When we were children, we were taught that a mosque, besides being a house of worship, served as a place of refuge for wayfarers and a public meeting place.
People assembled in the mosque to discuss matters of religion as well as issues of concern to the community. For instance, many decades ago, when Friday sermons were not nationalised and reduced to an approved script, the congregation would be told about drug taking among local youth or upcoming events in the area. In other words, the Friday sermons addressed community issues. There was no politicisation of the sermons.
Mosque gates were never locked so that any traveller can rest or even spend the night inside. They were never turned away and would in fact be fed sometimes.
In other places in the world, this is still the norm. In Canada, where temperatures can drop to below freezing, mosques provide overnight shelter to homeless people and volunteers provide food, blankets and other necessities.
That is why it’s disturbing to read about the recent incident at the Hospital Kuala Lumpur mosque, in which a guard poured verbal abuse on a middle aged couple and their daughter because the daughter was bareheaded.
They had gone to the hospital to visit the girl’s brother, who had been warded for injuries sustained in an accident. When it started to rain, they took shelter in the mosque.
The couple had not eaten since the morning and their daughter went to a nearby shop to buy some takeaway food for her parents. When the girl returned with the food, the guard started to remonstrate with the couple and scolded the young woman for not wearing a tudung. He said she was disrespecting the mosque.
The girl acknowledged that her hair was not covered and then stood in the rain, because she did not want her parents to receive further abuse from the guard, or worse still, be turned out into the streets in the heavy rain.
Why did the guard have to be so abusive? The family was not destroying public property or stealing anything from the premises. He could have been nice and told the family that once the weather improved, they ought to move on.
So, if anyone has disrespected the mosque and Islamic teachings, it would be this guard. He failed to show compassion. He failed to see that this was an anxiety ridden middle aged couple who wanted to visit their son in hospital. They were hungry and their daughter had bought food for them. He could have told her to get inside the building, away from the rain, and offered her something to cover her head with.
This guard should apologise publicly to the parents and their daughter. If he doesn’t, the mosque authorities should punish him severely, because this little Napolean has managed to tarnish the image not only of the mosque, but also of Islam as a compassionate religion.
Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.