Johor resort ordered to demolish surau

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 21 — The Kota Tinggi Municipal Council in Johor served a 21-day notice on the owners of Tanjung Sutera Resort today, threatening legal action if it fails to demolish its surau within the stipulated time frame.

According to news portal Malaysiakini, the August 20 notice said should the resort refuse to adhere to the instruction, the council will proceed to tear down the surau on its own.

“And you (the owner) will be charged for all the expenditure for demolition, without any further warning,” Malaysiakini reported after sighting the notice during a visit to the site today.

Tanjung Sutera Resort entered the spotlight recently following media reports on video recordings found on YouTube that allegedly showed Buddhists using the surau for their worship.

The resort owner, a Singaporean, was arrested last week after police reports were lodged over the incident and was subsequently remanded for four days to assist in police investigations.

Last weekend, Home Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi announced that the man’s permanent residence had been revoked over the incident, in a move to deter future religious offenders.

The Johor religious authorities also announced last week that the surau would have to be demolished as it had been used by non-Muslims to host their religious activities.

Citing the Quran, Johor Islamic Religious Council (MAINJ) advisor Datuk Nooh Gadut explained that if such a sacred place had knowingly been used for activities outside the Islamic faith, it should be taken down.

“The most sacred places on Earth are mosques and surau. Accordingly, they  are not allowed to be used to carry out religious activities other than for Islam and if a surau is found to have hosted other religious activities, it can be demolished based on surah At-Taubah verse 107 (in the Quran),” he was quoted saying on Bernama Online on August 13.

Nooh added, however, that the demolition could not be ordered immediately as the surau in question is still considered evidence in the ongoing probe on allegations that Buddhist tourists used the venue for their worship.

Last Tuesday, the Buddhist Maha Vihara — a group representing Malaysian Buddhists — apologised over the prayer session in the surau.

In a brief statement, Chief High Priest of Malaysia Datuk K. Srï Dhammaratana expressed his group’s regret while urging followers of the religion to be mindful of others in their worship.

“We would like to apologise to our Muslim brothers and sisters for the actions of a certain Buddhist group from Singapore in having their meditation session at the surau of a resort in Kota Tinggi.

“I advise Buddhists in Malaysia and Singapore to respect the religious sensitivities of other religionists while carrying out our own religious obligations and responsibilities,” Dhammaratana said.

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