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Monday, June 26, 2017

KU NAN & UMNO CASTING GREEDY EYES ON MASJID JAMEK? FROM PRECIOUS HISTORY TO BAD TASTE MONSTROSITY?

MASJID Jamek is a mainstay of the Kuala Lumpur skyline and has been for the past 108 years. Sitting on the fork between Sg Klang and Sg Gombak, the mosque and its name have become synonymous with the progress the capital has made.
Recently renamed Masjid Jamek Sultan Abdul Samad, the mosque served as the largest and main mosque in Kuala Lumpur until the national mosque, Masjid Negara, was built in 1965.
Tourism and Culture Ministry secretary-general Ab Ghaffar Tambi told The Malaysian Insight the mosque is a listed building with the National Heritage Department and is undergoing renovations, part of the RM4 billion River of Life (RoL) facelift for the main rivers of the Klang Valley, launched by Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2011.
The RoL plan is to transform the polluted rivers into a recreational centre, involving upgrades to 11 precincts.
Tourist attraction
The Malaysian Insight understands that Masjid Jamek has been earmarked as a centre for tourism but Kuala Lumpur Mayor Mhd Amin Nordin Abd Aziz said the mosque’s supposed tourist status was not an issue.
“Masjid Jamek has always been famous among tourists but renovation and landscaping is certainly being carried out there,” he said.
The renovations include City Hall building a garden based on Islamic architecture, plus a fountain and a pond.
Amin said a majority of the work on behalf of the RoL project was being managed by the Drainage and Irrigation Department.
The restoration and renovation involve two stages: interior and then landscaping.
The mosque’s imam Ahmad Nizzam Razali said renovations to the building – designed by British architect Arthur Benison Hubback, who worked for the Public Works Department in the former Federated Malay States – began in 2014.
Since then, more than 45 tombstones – believed to be 200 years old – were found by workers. Nizzam also said the mosque’s main staircase was exposed again when a concrete embankment was removed.
The staircase was originally built on the banks of the river to allow Muslims to perform their ablutions.
“The mosque was completed in 1909 and opened by Sultan Alauddin Sultan Sulaiman Shah the same year,” he said, adding that the design was influenced by the Mogul architecture of northern India.
“It was taken from there and the same building characteristics can be seen on the Sultan Abdul Samad building (overlooking Dataran Merdeka).
“The only building that looks similar is Masjid Ubudiah in Kuala Kangsar, Perak.”
Meanwhile, since Masjid Jamek has no qariah (mosque committee), prayers depend on those who work in the city to lead them, said Nizzam, who has been the imam at the mosque for three years.
“The mosque can hold up to 7,000 worshippers at one time for Friday prayers, while around 7,000 tourists visit every month,” he said.
Little regard for conservation
Heritage expert and writer Abdur-Razzaq Lubis, author of Sutan Puasa: Founder of Kuala Lumpur 1800-1908, said there was nothing surprising about the discovery of the tombstones because the mosque originally had its own burial ground.
The writer, known as Pak Lubis, said he was concerned that the ongoing renovation would see the original structure of building destroyed.
“We believe early communities living in Kuala Lumpur were from Sumatra, possibly Mandailing, Rawa, as well as Bugis and Jawa.
“When they discovered the burial ground, I said the authorities needed to postpone all work,” he said, adding that detailed procedures needed to be followed, which required conservation experts to supervise on site.
“Has any of the conservation been carried out based on procedure? There has been no regard for the old burial ground or, for that matter, the building.”
He said the government was taking short cuts towards conserving heritage buildings nationwide.
The same is with changing the name of the mosque, said Pak Lubis, adding that it was like erasing history.
“This is the problem now when we mention heritage: they think they are buildings like those in Penang and Malacca.
“I am disappointed because, although we have organisations formed for conservation, they act like toothless tigers.”
Where can the homeless go?
Over the years, the mosque has also become a haven for the homeless, to the point where it became known as “the vagrant mosque”.
This was until various programmes got under way to alleviate the problem, including Menyantuni Komuniti Disayangi, held every Sunday at the mosque.
Nizzam said the programme also had help from civil society groups, where the mosque provided food and counselling sessions to the homeless in the area.
“Their numbers are quite large, fewer than 300 during regular days but it could top 300 during the fasting month, especially as we are providing food,” he said.
Amin said he was uncertain whether City Hall would clear the mosque area of the homeless.
“I’m not certain but it has become a problem for us because their numbers are just too many.
“If City Hall moves them on, we are not sure where to. However, the Welfare Department may have the answers.”
– https://www.themalaysianinsight.com

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