The country's small Chinese Muslim community will finally get what it has long requested - a mosque and, by extension, their own identity. At present, there are no mosques in the country that offer sermons in Chinese. But all that is changing after a reformist cleric accused the Malay-dominated Islamic authorities earlier this week of discrimination against Chinese Muslims. Malacca state, where Chinese Muslims first set foot some six centuries ago, is giving them a plot of land to build a mosque that will cater to their needs. Selangor state, north of Malacca state, also announced this week that it would build a mosque for Chinese Muslims that will offer sermons in Chinese. The plight of Chinese Muslims hit the headlines after Asri Zainul Abidin, a prominent cleric with liberal views, went public, criticising Islamic authorities for neglecting Chinese Muslims. 'It is not fair and it is un-Islamic to ask Chinese to become Malays after they embrace Islam,' Dr Asri told the New Straits Times. 'We can't ask them to abandon their culture, language and identity.' Because Islam is a state matter there are differing views and attitudes towards Chinese Muslims. But it is generally accepted that converts, including Chinese Muslims, have to masuk Melayu or become Malay by adopting the culture and language of the majority Muslim race. 'Many of us have to masuk Melayu after embracing Islam,' said Abdullah Tan, a teacher who embraced Islam 22 years ago. 'Quite often we are immediately ostracised by our families and close friends. Other non-Muslims like co-workers look at us suspiciously,' he said. Chinese Muslims, who form only about 1 per cent of the total Chinese population of 7.6 million people, are mostly descendents of 19th century migrant workers. However travel, student exchange, better understanding and general globalisation are all changing official attitudes, said academic Rosey Wang Ma, a Muslim who specialises in Chinese Muslim studies at the National University of Malaysia. 'There is now no compulsion to masuk Melayu nor is the system excluding Chinese Muslims from having their own mosque and or their own identity. However there is a communication gap between the converts and the authorities,' she said. 'It is probably their grievances were not communicated well.' However, she said, merely having a Chinese-managed mosque is unlikely to solve all the problems Chinese Muslims face. 'There are ethnic, language, income and socio-economic barriers even among Chinese Muslims,' Ms Wang said. 'Some Chinese speak only English, others only their own dialects and even some only Malay,' she said. 'Which language would one use during sermons?'