Cops quiz resort manager in surau-turned-temple row

A view of one building in Tanjung Sutera Resort. — Picture courtesy of tripadvisor
A view of one building in Tanjung Sutera Resort. — Picture courtesy of tripadvisor

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 12 — Johor police picked up Tanjung Sutera Resort’s manager for questioning today, following the uproar over a video showing Buddhist tourists using the venue’s Muslim prayer room as their place of worship.

State police chief Datuk Mohd Mokhtar Mohd Shariff was quoted in Bernama as confirming today that the 45-year-old was picked up from the resort at 2pm.

The national news agency also reported Mokhtar as saying that a special team headed by his deputy Datuk Ismail Yatim has been tasked to investigate the matter.

The controversy hit media headlines after a video surfaced on YouTube yesterday allegedly showing a Muslim prayer room in Johor being used by Buddhist tourists for worship.

The 85-second-long video titled “Surau dijadikan tokong???” (A surau turned into a temple?) begins with an external shot of a small building and a close-up of what appears to be a sign in Arabic script over a doorway.

The video’s maker then approaches the building to record what appears to be a prayer session by a dozen white-clad people led by a monk in red and saffron. At the front of the room, the video briefly displays a Buddhist poster below a plaque with Arabic script.

According to reports by several local dailies today, the surau (prayer room) is located within the grounds of Tanjung Sutera Resort, but the resort’s manager has clarified that the tourists were allowed to use the Muslim prayer hall as the other locations were unavailable due to over-booking.

According to Bernama, Johor Mufti Datuk Mohd Tahrir Samsudin visited the resort today and said the state fatwa committee will probe the matter under section 7 (a) of the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 1997 for “insulting Islam or causing Islam to be looked down upon”.

“Based on monitoring and surveying of the surau, we find there is doubt in terms of its design. It does not face the Kaabah (in Mecca, as required) but faces outside of Masjidil Haram,” he was quoted saying.

Amid the uproar, Tanjung Sutera Resort manager Syed Ahmed Alkaff has explained his case, saying that permission was given to the tourists as the resort had no knowledge that they would be using it for worship.

“We gave them permission to use the surau because the other halls were already full.

“They told us only for meditation, not worship,” he was quoted as saying by Malay-language daily Kosmo.

Berita Harian also reported the resort manager as saying he did not expect the offer to lead to the controversy now.

“I do not think the action of giving permission to believers of other religions to use the surau is wrong. This is because they only wanted to use the surau for meditation.

“I have no intention of hurting anyone’s feelings. My intention is to show that Islam is universal and tolerant,” said the Singapore-born Muslim with permanent resident status in Malaysia.