President Barack Obama will be knocking on the doors of one of Malaysia’s most iconic landmarks – Masjid Negara – on Sunday.
The visit to the mosque, built in 1922 on the site of a church, is being greatly anticipated, with Muslim scholars here saying it would further emphasise the president’s commitment to reach out to the Muslim world.
Religious Adviser to Prime Minister Tan Sri Dr Abdullah Md Zin said it was “not common” for a leader of a superpower to include a visit to a mosque in their itinerary.
“There can be no better way for Obama to honour Islam than by visiting Masjid Negara. It will be interesting to know what he has to say about the mosque and Islam,” he added yesterday.
Johor Islamic Council adviser Datuk Nooh Gadut said that although Obama was not compelled to visit the mosque, his choice to do so meant a lot to Muslims in Malaysia and around the world.
“It shows that the president is sensitive and also that he wants to get closer to the Muslim world,” he added.
Nooh said photos of Masjid Negara were used as a referral to relate Islam and Malaysia.
“Some, especially the younger generation, have forgotten about it but President Obama obviously knows the significance of the mosque to Malaysia.
“I hope that mosque officials would take the opportunity to properly brief him on the role of the mosque within the context of a multi-racial and multi-religious country like Malaysia,” he stressed.
Obama’s visit to Masjid Negara will not be the first time he is doing so in his travels.
Shortly after his inauguration, Obama visited the famed Blue Mosque while on a visit to Turkey.
During a trip to Indonesia in 2010, the president also visited Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, which is one of the world’s largest mosques.
Masjid Negara’s unique modern design embodies a contemporary expression of traditional Islamic art calligraphy and ornamentation.
Near the mosque is the Makam Pahlawan (Heroes Mausoleum), a burial ground of several Malaysian politicians who include former Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.