Saturday, December 15

PLEASE, I’M STILL A CHINESE

“Kak, I’d like you to change my particulars, please..”
“Oh, so you have masuk Islam, congratulations,” said the friendly Malay lady at the counter.
She found my name in the computer and started to key in the new data.
Luckily for me, I had the foresight to peep at her work.
“Oh no, Kak… I’m not a Malay.”
“Huh?? You’re not a Malay?” she frowned.
“I’m still a Chinese.” I told her, signalling to another older friend for help.
“Yes, she’s a Chinese la… she’s just change her religion to Islam. A Chinese Muslim la, dik…” my friend confirmed.
“Oh sorry…I didn’t know, I thought….” the young clerk blushed.
“It’s ok, please do the corrections,” I smiled at her.

At the university I had another close encounter with a young Malaysian Chinese undergraduate who realised I had changed my religion to Islam.
“Oh, so you’re a Malay now!” she said to me, looking me over from head to toe.
“No, I’m not. I’m still a Chinese.” (here we go again)
“But you are a Muslim…??” she sounded puzzled.
My Buddhist Chinese friend who stood nearby, couldn’t help chipping in.
“Haiyah! She’s just change her religion to Islam. Changing religion doesn’t mean you change your race too. She’s still a Chinese like you and me, just different religion laa, pray to different God”, my friend explained loudly and all eyes at the cafe turned towards us.

My own brother, an intelligent man in his late 20s, thought so too. He called me one day and asked if I were eligible to buy some shares which are reserved for bumiputras in Malaysia. I said I didn’t think I could, because I am still a Chinese. I knew what was in his mind; that upon conversion, I would have automatically become a Malay and could buy those shares. Nope I told him, that's not the reason why I embraced Islam.

Well, I’m still a Chinese, and proud to be one. I know the general public in Malaysia are still ignorant and think that embracing Islam means turning one’s back to one’s own culture, and ethnicity. If a university undergraduate can think that way, what can we expect from a person on the street?

It’s just too bad that the general non-Malay Muslim community in Malaysia is not very proactive changing the public’s misconstrued views. Perhaps ending up marrying a native Malay and living within the Malay community here somehow influences one to look, think and behave like a Malay. The general Muslim Malay community too seem to adhere to this concept.
Baju kurung, a loose garment seems to be the accepted attire for Muslim women, so much so that I was expected to don it as a daily wear by some traditionalists. I was even given a kain batik sarong along with the prayer set by the religious authority, and what has a kain sarong to do with one converting to Islam? A tasbih or prayer beads would be a better gift than a kain sarong.

How do I cope more than a year after embracing Islam? Quite good actually. I don’t have a typical Chinese look so I can easily be mistaken as a fair-skinned Malay lady in tudung. I don’t even have a Chinese accent, most common among Chinese-medium school students. The only clue to my ancestry is when I choose to speak in Chinese to my friends and shopkeepers. Initially I would speak in Malay when I shop. Call it unfounded fears but I didn’t want to deal with frowns and dark looks from the non-Muslim Chinese public. Now I longer care. If they don't like me, I can take my money and shop elsewhere. Perhaps time and experience have given me more confidence to deal with the general public, hahahaa.

Well, I still prefer to wear the one-piece jubah than baju kurung, although a jubah is slightly more expensive and comes ready-made. I still ask for a pair of chopsticks (if they are available) when I eat noodles at halal restaurants. Of course, I have to remind myself to always enter food into my mouth using the utensil on right hand, not the left. Also unlike most Malays, I choose to eat with a fork and spoon at public places instead of eating with fingers, because I don’t want my hand to smell of ‘belacan’ or shrimp paste even after washing (I’m actually good at eating with fingers). At home, I try to cook Chinese cuisine whenever I miss Chinese food. And actually, I don’t miss eating pork and all those ‘haram’ stuff because I seldom took them during my ‘kafir days anyway.

Actually being a Muslim doesn’t make me loose my identity as a person. Islam doesn’t dictate that upon converting, one has to adopt the lifestyle of the native Muslims in the area. While I respect the Muslim Malays, I am quite happy to be myself. In fact, I think I have the best of both worlds. I still think and work like a Chinese. Yet I have learnt to adopt the Islamic lifestyle and in doing so, to adapt myself to the Malaysian scenery. Therefore unlike born Muslims here, I am not bound to age-old traditions and school of thoughts that may not truly follow the real Islamic teachings. Ironically, as a mualaf I may even have more freedom to practise the true teachings of the al-Quran and al-Sunnah, compared to my Muslim Malay brothers and sisters. My children, if Allah s.w.t. blesses me with them, will also be known as Muslim Malays although they may have slanted eyes. Nevertheless I hope to educate them to view the world through Islamic perspectives...insyaAllah.

32 comments:

  1. Salam
    apa nak buat. Tak ramai yang rajin membaca untuk tahu bahawa bilangan muslim di china rupa-rupanya lebih ramai dari bilangan melayu-muslim di malaysia. sama juga dengan persepsi semua bangsa arab itu muslim. as if bangsa boleh ditukar sesuka hati melalui dna. this should be writtten in the book of general ignorance :)

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  2. Waalaikumussalam,
    I quote from Prof. Dr. Yusuf al-Qardhawi, " Bukanlah namanya masyarakat Islam jika sebarang bentuk 'asabiyyah mendahului persahabatan dan persaudaraan Islam.

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  3. assalamou alaikum sister,
    next time somebody questions whether you can be chinese and muslim simultaneously, may be you should mention the over 10 million muslims who live in every region in china. the muslim presence in china dates back to the seventh century and the first settlement was led by the prophet's uncle and illustrious companion saad bin abi waqas.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_China
    in deed, no race has a monopoly over islam.

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  4. oh why do people have to think like that, like being muslim is being malay..dont other races have the right to be muslims as well? ngeh..

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  5. assalamualaikum...

    hello aliya...

    nice to find ur blog with further insights on being a mualaf... syukur Alhamdulillah... u may just bridge some bridges...

    wassalam,
    zylia

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  6. salam again aliya... i would like to fwd u a blog i like to read.. he's an american muslim living in sarawak with his perakian wife n 6 kids :)

    http://www.bingregory.com/

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  7. salam,
    a malaysian chinese brother who reverted to islam but is struggling to keep his chinese identity
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-Jiu-yrvrs

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  8. W'salam,
    khany & Zylia,
    Yes, I have met brother Lim Jin Soon before at a dakwah seminar,along with brother Ann Wan Seng of MACMA, and spoken to them personally. They're the first to keep their Chinese names after reverting to Islam. Me, I have my reasons for not following their footsteps. Thanks for informing me about the brothers.

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  9. inspiring blog posts!
    May Allah bless you with the best of faith (eman).
    =)

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  10. slm
    a fren hv a sermon competition wif da title:
    reverting to islam:becoming a malay or a muslim.
    i'm helping her looking for da info's
    i think i found da rite blog^^
    btw,i love da road not taken too!

    p/s : omedeto gozaimas

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  11. W'salam jiya,
    welcome here.. i hope you and your friend find what you need :)

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  12. Salam Aliya,
    << Ironically as a mualaf I may have more freedom to practise the true teaching of Al-Quran and sunnah campare to malay brother n sister>>>

    What actually wrong with the teaching Islam of the Malay currently? No freedom in what sense? Do u really actually know how we teach Islam to our children?

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  13. Waalaikumussalam Lan,
    Yes, I do know what some Muslim families teach their children,because I deal with youngsters every day. What I mean is the passing down of traditions and certain beliefs among Malays [not all, alhamdulillah] that actually contradicts with Islam, such as families insisting on bersanding, menepung tawar, beliefs in tangkal, fear of all sorts of hantu, wearing of tight kebaya as well as bersalaman among muhrim-nonmuhrim relatives during occasions. As I'm not brought up with these Malay traditions, I'm free in a sense that I'm not forced by anyone to obey and follow, and I'm married to a Malay who agrees with my POV too.

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  14. Salam Lan,

    Maybe I can give u some idea of what is happening is most (not saying all) Malay muslims (some is not) in this part of the world today (such as Malaysia).

    Most of the practise in Islam is being hammered into the children without the children knowing why they have to practise it. Sometimes the practise is mixed with tradition so they will not know which one is Islam and which one is Malay culture. Even worse when some of the culture contradicts or disallowed by the religion (Islam). They were forced to practise Islam according to the social path. They have no real freedom to practise the true Islam because they have to follow what their parents tell them even though it is wrong. (Takliq buta).

    For some of us, we have more freedom because we can choose to practise Islam base on the Islamic knowledge that we learn freely without the social ties.

    I hope u understand what I think Sis Aliya is suggesting when she say 'no freedom'.

    Of couse I think we know what is taught to the children, most of us especially teachers will know. I ask my students about Islam from time to time that question.

    I even know that some parents taught their children the wrong idea of Islam. Some teach the basic aqidah, some teach them adab. The question is not what you teach them but how we teach them. If we get the technique right then is the knowledge enough for them? Is the knowledge passed down to our children is really Islam or just culture?

    To know wether we have passed down the right idea and info about Islam is easy. Just ask ourself if we taught our children that da'wah is wajib (same like solat) to all Muslims?

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  15. Another good example is tahlil. During that time people will talqin the dead. This is practise by the Malay Muslim until today. If asked why, they will only answer because my father or grandfather do it so I will also follow. This is takliq buta.

    Do we teach what we know that is Islam or are we teaching the bida'ah?

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  16. Thanks ahong for the elaboration

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  17. ahong, in agama standard school, they teach fiqah, imlak, arab language., khod, read a-quran & so on..after that who want study in hishamudin school will continue the basic agama. So, if you asking certain people, of course they will answer like that? that's malay thinking...dont want to answer more specific & dont want to asking if somebody curious..no wonder.

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  18. salam...

    we are having the same problem sis..people always say that i'm malay.. changing religion doesn't mean that we are changing our race.plez people out there..i'm still iban.

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  19. Waalaikumussalam umangbajik,
    Oh well, it depends on how other people think. It's more frustrating when dealing with civil servants who'd automatically label a Muslim revert as Malay. It doesn't help if you look like a Malay too

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  20. Salam sis aliya.. how are you? Thanks for your comments and respond. Sis, how to encounter with people who always look down at us especially when it comes to our knowledge in Islam?

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  21. Waalaikumussalam umangbajik,
    Just ignore them and their negativeness. We can't change people but we can change ourselves. As reverts,we should always be glad that Allah swt chose us to be His ummah, and to always strive to be better Muslims/Muslimahs in our own knowledge, akhlak and amal till the end of our earthly lives. Feel sorry for those who are lucky to be born Muslims but 'serupa tin kosong', they're missing out on the true meaning of life.

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  22. Salam. I have always had great respect for those who found Islam; they searched for the truth & with the Grace of Allah SWT... they found what they were looking for, alhamdulillah. Islam is universal... for all of mankind, irrespective of ethnicity (Arab vs non-Arab; and all the non-Arabs vs each other etc etc..) - Masbah Omar

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  23. Waalaikumussalam Masbah,
    Indeed, Islam is universal.. as we can witness each year during the haj at Makkah and Madinah. Islam brotherhood and sisterhood is irrespective of age, ethnicity and languages spoken.

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  24. dear mrs aliya. here i got friend chineease muslim. he still ragu-ragu with islam. he was islam when he still kid when his father married his stepmother a malay woman. although he know islam well but his atmosfera or a way family that still look chineese buddha. as not pray.. and also got tokong in his house (only his sisters buddha). he said i not understand his feeling as mualaf. he talk to chineness friend that he just pretend to be islam but on muslim friend he said he pray. alhamdullilah he sincere to me for story it but i cant membebel to him or giving lect as ustazah. i dont know what to do.

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  25. Dear Mrs. Fawa,
    It's indeed sad when such things happen. Your friend is not to blamed for this unfortunate situation. You may try inviting him to join you in friendly Islamic gatherings like perjumpaan, jamuan,dialog etc so that he gets more chances to befriend kind and true Muslims.Don't give up if he turns you down the first few times. Sometimes a soft approach works better when he doesn't feel pressured or judged by other Muslims. Of course, pray for him that Allah helps to give him hidayah to live the true Islamic way.

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  26. "Just ignore them and their negativeness. We can't change people but we can change ourselves. As reverts,we should always be glad that Allah swt chose us to be His ummah, and to always strive to be better Muslims/Muslimahs in our own knowledge, akhlak and amal till the end of our earthly lives. Feel sorry for those who are lucky to be born Muslims but 'serupa tin kosong', they're missing out on the true meaning of life."

    I second ukhti Aliya's opinion! well said! shukran for sharing!

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  27. salam,saya sebagai melayu islam berasa bertuah dapat baca pandangan mereka yang bukan melayu yang beragama islam. semoga allah sentiasa memberi petunjuk kepada kita semua. setelah kajian dijalankan saya dapati masalah utama masyarakat melayu islam di Malaysia ialah mereka TIDAK MEMAHAMI isi kandungan Al-quran dengan sebenar. benarlah firman ALLAH: "diantara mereka itu ada orang yang ummi (buta huruf), tiada mengetahui Kitab selain perkara yang bohong2 dan mereka tiada lain hanya menduga-duga sahaj" (QS 2:78)

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  28. Haiyah! She’s just change her religion to Islam. Changing religion doesn’t mean you change your race too. She’s still a Chinese like you and me, just different religion laa, "pray to different God".

    untuk kenyataan pray to different God ini maka saya nyatakan apa yang terdapat didalam QURAN:
    Firman Allah: "Kami percaya kepada (Kitab) yang diturunkan kepada kami dan yang diturunkan kepadamu, sedang Tuhan kami dan Tuhan kamu hanya satu, dan kami patuh kepadaNya" (QS 29:46)
    sesungguhnya Allah itu tuhan saya, tuhan orang2 yg beriman dan tuhan kamu org2 kafir (walau kamu mensyirikkanNya)"sekiranya ada beberapa Tuhan dilangit dan bumi selain ALLAH, nescaya binasalah keduanya (langit dan bumi) Maha Suci Allah Tuhan (yg mmiliki) arsy, dari apa2 yang mereka sifatkan" (QS 21:22). perlu kita sebagai orang Islam mengatakan kepada orang2 kafir itu bahawa Tuhan mereka juga adalah Allah yang menciptakan langit dan bumi.

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  29. Salam Aliya,

    i stumbled upon your blog while doing a research. thank you for pointing it outright. i am learning about this wonderful religion at the moment and also looking for misconceptions to defunct. this is so that i can explain to my friends and family if they have questions towards my choice to embrance Islam (soon).

    To Saudara Mfadly, most non-muslims will see it as "different God". mereka tidak pernah tahu apa kandungan Quran, apa yg mereka tahu ialah cara sembahyang berbeza, nama tuhan berbeza, etc, maka dipanggil "different God". pls do not prejudice against the non-muslim. the muslims have the responsibility to show, share and teach to the non-muslim.

    regards,
    denise

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  30. Waalaikum denise,
    Welcome here :)
    Be free to write in the comment column if you have anything to say.
    Thanks for explaining to Mfadly as I've missed his comment. True, nonMuslims see Allah as a different God because that's how they understand it.

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  31. exactly!! I really don't like it when the documents printed I'm a Malay. Religion & race are 2 different things, I really hope Malaysians open their eyes on this. I'm pissed off when the pendaftaran change my race as they wish.

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  32. Salaam Aliyah,

    Tell me about it! I am a Muslim from Sabah and I live in Shah Alam. To Indians and Chinese I am a Malay, although I'm not. Of course I have the looks of a south east asian, but I am not a Malay even though I am a Muslim. To Malays, most of them think that I am a Christian (even in my native place, the locals think that I am not a Muslim). So basically, being a Muslim doesn't mean that one needs to posses a particular looks or belongs to a particular race. Well, it is a common stereotype that most of the people have.

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