Malaysia

Local authorities order Johor resort surau demolition

Local authorities have given a demolition order for the surau in a resort in Kota Tinggi, Johor, that sparked a controversy after being used for meditation by a group of Buddhists from Singapore.

The Kota Tinggi Municipal Council served the notice dated August 20 today to the Tanjung Sutera Resort ordering the surau be demolished within three weeks as it was built without council approval.

A Malaysiakini news portal report said the notice was signed by council president Hasrin Kamal Hashim and stated that the surau be demolished within 21 days from the date of receiving the notice.

It also stated that "the owner of the resort would be charged for all the expenditure for demolition, without any further warning."

The controversy began after a video was put on the YouTube video-sharing site on August 10, showing a group of Buddhists in the surau meditating in front of a portrait of the Buddha.

The 63-second long clip titled “Chinese Buddhist praying in surau, surau converted into temple”, was uploaded by Sebastianphiu and has received more than 10,000 hits.

Following the uproar, police remanded the 45-year-old Singaporean operator who had allowed the group to use the surau. The man was a permanent resident, authorities had said.

His permanent resident status was subsequently revoked. Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had made the announcement to revoke the status “in accordance with provisions of the law as the resort operator was insensitive to Muslims and Islam”.

The Johor state government, under the advice of the Johor Islamic Affairs Council (MAIJ) had also ordered the surau be demolished as it had hosted other religious activities.

MAIJ adviser Noh Gadut had told newswire Bernama that the building can be torn down based on Surat at-Taubah verse 107 of the Quran.

He had said the surau was not built towards the qiblat (direction of prayer for Muslims) and is "300 kilometres off" the direction of the holy grounds of Mecca.

The call to demolish the surau, however, was seen by some as a "unnecessary" move, including former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. – August 21, 2013.

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