CYBERJAYA – The row of white houses for sale looks like any other modern housing development.
But the man behind this particular development has a specific kind of buyer in mind as part of his ambitious plan.
The bunting along the highway approach features an elderly man in a black songkok and a grandmotherly looking woman in a pink tudung.
Then there’s the prominent slogan, “Neighbours Until Jannah” (the Arabic word for paradise).
Welcome to RaudhahVille, named after a garden in paradise, and reputed to be Malaysia’s first gated and guarded Islamic-themed community aiming to attract both non-Muslims and Muslims to live as neighbours under an Islamic code.
Some may think that such a place could further divide Malaysians along race and religion lines, but its CEO, Mohd Fadzil Hashim says that everyone is welcome, non-Muslims included.
“I want to change the misconceptions people have about Islam,” he tells FMT.
He blames many of the false impressions of Islam on skewed media reports and how the faith is portrayed in the West.
“RaudhahVille projects a modern view of Islam,” he says.
This is crucial now at a time when more Malaysians than ever are looking at issues through racial-religious tinted lenses. He cites the current controversy over khat as one such contentious issue.
The father of five says his dream of creating an Islam-based utopian township as an antidote and alternative to “sin city” stemmed from wanting to raise his children as upright Muslims, away from bad influences, so they develop proper habits including praying five times a day.
To help achieve this he has created a code of honour for those who live at RaudhahVille.
Residents are urged to “Love your neighbour, shake hands and give hugs, and avoid negative people. Do not lie or curse.”
He also encourages residents to think positive thoughts, exercise regularly and dress modestly.
“Such values are missing these days,” he says. He hopes like-minded people will become part of the community, regardless of faith.
“I want to go back to the good old days, when neighbours looked out for each other. To promote emotional and spiritual development. I want to create heaven on earth.”
The community centre, which doubles as a surau, is the heart of the neighbourhood. It’s the place where residents can gather to chat and maybe catch a game of football on television. There’s also a library and a Muslim-friendly gym.
Fadzil says non-Muslims should not think that their way of life will be restricted when they choose to live in RaudhahVille. This includes dietary concerns. The township, he said, will not forbid anything that is allowed by law.
“In Islam, there is great emphasis on protecting the rights of the minority,” he insists.
Does this mean dogs are allowed as pets?
“We cannot say we won’t allow dogs, but we will discourage it to prevent any uneasiness among the dog-fearing Malays.”
As to whether non-Muslims should be wary of concepts like RaudhahVille, Fadzil said they should see it as an opportunity to learn more about the other cultures.
“This way they can live in harmony. If Muslims can accept Mission schools, then non-Muslims should be open to an Islamic township.”
RaudhahVille is just one part of an ambitious project with the Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS) to create a township with a gross development value of RM12.3 billion.
The 300 units are priced between RM1.1. million and RM2 million. Half have already been purchased, some by non-Muslims.
Fadzil’s dream of multifaith harmony is daring, given the current religious and racial climate in the country. Some might say it is too optimistic.
As more RaudhahVille homes are sold, it will become clear how many non-Muslims are ready to sign up to be “Neighbours Until Jannah.”