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Ideas: The Masjid Negara Story

Edward Ong is on a quest to discover and create Malaysia’s best ideas. He is an award-winning Writer and Creative Director and can be found at

In MARKETING’s mid-March 2018 issue, Edward Ong wrote on how Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman brought on the concept of crowdfunding in 1965 itself.

Crowdfunding is all the rage now, especially if you need some cash to pay a hefty fine for drawing less than complimentary caricatures. There was a time though when crowdfunding brought the nation together – in the spirit of harmony, inclusiveness, and mutual respect. Turn the clock back to June 1957.

While the country was looking forward to Merdeka Day, the Federal Executive Council (precursor to the Federal Cabinet) approved the construction of a national mosque. A 13-acre site was identified, and a 3-person architect team appointed to undertake the design. They consulted religious leaders and other experts, and visited several countries to get ideas. In late 1960, the team presented their design to popular acclaim and wide acceptance.

All in, the mosque costs about RM10mil to build. However, the Federal Government could only allocate RM4.5mil. Various state governments gave RM2.5mil, and Brunei wrote a cheque for RM250k. But it wasn’t enough. The work still needed an additional RM3mil.

Have you ever asked yourself, ‘Why was Malaysia created?’ Just like every part of our body has a role to play, what is Malaysia’s role amongst the nations of the earth? For what purpose was she formed in 1963? Present reality aside, I believe we were established to show the world what a united and harmonious nation can achieve.

Just look at our national symbols. The motto on our national crest (adopted 1963) says, ‘Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu’. Our national flower is the Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis. It’s not native to our land – according to Muzium Negara, the flower originated from China and was brought to our shores by traders in the 12th century. Sinensis means ‘Chinese’ and is colloquially known as ‘China rose’.

All these were decided by Tunku and other leaders during that time. Given the scenario, it wasn’t difficult for our first Prime Minister to figure out how to raise an additional RM3mil.

He didn’t approach the World Bank, or wait for Kickstarter to be invented. Instead, he went down to the kebuns, kopitiams, and pasar malams and approached the rakyat. Inadvertently, he created probably Malaysia’s first large-scale crowdfunding exercise.

Money poured in from people everywhere. From students studying overseas. From farmers, contractors and businesspeople. From the police and army, aunties and uncles and more.

On 27 June 1965, Masjid Negara was officially opened by the then-Agong. People from all faiths came by the thousands to visit and celebrate its completion.

Since no shoes were allowed inside, everybody had to leave theirs at the door – it was reported that over 16,000 footwear were left unattended.
No matter. This was a day unlike any other in our nation’s history. According to an old mosque brochure, the building was ‘designed by a Malay, constructed by Chinese and Indians, and financed by Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims’.

Today, Masjid Negara is many things to many people. It’s a place of worship. A tourist attraction. A national heritage. A symbol of our country’s multiracial harmony. A reminder that we can make great ideas happen when we work together. As one people.

As Malaysians.

Found the story interesting? Read our entire magazine here!

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