ASEAN Mosque Festival aims to redefine, enlarge role of mosques

KUALA LUMPUR: Islamic scholars, clerics and delegates from across Southeast Asia gathered in Kuala Lumpur on Monday (Dec 7) for the first ASEAN Mosque Festival.

The event aims to redefine, support and enlarge the role of mosques in the region, with delegates hoping that places of worship can play a crucial role in countering rising extremism.

“Central for all Muslims is the mosque,” said Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department. “They can and should play a valuable role in our efforts to celebrate diversity.”

They delegates want mosques to use their influence to preach moderate Islam and unity to the region’s 240 million Muslims.

“The Prime Minister (of Indonesia) agrees that the role of mosques will be reformed to be more peaceful, to avoid hate (or) speeches of animosity,” said Dr Jimly Asshiddiqie, former chief justice of Indonesia’s Constitutional Court.

Around the world, several mosques have been scrutinised as conduits for extremism.

In Egypt for example, the government reportedly installed CCTV cameras in some mosques to monitor and control extremist sermons.

But scholars said that mosques have also historically played a unifying role. Some believe that Southeast Asia can set a particular example for this, due to the multiple ethnicities and religions that co-exist in the region.

“Islam here is very pluralistic,” said Dr Asshiddiqie. “One very important historical background of Muslims in Southeast Asia, (is that) these nations have a very long history of encountering other cultures, almost all major religions in this world have roots in this region.”

The history of religious civilisations was also discussed at the ASEAN festival, as well as the role of the mosque as an interfaith resource.

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