At the college library. There were only a few people there.
I was sitting at an empty table when suddenly two Malay guys in their early 20's approached me. Strangers. I didn’t know who they were. One wore a skull cap.
They spoke Malay but I shall translate into English.
“Excuse me, may we sit here?”
“Err, sure,” I continued my work. They took their seats opposite me.
“Can we ask you a question?”
“Why do you wear baju kurung?”
“Because it’s comfortable. I like it.”
“What is your religion?”
“I’m a Christian.” (In 1992, I was)
“And who do you pray to?”
“Why do you pray?”
"How do you pray?"
“What’s your concept of God?”
“Where is your God?”
"Where do you go when you die?"
“How do you go to heaven?”
I mean, hey… I didn’t know those two guys nor their names but there they were, bombarding me with questions. If I had been wiser, I wouldn’t let them sit at the table. My mistake. I knew that they were Malays. Muslims. Perhaps Islam extremists. And I also knew that they were intruding. They were not interested in my religion; they wanted to find fault. While they were asking me about mine, they were not telling me much about theirs. It was a one-way communication and I didn’t enjoy it. My answers didn't seem to satisfy them. They won't leave me alone.
Finally I got up.
“I have to go,” I said.
They stopped talking then and I left the library in a hurry.
“I was approached by two Malay weirdoes. Thank goodness I got rid of them,” I complained to my friend.
I kept looking over my shoulders for the next couple of days, afraid that the two guys would come after me again. They never did.
Was it because of my dressing in baju kurung that I had become their target?
Or was it because they had caught me reading to my friend the Utusan Melayu, published in jawi (Malay script in Arabic form) - which I had mastered in school and is still good at - that they became interested in me?
Was that their way of dakwah to non-Muslims?
I have no answer but I do know that they scared me.
Fast forward to 2006.
At the university.
At a seminar on how to do dakwah in a multiracial society.
The speaker was explaining to the audience.
“Never show your contempt about other people’s religions. You are here to learn about Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity, not to find fault with the religions.”
“Never tell them that their gods are useless and should be thrown aay. It’d just make them angry.”
“Approach them gently and they will be more willing to listen to you.”
“To get people interested in Islam takes time. Don’t give up but don’t be too persistent either.”
“Make use of the opportunity you have to explain about Islam to your friends and strangers. The knowledge you have about other religions and their mistakes will help you to do dakwah to the non-Muslims. But a softer and friendlier approach is always better than a confrontation.”