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Islamic Theme Park Fails to Impress

Islamic Theme Park




THE merry-go-round is painted in bright hues of pink, yellow, green and blue; the slides and rides shine in the sun as the little girl contemplates which of the two plastic horses to mount first. Her mother sits by the swing in the near distance, her eye firmly fixed on the pride of five boys and girls frolicking around the sand pit and climbing ropes.

It would appear like any other children’s playground in any other suburban setting, save for the fact that the plastic palm trees are there to lend the place a somewhat exotic, middle-eastern feel: Welcome to the kiddies playground in the Islamic Civilisation theme park, one of the latest innovations bestowed upon the people of the state of Trengganu in Malaysia, as part and parcel of the Malaysian government’s attempt to promote its brand of Islam Hadhari (Civilisational Islam).

Islam Hadhari was the brainchild of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi after he became premier. The banner that hangs in front of the visitor’s complex carries the image of Abdullah, and the slogan: “Thank you for bringing Islamic civilisation to Trengganu.”

Other attractions in the park include model replicas of famous mosques from around the world. As one drives through the main entrance, the first sight to greet visitors is a replica of Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock, save that this model is diminutive in scale and ambition, and the gilded dome gives the uncanny impression that it is made of gold-painted plastic instead. I asked the construction worker how long it would take for the park’s completion, but speaking only Bengali, he could not understand me.

The Crystal Mosque Right at the park’s end stands the so-called “Crystal Mosque” that is meant to be the theme park’s main attraction except that the mosque is not made of crystal. Rather, sheets of glass line its domes and minarets.