My first encounter with a Muslim revert was in 1991. One of my college coursemate Sha, a Chinese, was getting married to her Malay boyfriend. We knew that she'd be a Muslim soon, and we never tried to stop her. We respected her decision for it is her life. The only difference was that after embracing Islam, she had a new name. Nobody stopped being her friend, and nobody questioned her for leaving her former religion for a new one. What's important was that she's happy.
"Shhh... she's praying," said Ling when I knocked on the hostel door.
Sha and Ling remained roommates even after Sha's conversion to Islam. Naturally Ling had to make some adjustments. We sat in silence as Sha prayed.
"How do you feel after praying?" we asked Sha.
"Tenang... peace," she replied. "Can't explain it but I realy feel at peace after my solat."
My second encounter was with a Chinese teacher who also married a Malay man. She too was a happy-go-lucky person. Like Sha, she didn't cover her aurat. Muslim women around them simply accept them as they are and have never forced them to do anything they are not ready for. Some gave hints and kind advices but there's no compulsion for them to dress like the born Muslim women. Many other encounters with Chinese Muslim reverts seem to show similar trends. They are often married to Malay men, and most if not all, willingly chose to embrace Islam before their marriage. Strangely enough, these married-to-Malay men reverts are often spared from having to face oppositions from society.
Outsiders who already have a dislike for Islam tend to judge. Point fingers. Accuse that non-Muslim women are being forced to convert into Islam in order to marry their boyfriends. Say that these converts have shown disrespect and disregard for their own religion and culture. Turn one's back on one's family. Give a bad name for one's family. And my answer to all those accusations is, who the heck are you to judge? Have these "moral police" actually gone through what these reverts have undergone and understand their reasons for embracing Islam? Do they watch everything these reverts do and the efforts taken to explain Islam and the Islamic way of living to their non-Muslim family members? Of course not!
It's double standards. Muslim reverts often face obstacles from their own kind/people/race after embracing Islam officially. The fact that they have chosen to live life as they see fit and are happy seems to escape those 'moral police'. While other people convert to Christianity and stop from taking part in Buddhist and Taoist rituals, nobody raised an eyebrow. However if you are a Muslim revert, you are open to such narrow-minded accusations. More so if there's one who dares to write about one's experiences in a blog, like me :P
I can't help laughing each time I receive comments given by reader(s) of this blog, who prefers to hide under the pseudonym of 'Anonymous'. He or she has accused me of being disrespectful, of rejecting my own Chinese culture, and of being an Islamic fanatic :)). I suppose he or she has never joined a Muslim revert family celebrate Chinese New Year to know the difference between culture and religious practices. Well, I pray to Allah The Amighty that he'll be given the opportunity to experience everything himself soon.
My past experiences have revealed that some Christian churches actually forbid the eating of pork, holding the josssticks and bowing at ancestral altars, as well as requiring the boyfriends/girlfriends of their church members to convert to Christianity before allowing their members to marry. My former brother-in-law(ex-husband's brother) actually converted into Christianity in order to marry his young wife. And today he's also unable to take part in Chinese cultural rituals like sending off the gods, worshipping the ancestors, gambling, and having lion dancing in the house because his Christian wife and pastor say it's against the teachings of Jesus Christ. Well how's that? Looks like Islam is not the only religion in Malaysia that forbids ritual and cultural practices that contradicts with its teachings.
p/s: There are a lot of similarities between Islam and Christian teachings i.e no participation in religious rituals but why do some people like to condemn only Islam as the religion that segregates its followers from their non-Muslim families?