Saturday, September 24, 2011
Are Malay craftsmen and architects of mosques inferior to their Middle Eastern brethren?
[Pixs courtesy of selimiyemosque.net]
I have been researching the architectural elements of major mosques in our country, in particular, Kuala Lumpur. The results have been disappointing. Even with mosques having official websites, a lot of information is splashed on their management, activities and public facilities - none on their architectural elements. On the other hand, take a look at the websites of a few major mosques in Middle East – they are jam-packed with absorbing information about their architecture. An example is the website of Selimiye Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey: selimiyemosque.net.
Why the dearth of information on the architecture of our grand mosques? Is it because we are ashamed they were designed by foreign architects or locals who borrowed ideas from Middle Eastern mosques?
Are we trying to hide from visitors that craftsmen from Uzbekistan, Iran and other Middle East countries created the adornments in our grander mosques?
Do the authorities consider Malay craftsmen as inferior to their Middle Eastern brethren that we must engage the latter? Shouldn't our local talent be nurtured and given the opportunity to display their potential? Talking economics, it’s also a loss in foreign exchange to use foreign craftsmen.
Charity begins at home, so priority should be given to Malays to build our mosques with a Malaysian identity. Arabs don’t come here to view modified “replicas” of grander mosques they have at home. They want to see Malaysian mosques designed by Malays.
Probably, the only grand mosque in Kuala Lumpur that is truly Malaysian in design is Masjid Negara. Incidentally, I want to put on record that British architect Howard Ashley was also part of the architectural team of Masjid Negara; the other two members were Baharuddin Kassim and Hisham Albakri.