CYBERJAYA, Selangor: The highway leading to Cyberjaya township, which neighours the administrative capital of Putrajaya, is lined with eye-catching banners promoting RaudhahVille, a development that calls itself “the first modern Islamic city in Malaysia”.
With a hashtag of #neighborstilljannah (jannah refers to paradise in Islam), the projects positions itself as an ideal neighbourhood which promotes the positive values of Islam.
“Here, people with like-minded values can live together in harmony,” Raudhah City Group CEO Mohd Fadzil Hashim told CNA.
A RM12.3 billion (US$2.9 billion) project by Raudhah City Sdn Bhd and the Selangor State Development Corporation, RaudhahVille comprises residential units, an international school, a medical centre and commercial lots.
Among others, RaudhahVille will have a “community code of conduct” based on Islamic laws and an Islamic community centre, according to the marketing materials.
The development also encourages an Islamic lifestyle, such as halting daily activities to perform prayers five times a day.
Each Muslim family will have access to a “family ustaz” to ensure that values of Islam would be well practised within the city, Mr Mohd Fadzil said.
“This is just like how every family would have a family doctor or lawyer,” he added.
The developer stressed that home ownership here is not limited only to Muslims. However, non-Muslims are generally expected to respect Islamic values and abstain from consuming non-halal food and beverages in front of Muslims or walking their pet dogs in the parks.
In multiracial Malaysia, Muslims make up about 60 per cent of its population of 32 million. Race and religion are sensitive issues.
The development with an Arabic name has stoked concerns over racial segregation, but the developer has assured that extremists will have no place there.
“We are opening our doors to all who are willing to accept the positive values of Islam.
“RaudhahVille aims at bringing people together, instead of dividing the society,” Mr Mohd Fadzil claimed.
“IF IT’S NOT ALREADY THE LAW, WE WON’T ENFORCE IT”
Upon completion of all four phases in 2031, RaudhahVille is expected to have a population of 10,000 people.
The residential homes – terrace houses, bungalows and apartment units – are priced from RM1.15 million.
The houses, considered to be the second phase of the project, is 80 per cent completed, with residents scheduled to move in at the end of 2020.
On the Islamic concept, Mr Mohd Fadzil said the developer is not introducing laws that are not already enshrined in the Constitution.
“If non-Muslims want to consume alcohol, it is up to them, because by law we cannot stop them from doing that.
“However, we do want to encourage non-Muslims to understand their Muslim neighbours and maybe avoid drinking in front of them,” he said.
The same goes for pet ownership. Although it is not encouraged to keep dogs in the neighbourhood, the developer said it will not impose a no-dog policy on non-Muslim residents.
Similarly, there will not be enforcement forcing Muslim women to cover up.
Non-Muslims can also practise their respective religions in this development.
“Just because it is an Islamic city, it does not mean the non-Muslims cannot continue doing what they do,” he said.
Mr Mohd Fadzil said that the concept of an Islamic city is well-accepted, with paperwork already signed to introduce a similar apartment project in Gombak, Kuala Lumpur, and Ipoh, Perak, by end of the year.
Another development is also set to be built in Penang, he said, adding that his company is looking to expand to 25 cities in the world.
CONVENIENCE AN IMPORTANT FACTOR FOR BUYERS
Mdm Isnaini Elias, 36, who was at the showroom with her family last Saturday (Sep 21), said RaudhahVille appealed to her because she wanted her children to grow up in a good Islamic community.
“When you have children, you will know that it is not just about the home but the community and who your children grow up with.
“Here, considering the implementation of the principles of Islam, I believe they will grow up in a healthy environment practising good cultural values,” said the mother of four.
Mdm Isnaini said she had previously lived in multiracial communities, but felt that having neighbours who understand Islam would be convenient.
“I am not being racist, just being practical.
“For example, if a death happens in my family, I would not be able to explain to my Chinese or Indian neighbours on what is going on and what is going to happen. It would be easier to have Muslim neighbours,” she said.
Echoing her views was entrepreneur Mdm Ema Anuar, who said a township like RaudhahVille would positively impact Muslim children and grant them the opportunity to grow up with like-minded people.
“There will be no room for bad influence or anything like that. The children can still socialise with other races when they are attending classes or going for events outside,” she said.
CONCERNS OVER RACIAL SEGREGATION
Although Raudhah City said the project is open to all, non-Muslims are having reservations.
Graphic designer Mdm Tan Sin Yiew, 44, said she would not live in a place that promotes one particular religion.
“We have been living in mixed communities that have temples, churches and mosques, and although we may have differences, we manage. That is just how Malaysia is.
“Now suddenly you want to build a place and say it’s Islamic, I don’t think many would take the offer no matter how great it is,” she opined.
Mdm Tan, a mother of two, added that when a place is built with one primary religion in mind, there is bound to be discrimination.
Similarly, a security engineer who only wanted to be known as Mr Kumar, 31, said non-Muslims might feel out of place or be judged for the things they do at RaudhahVille.
"Property developers should not characterise a place as Islamic or non-Islamic, as that does not only segregate the buyers but reduce the appeal of the project," he said.
NOT A THREAT TO NATIONAL UNITY: HOUSING MINISTER
Addressing concerns over racial segregation, Mr Mohd Fadzil said the only thing that is Islamic about the development is that Muslims would stop everything to pray five times a day.
“We are building this city based on the two principal values of Islam, peace and love. There is no room here for those who want to preach their ideals of Islam which is not based on the Quran,” he said.
For Muslim buyers who might not be comfortable with living alongside non-Muslims in the neighbourhood, Mr Mohd Fadzil said they are “not welcome here".
“People who are planning to move to RaudhahVille should understand that this development is not limited to just one religion,” he said.
To date, there have been five non-Muslim buyers at RaudhahVille.
When contacted, Malaysian Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said the development will not threaten national unity.
She stressed that the development is aimed at promoting universal values practised by the Muslim community.
“Non-Muslims have purchased property there, so I do not think it would cause any kind of racial segregation as feared by the people.
“In fact, Malaysians are not sensitive with racial issues, they all live united,” she said.