Factors influencing use of urban mosque open spaces in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
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Nizarudin, Norhanis Diyana
Mosques are established as physical manifestations of Islam and its cultural identity in every settlement in Malaysia, including in urban areas. The original concept of the mosque suggests that its use as a community place should be all-encompassing, not only for Muslims, but also to inspire the involvement of other community members. In spite of far-reaching studies conducted on the importance of mosque architecture, historical background and functions, very little attention has been paid to the utilisation, functions and importance of mosque open spaces to the multicultural community. This study aims to explore the spatial and sociocultural factors of urban mosque open spaces in order to determine the extent to which intercultural space exists within them. The study focuses on three urban mosques at the national, district and sub-district levels in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Guided by theory of place and the concepts of affordance and social affordance, this study employs a mixed method strategy with a cross-sectional design. It comprises both quantitative – systematic observation with behaviour mapping at selected urban mosques – and qualitative – focus group discussions with mosque managers and multicultural users – methods, as well as findings with regard to the use of mosque open spaces that were derived from social media sources such as Facebook and blogs. The findings show that more multicultural users utilise the National Mosque open spaces in comparison to those at district and sub-district mosques. Patterns were identified in the spatial occupancies based on gender, age group, ethnicity and activities at all of the urban mosque open spaces studied. People‟s identification of their favourite open spaces and preference for outdoor activities, as well as the current condition and design of the mosque open spaces, influences the utilisation of urban mosque open spaces by multicultural users. Both opportunities and challenges may arise in relation to multicultural use in the form of public friendliness, accessibility, community sensitivity and mosque etiquette. This study highlights several factors that encourage better intercultural interaction at mosque open spaces: good social activities; the good design, facilities and accessibility of mosque open spaces; proper promotion, publicity and education; and social acceptance among community members.