Thursday, February 17, 2011


This mosque is widely labeled as The Chinese Mosque or Beijing Mosque of Rantau Panjang. This is very misleading though we can understand why. The dominant chinese influence in the overall design and lay-out evident from the color, bamboo shape roof cladding and the rooflines give credence to this notion. The entrance 'pintu gerbang' is already very chinese. One would not know that this is a mosque had there been no signages to signify it. The building itself strike an alien feature to the malay-asian overall landscape of the area in vicinity.

However, not many know it seems from web searches that the concept of this mosque is 'Masjid Tiga Bangsa'. It was intended to be a mosque having the architectural elements of the three major races in Malaysia. The Kelantan MB, himself a religous figurehead of PAS was very passionate to promote the idea that Islam is for all and not just for Malays. He especially want to woo the chinese to Islam and in many speeches he quoted admiration for them, their culture, their culinaries and health consciousness. He even has a chinese Muslim made EXCO and given important responsibility of bringing in investors and an outlet to air chinese views in Kelantan. The chinese muslim admiral Cheng Ho was lauded and an exhibition of him was made in Kota Bharu Nov 2010 to show that Islam had been to China earlier than to The Malay Archipelago.

The design was entrusted to JKR Kelantan and the architect visited numerous mosques to conceptualise the idea of the mosque of the three races. We can be forgiven for not realising the other races elements in the design because of the overpowering presence of the chinese influence. However, knowing of this concept, we can recognise the malay element inside the mosque complex before entering the Dewan Solat (Prayer Hall). The entrance side panel is Malay. The wall panels of the prayer hall is also from traditional malay houses. 

The Indian influence is harder to find though. Only after close scrutiny could I find the element in the 'mimbar' of the mosque. The moon crescent and five pointed stars is definitely Indian Muslim element.

I find this rather odd. The Indian Muslims have a very wide influence over the landscape of Islamic practices in Malaysia. The chinese influence is nowhere compared to the Indian Muslim presence with Masjid Jamek found in every major community here. The Indian Muslim restaurants also flourish in every nook and corner of Malaysia. So how come their presence is not given due recognition here? Is the need to attract chinese 'voters' more important to give due recognition?

After walking around the mosque and inspecting the design I found something rather inappropriate in the design of the roof overhang. One could not mistake the dragon element here. Though it is chinese, it should not be used in a mosque design. Animalistic elements is alien to Islamic design and reeks of idol worshiping which is the enemy of Islam.

The construction quality however leaves much to be desired. The plastering work looks crude and stain is already very visible at the gable ends despite just a few years of service. The supposed to be clean lines of the minaret all the way to the top is another case of bad job.

Another eyebrow raising detail is why this mosque is built here, in malay majority Rantau Panjang and not in Kota Bharu which is more central and have a sizeable chinese population? Also it would attract more tourists. I dont see many people in the mosque during my visit, in fact I only see a few... Does it serve its intended purpose... Hard to say.


Al-Manar said...

I find this a very interesting subject. Being a technical person you pointed varios tchnical aspects of construction. Somehow if I read it right, you are happy from a number of points such as its very location, but question the dragon aspect, the inadequate signs of Indian Muslim influence etc.

I agree with your view that this is an interesting mosque.

Personally I do not see the necessity to go places with racial features in a single building. I am probably more conservative, prefering a typical Malaysian outlook, be it Malay, Coinese, Indian etc without an attempt to show all races in one. A simple dome and a mineret are normal in Malaysia as a generally accepted symbol of a prayer house. We drive around the country and know a mosque or a surau when we see one, or when we are looking for one to stop for prayers. That is practical and good enough - instead of bringing 1 Malaysia features into it.

I am sorry for taking so much space.

Gukita said...

Pak Chik,
You are very practical and I go along with your views. Mosques design are quite universal here, and if could be easily recognisable for travellers, then it should surfice. However, Dato' Nik Aziz have different ideas here; his concern is to rid of Middle Eastern-Malay identity in the design and promote chinese element as something new to show chinese that Islam is equally for them as well as for Malays.

The fact that this become THE only mosque here with this features just prove that it is just that - something unique but not acceptable as new trend in mosque design...

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