled roofs that created the impression of a row of sea-facing white crosses.
However, reports said that from an aerial view, the structures appeared to be square rather than cross-shaped.
The controversy led the Kedah state government on Saturday (Dec 26) to order the developer to paint over the air wells.
The Kedah state executive councillor in charge of housing, Datuk Tajul Urus Mat Zain, said that as the aerial view of the development had gone viral on social media, the state had no choice but to step in, the Malay Mail Online reported.
"I have advised the developer, just paint the fire break wall to a similar colour of the roof colour, (that) will solve the issue," the website quoted him as saying. "He must have built an internal air well to enhance light and air ventilation."
He added that although the issue was a small matter, the state had intervened to prevent the issue from becoming a religious one.
The flap over the structures also prompted the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) chairman Rev Dr Eu Hong Seng to urge Malaysians to be less prejudicial on religious matters, the Malay Mail Online reported. He said it was lamentable that concerns had been raised over the appearance of the air wells and pointed out that not every cross-shaped object had a religious significance for Christians.
"People need to be more broadminded. Something may appear like a cross, but it doesn't necessarily represent the Christian cross," he told the Malay Mail Online. "Even the multiplication sign is a cross; even the letter 't' is a cross. This matter is very unfortunate, but I am quite sure the majority of people are not affected by the appearance of the air well."
Opposition Democratic Action Party lawmaker Lim Lip Eng also responded by asking if the federal government would be advised to tear down Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) due to its cross-like shape in order not to offend religious sensitivities.
The developer and the Langkawi local council will hold a meeting on Tuesday (Dec 29) to discuss the issue.