Disclaimer: In Real Life is a platform for everyday people to share their experiences and voices. All articles are personal stories and do not necessarily echo In Real Life’s sentiments.
My name is Sammar Iqbal, I’m a 25-year-old from Pakistan and I work in IT. I came to Malaysia 5 years ago to study in a Malaysian university and your country has treated me with nothing but love since then.
But unfortunately, this past year with Covid-19 has also allowed me to experience some hostility and prejudice.
Ever since the very first MCO, when they shut down places of worship, I – as a Muslim man – have been unable to carry out my usual prayers at the mosque and have been performing them at home due to the spike of Covid cases.
Fast forward to this year, when the government announced the reopening of different sectors of industries, I was finally able to have the option of going to my usual mosque on Fridays again. Prior to September, Muslim foreigners were not allowed to enter mosques, so I was happy that I was able to worship again.
So on the 18th of September, after being 14 days clear of my second vaccination dose, I decided to head to my usual mosque in KL after not having gone for over a year.
Another Muslim man stopped me from entering the mosque
I headed down to the mosque before 1 PM on that Friday with my Bangladeshi friend, and we immediately noticed that there was an unusual queue at the entrance to the mosque. We hopped into the queue to enter and at the front of the line was a Muslim man.
“Dari mana?“ he asked as we approached him by the door.
“I’m from Bangladesh,” my buddy replied.
And immediately he exclaimed, “Sorry no foreigner, no foreigner.”
It didn’t make sense to me that they needed to designate a man outside the mosque for the sole purpose of screening the nationality of my fellow Muslim brothers, especially since the government said that foreigners were now allowed to worship at mosques.
Me and my Bangladeshi buddy weren’t allowed to enter the mosque for prayers, simply because we’re foreigners.
There was basically a filtration outside the mosque to separate the local Muslims from the foreign Muslims, as if there was supposed to be a segregation of rights.
I couldn’t really believe it, especially because where I’m from has never stopped me from catching a movie, heading to Sunway Velocity mall, or even walking down the streets of Bukit Bintang. If this happened anywhere else, it would be a totally different conversation. But the fact that in my 5 years living in KL, I got this treatment only at a mosque makes it even more upsetting.
Of all places that the colour of my passport should matter, a holy sanctuary should be the last place that comes to mind.
Since then, I’ve seen my fellow Muslim foreigners living in Malaysia share online about their experiences of the same treatment they recently received in different mosques as well. Apparently, it’s more prevalent than what I was aware of up til that point.
So when the handful of foreigners showed up to the mosque, unable to enter for our prayers, we took what we could.
We ended up praying outside the mosque, under the hot Malaysian sun
So for the next 4 weeks, the Muslim foreigners had no choice but to perform our Friday prayers by the road, after not being able to attend prayers for over a year.
And while we’re forced to be under the scorching sun in our discomfort, we get to watch Malaysians who show up late being able to casually walk in to pray. To my understanding, I don’t think this is a case of SOP, as the inside is usually packed to the brim.
This gives us foreigners a sense of humiliation, and it’s more than sad when the locals get the privilege of being prioritized while we foreigners are denied something as simple as prayers. In all my years here, not once have I felt the way I did when I made my recent trips to the mosque. I love Malaysia, that’s why I chose to live here, and that’s why it hurts so much.
I want you to understand: under Islam, all Muslims are one and the same – there is no room for discrimination. It’s basic humanity.
We deserve equal rights to places of worship
This is currently a big issue all Muslim foreigners are facing in Malaysia despite the official loosening of SOPs for mosques. Yet even though we are allowed, we are still discriminated against.
It is with great humility that I request, on behalf of the Muslim foreigners living in Malaysia, to allow us into your mosques for prayers.
I personally wouldn’t have a problem with the banning of entry anywhere else, just not the mosques.
Please consider using a first come first serve basis for all Muslims to enter their place of worship. Because right now, there isn’t much equality as we foreigners are treated like outcasts compared to the local Muslims.
We are humans too, and we deserve this basic right. Whether in Islam or not, humanity comes first. Please treat us equally.
For more stories like this, read: I’m Muslim And I Drink Alcohol, But I Still Go For Friday Prayers
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