A Chinese New Year celebration organised by and held at Masjid Yusof Ishak on Saturday (24 Feb) has drawn flak from some netizens.

According to the Malay daily, almost 100 residents from three elderly nursing homes (Swami Home, SunLove and Orange Valley) were treated to a special luncheon and song and dance performances at the mosque, located at 10 Woodlands Drive 17. These residents were gifted an ‘hongbao’ and two oranges each, at the celebration.

The mosque chairman, Encik Mohammad Ayub Johari, said that such shows strengthen the friendship between Singaporeans and said: “This is a fortune to our country because of the mutual understanding, unity and cooperation and respect for each other from all walks of Singapore.”

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung graced the event, accompanied by fellow Sembawang GRC MP Vikram Nair. Calling the event a “special” one that reflects the spirit of Singapore’s first president Yusok Ishak, Ong said: “The response shows Mr Yusof Ishak’s spirit that we are a Singapore, we live together in harmony as a nation and we always provide assistance to the less fortunate.”

Nair noted that mosque staff were also invited to Chinese New Year celebrations at a monastery and that such interactions increase the understanding between the different races in Singapore: “A monastery has also invited the mosque staff and in good spirits, they attend the Chinese New Year celebration there. So I think that such a process can not only encourage engagement but also increase understanding.”

Some netizens, however, expressed a different view.

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Bloggers at The Rojak Nation questioned whether it is necessary to hold Chinese New Year celebrations at a mosque and why such celebrations could not have been held at a Community Centre instead:

“Yesterday, Masjid Yusof Ishyak showcased a CNY celebration on its premise. Complete with a band, song and dance and graced by a Chinese minister.
“We have no issues with Muslims celebrating CNY. It is a cultural event and we have many Chinese Muslims who celebrate their CNY with their families.
“But do we have to go to the extend of organising a song and dance in a mosque, a sacred religious space for worship, the house of God?
“Before you misunderstand, we fully acknowledge that the race and religious harmony which we currently enjoy is precious and we should do all we can to maintain it.. But surely the mosque deserves some decorum , no?”

Other netizens agreed that the event could have been held elsewhere and asked whether Muslim religious council, MUIS, was aware of this:

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The mosque has since responded and acknowledged the reactions to the event that have been circulating online. It clarified:

“For the sake of the ceremony, we have invited the orchestra of the Malay Series of the youth and singing the original malay song in accordance with the audience of the elderly home.
“Solar TV news in 24/2/18 reports a dance event that causes a misunderstanding among the people. There was no dance. At the ceremony, juruacara from the philharmonic temasik series of English and Mandarin, want to show the softness of the malay dance according to the songs that are sung. So he asks the audience to follow the steps of dance that he shows in order to taste the beauty and the softness of the Malay Dance.”

It further said that the impromptu dance was caused by an oversight by the organising committee and apologisedfor the distress caused to the congregation:

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