We in Brunei Darussalam attach utmost importance to mosques, making them the most frequented institution in the country, after the home and workplace.
In addition to the religious and spiritual areas of our lives, these mosques could also be utilised to provide guidance toward social and economic excellence for the benefit of the community.
With more than 120 mosques nationwide, it is only appropriate that relevant authorities steer these mosques toward their full potential in the betterment of lives of the society at large, in particular the younger generation.
For example, when a member of the public walks into any mosque in Brunei Darussalam, he or she is likely to see the relatively large number of air conditioning units put into operation, regardless of the size of the congregation.
One is likely to feel the cold in many, if not all mosques in the country, especially at dawn and evening prayer times.
In fact, many congregants could be seen donning jackets during these times, to keep them warm.
Be it the temperature setting or number of the air conditioning units left in operation overnight or over the day, surely this old age practice is no longer unacceptable in these challenging times.
One wonders if this energy and money wasting habit happens when the mosques are not obliged to pay for the energy consumption, to cool and light their buildings and surroundings.
Even if the net income to the government agency from charging the power consumed by these mosques may not be significantly high to spur immediate campaigns, let us not forget the amount of precious energy burnt and the resultant environmental emissions that would in the longer run affect future generations.
As a food for thought, I suggest the relevant agencies acts by say, giving only monthly free electricity quota corresponding to maintaining reasonable level of comfort inside the mosques, beyond which charges are payable.
In effect, I could then see these mosques taking a lead to excel, by inculcating the idea of energy and thus our natural resource conservation.
One other area the government authority could consider is to help increase sustainability of the mosques over the long run and at the same time inculcate social-economic development of their surrounding community.
While many of the mosques in Brunei Darussalam have enough funds from donations by their congregants, not all those serving the out of town communities are so fortunate.
This is where the relevant authorities could look to other countries that allow their mosques generate additional funds for their sustenance and at the same time create livelihood support programmes for the jobless young members of their congregation.
There are many examples of income generating assets owned by mosques in those countries, ranging from after Friday prayers and Sunday smallholder food stalls, tuition schools and even kidney dialysis centres.