2 muftis defend ‘no foreigner’ rule in mosques

The government says it will not allow foreign nationals to be a part of mosque congregations as restrictions on religious events are eased this week.

PETALING JAYA: Two Muslim leaders disagree that a temporary ban on foreigners joining congregational prayers at mosques is discriminatory.

Abdul Rahman Osman and Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor, the muftis of Pahang and Penang, said the move should be seen as part of Covid-19 containment measures.

“Islam does not differentiate between foreigners or locals. They’re the same,” Abdul Rahman told FMT.

“If we could let everyone in, we would. But we can’t do that right now,” he said, adding that there was limited space in mosques in order to implement social distancing, a main feature of the global containment measures against the deadly disease.

The government in announcing the gradual reopening of mosques nationwide has said that only locals would be allowed to attend congregational and Friday prayers.

The move drew criticism from Muslim activist Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, who warned that it could border on xenophobia.

Instead, Farouk, who teaches medicine at Monash University, said mosques could undertake temperature checks at entrances and scanning of barcodes as practised in other outlets.

“Wouldn’t it be seen to be a religion that is more egalitarian in nature and does not practise any form of discrimination?” he told FMT. “Islam should never be seen as a religion that condones any form of discrimination and prejudice.”

But Abdul Rahman said space constraints at certain mosques, meant there would be “no room to accommodate everyone”.

Wan Salim, the Penang mufti, agreed that Muslims should treat everyone equal regardless of nationality.

But he said there were social realities to be taken into account, including a perception that foreigners including refugees were a threat to the economy and socio-culture.

Wan Salim proposed that authorities could place them at certain areas where interaction or mingling between the locals and these communities could be reduced.

“The government should also negotiate with the Rohingya leaders in Malaysia to advise their fellow countrymen to respect the locals and get used to the country’s traditions.”

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