Press Statements

Penang’s Deviation From Agreed LRT Alignment Contravenes Religious Liberty

Masjid Jamek Sungai Nibong Besar, built circa 1880, is among the oldest mosques in Penang and a historical symbol for the Muslim community in that heavily industrialised northern state. The mosque is located at the edge of Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah in Bayan Lepas which is one of the main routes used by the public within the city. The mosque is close to the Kompleks Medan Suri MPPP, Terminal Hentian Bas Ekspres Sungai Nibong and Tapak Pesta MPPP Sungai Nibong, which makes it a focal point for members of the public who stopover to do their daily prayers.

Due to its location near the Bayan Lepas Industrial Zone, this centre of worship is the stopover of choice for government and private sector employees to perform prayers especially on Friday. Additionally, the mosque’s position next to the Sungai Nibong Besar Muslim burial ground also makes it an important institution for the community especially for the residents in Sungai Nibong Besar, covering the areas of Bukit Kecil, Sungai Nibong Tengah, Jerjak Beach and its bordering areas.

With its central location and long and illustrious history to boot, it is no wonder than that in 2011 the mosque committee was considering a proposal to enlarge the same to accommodate an increasing number of worshippers. After having obtained the necessary approval from the relevant authorities in 2012, committee members were then confronted with the desire of the Penang State Government backed SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd to build an LRT line in front of the mosque in 2015.

This was naturally opposed by the committee of the mosque backed by local residents and supported by the Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the UPR Process (MACSA) as a blatant attack on the religious freedom of the Muslim community of Bayan Lepas. This decision violates Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution on freedom to practise religion, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 10 of the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam and Article 22 of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.

Further, Article 6(a) of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief stipulates that the right to religion shall include, among others, the right to worship or assemble in connection with a religion, and to establish and maintain places for these purposes.

In the face of this opposition an agreement was made between the mosque’s construction committee and SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd in 2016 whereby the latter proposed and the former accepted that the LRT line would be built at the back of the historic mosque and its surrounding compound, and not in front of the same. This was subsequently breached by SRS Consortium when the construction committee was earlier this year informed by them that construction of the LRT line would proceed in front of the mosque without any justification given for this change.

MACSA continues to support the right of the Muslim community in Bayan Lepas in particular and within Penang in general to maintain and enlarge Masjid Jamek Sungai Nibong Besar in accordance with their fundamental right to freedom of religion and worship as recognised by the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and various international human rights instruments pertaining to religious liberty. MACSA also condemns the breach of the agreement as being against the above mentioned rights, and cautions SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd and the Penang State Government against wilful violation of such freedoms.

MACSA believes that due to the mosque’s important standing to the local community, constructing the LRT line directly in front of the mosque would affect daily congregation activities for potentially thousands of Muslim community members especially on Friday that have come to rely on the mosque for their worship. Further, due to its historical significance, it is crucial that the reconstruction of the mosque should take into account the aesthetic value attached thereto signifying its importance to the Muslim community of Penang and ultimately Penang history. The construction of an LRT line in front of the mosque would destroy the aesthetics thereof and eventually undermine its important standing.

MACSA notes that as the mosque accommodates many worshippers daily, an elevated LRT line built directly in front of the mosque would definitely pose a safety risk for daily worshippers after its completion and there will be noise pollution resulting therefrom that will be faced by the community before its completion will further diminish the standing of the mosque to the community and public commuters.

MACSA calls upon all Malaysians to join with it and residents of Bayan Lepas in Penang to oppose the construction of the LRT line in front of Masjid Jamek Sungai Nibong Besar and apply pressure on the Penang State Government and SRS Consortium to abide by their agreement with the mosque committee and honour the agreed alignment of the LRT line made in 2016. MACSA also calls for legal and political action in support of the mosque in countenance of the threat to religious liberty resulting from this breach of agreement by the Penang State Government and SRS Consortium.



Azril Mohd Amin, Chief Executive, CENTHRA and Chairperson, MACSA or the Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Process.

Associate Professor Dr. Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar, President of The International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (WAFIQ) and Co-Chairperson, MACSA.

The Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Process (MACSA) is a coalition of civil society organisations with the specific aim and object to look into, as well as advocate, human rights issues in Malaysia for the UPR Process.


*Also published in New Straits Times.

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