PENANG: A campaign should be launched to revitalise Lebuh Acheh as Serambi Mekah (Gateway to Mecca) to conserve Muslim heritage and culture in the state, said Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Academy of Social Sciences director-general Prof Wazir Jahan Karim.
She said brochures on the project concept, which included artists impressions of Serambi Mekah with historic photographs to evoke memories of a thriving bustling centre, should be distributed extensively nationwide.
Conceptualising and revitalising Serambi Mekah would be a progressive move towards efforts by Penang to be included in the World Heritage Listing, she said at the Shared Histories Conference organised by the Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) and sponsored by the South-East Asian Studies Regional Exchange Programme.
Prof Wazir said the Lebuh Acheh enclave was known as the gateway to Mecca during the old days as pilgrims used to gather there before boarding ships to the holy land to perform the Haj.
Penang should lead the way by recreating this concept, she said, adding that the model could be used by other states to express the plural culture of Muslims where different ethnic groups meet to uphold the sanctity of Islam.
The campaign would be a triumph for the local government, with the assistance of multi-ethnic organisations and individuals united in a mission of patriotism, she said, adding the campaign could be dubbed For You Malaysia and For Our Penang.
According to her, attractions at the enclave could include a Muslim school and college as proposed by Badan Warisan Malaysia, a museum on the Haj as proposed by the Museums and Antiquities Department, and shops selling Islamic books, art works and craft, printing centres and eateries serving halal food.
The consulting bodies for the campaign could include the state Islamic Religious Council, PHT, USM, the Museums and Antiquities Department, Persatuan Warisan Melayu Pulau Pinang, the Prime Minister Department and other organisations committed to the conservation of Muslim heritage and culture, she said.