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. Malaysia Conference Considers How To Practice Islam In Space

The four Malaysian candidates competing for their place in space. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) Apr 20, 2006
How do Muslim astronauts pray in space? Malaysia's National Space Agency is holding a conference to consider such questions as the country prepares to send its first citizen into orbit.

A nationwide competition in the majority-Muslim country has narrowed the field to four astronaut candidates, three of whom are Muslims.

Two will eventually be trained and sent into space by Russia, and Malaysia's space agency -- or Angkasa -- said it had been scratching its head over how Muslim rituals could be carried out properly.

Performing ablutions for Muslim prayers with water rationing in space and preparing food according to Islamic standards will be among issues discussed, said Angkasa's director-general, Mazlan Othman.

"So far, Angkasa has not discussed these matters with Russia because the candidates have not been decided and the needs of Malaysian astronauts have not been determined," Mazlan was quoted as saying by the state Bernama news agency.

"We have to make preparations to discuss with Russia when the time comes," she added.

The astronaut will also visit the International Space Station, which circles the earth 16 times in 24 hours, so another thorny question is how to pray five times a day as required by Islam, she said.

Muslims also have to turn towards Mecca to pray and working out which direction that will be while hovering above the earth might also be challenging.

The two-day Islam and Life in Space seminar will begin next Tuesday and brings together 150 scientists, astronauts, religious scholars and academics.

An offical from the Malaysian Astronomy and Islamic Law Association said the gathering would be the first time the Islamic world mulled life in space.

The agreement to send the Malaysians aboard Russian spacecraft was part of a billion-dollar deal in which Russia will sell Malaysia 18 Sukhoi 30-MKM fighter jets.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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