Monday, January 11


Jeeez, Chinese New Year is a month away and I haven't prepared anything. Blame it on my pregnancy [good excuse to be lazy :P] and the new school year. Usually by this time [before I became a Muslim], I would had done spring cleaning at home. Oh well, there's still 4 weeks to go, hehehe.

I was at the market last weekend when I saw some gingko nuts for sale. A 'must' dessert for my family during the festive season. So I went over to the Chinese stall to have a look.
"Hello, these are good for health," said a Chinese lady in Malay language. Must be the seller.
"100 gram kui lui [How much for 100 gramme?]" I asked in local Hokkien dialect.
She didn't even bat an eyelid or shrank in horror.
"60 sen," she replied after a quick mental calculation. "You want?"
"I'll come back later," I answered and thanked her. Need to compare with the supermarket price.

Shopping is always fun when I enter Chinese stalls especially for my supply of traditional herbs and fresh flowers. I've learned long ago never to give them any chance to ask questions regarding my reversion to Islam. Usually they won't ask anyway, but you'd never know when you might come across a kei-po-chi [busybody]. So it's strictly business. Enter, ask for whatever I need in Hokkien dialect, try to bargain, buy or leave.

First-timers might be surprised to hear me ask questions in the local Chinese dialect but being business-savvy, they recover very quickly. Reply will be quick and naturally-spoken. I suppose they see a hijab-clad lady as just another customer, although they might find it awkward to talk Chinese to me in my hijab. [same way, I'd find it awkward to speak Malay to a Chinese, hehehe]. When I first reverted, I hesitated to speak to Chinese sellers in the local dialect, fearing negative reactions but now I don't really care. It's all about being confident actually, to speak in my own Hokkien dialect with other Chinese. [I'm Cantonese but due to being brought up in Hokkien-speaking community, I'm more fluent in this dialect].

Same goes for my dealings with other Chinese. My former Chinese neighbours have gotten used to me as a Chinese Muslim in hijab, so we always communicate in local Hokkien dialect. To do that comfortably, I know that they'd need to see me as a Chinese and not as a Malay. It's challenging for them too in a way, as they need to break the stereotype thinking that all hijab-clad women are Malays [just imagine suddenly talking to your Malay-speaking grandmother in English for 10 minutes to understand what I mean] Till today, they had never asked my why I had chosen to revert to Islam. Chinese are very private people, and unlike most Malays, they won't ask personal questions unless they know you very well.

An advantage of being a Chinese Muslim is that when I deal with Chinese sellers, it's usually easier to bargain with them. They can't communicate with their assistants secretly as I understand their languages, so usually I'd get a reasonable/lower price for goods. And sometimes the naughty me upon entering a new stall would choose to be a "Ho-nah cha-boh" [Malay woman] to listen in to their talk as they discuss how much they're going to charge me for an item. After that and only after that, would I reveal my true identity by speaking in Chinese. You should have seen their faces, hahahaaa! [usually to cover their embarrassment of being found out about their different prices, I'd get a good bargain :P]


  1. It's great you are adjusting to your Muslim life. But you are a Malay. By the Malaysian Law & Constitution, you are define as Malay. Why not just be proud of that? I do not understand why you still hold on to your Chinese roots. Your child will be Malay right? Even though he is genetically 75% Chinese? So why keep writing you are proud to be Chinese? Weird.

  2. Assalamualaikum Said,
    I am never a Malay, not even in my identity card with my new Islamic name am I registered as a Malay by the Jab.Pendaftaran Negara.
    MyKad states Bangsa : Cina, Agama: Islam.
    The Malaysian law states that one needs to apply to be a Malay; it's not automatically given upon reversion to Islam :)
    That's how many Malays here are still stuck with the old thinking - there's no such thing as "masuk Islam=masuk Melayu" :)
    Anyway, I don't see the reason why I have to change my race from Chinese to Malay when I become a Muslim. Rasulullah didn't ask of it. The al-Quran doesn't order new Muslims to change their race when they embrace Islam. I'm raised as a Chinese and despite what my religion is now, I'll still die as a Chinese Muslim. If you're proud of your Malay roots and culture, so am I of my Chinese roots and culture. And I'm equally proud of my husband's Malay culture.
    A child follows the father's nisab so by law he/she'll be registered as a Malay, by religion as a Muslim. And it's be a more enriching experience for my children to know both Malay and Chinese languages and culture, something not all Muslim children get to experience and inherit :)

  3. thats a good one!!! i truly enjoy reading it. thanks :)

  4. A race is still determine by the father so in Kak Aliya case she is still a Chinese but Muslim when she decIdes to embrace Islam. The question posed should not even be brought up in the first place. Therefore another same eg would be would u call a Japanese Born who becomes a Muslim; Malay if she had not even marry any Malay guys?

  5. Salam,

    Its funny to see people trying to define Malay. The funniest definition can be found in Malaysia's constitution.

    So according to 'the human made law', we can apply to change our race? Hahahahahahahah.... Thats fo funny (I am actually laughing loudly).

    Lets look at what a Chinese would normally brand a Malay:

    1. Slow
    2. Lazy
    3. Back biters
    4. No knowledge
    5. Too dependent on goverment
    6. Stupid
    7. Wasting time

    There are a lot more, this is however how normal Chinese people would brand the Malays. If I ask 10 of my non-muslim Chinese friends, this would be the answer coming out from their mouth. They will always relate the Malay race with Islam and Islam will look like a backward religion (should use the word deen here).

    Knowing this I doubt any reverts would like to apply to be a Malay. Come on guys for the sake of Allah, lets change out life and follow the Deen only.

  6. Except maybe for those who would like the benefits from becoming a Malay. Discounts on buying house, car, business opportunity etc.

  7. Edz Lee,
    It's quite sad really, that till today, despite having Islamic NGO eg MACMA, some people [I'm not saying Malays only]still believe that new Muslim reverts automatically become Malays and get the bumiputra status. It might be true 30-40 years ago but nowadays JPN is more alert [or should be].
    Perhaps they think that 'cause I'm married to a Malay man,I'd be a Malay, hahaha. In fact, despite my family name 'Yeoh' in my name, the nurse recorded in Buku Rekod Ibu Mengandung, Bangsa: Melayu (Cina).
    So sometimes I'm a Malay in some of the medical documents, sometimes a Chinese, hehehe..

  8. Waalaikumussalam ahong,
    Yes, it's true that some people revert to Islam just for the special privileges, which is actually a shame really.And usually such people, the opportunists, remove their family/given name from their new identity card, so that no trace of their old identity remains. Usually they manage to get their Malay status. This is one act which I don't approve at all.
    Let's get away fom stereotype thinking and general labelling 'cause continuing to think that way[the list of characteristics which aren't all true]will just create disharmony. I've read a long poem by usman awang about the negative ways of the malays, something if I post here will have many sensitive malays after me, hahahaa.
    Actually, I believe the Malays have many good qualities not found among Chinese, like creativity, patience, tolerance, bravery..don't you agree?

  9. Seriously, I find it very amusing to discover a 'dinasour-age' statement on the very first comment here. It's rather unbelievable that there's still such perception here, although I have a feeling he's testing your reaction with his naive comment.

    Throughout my experience since first day, most Malay Muslims I've meet (upon learning about my reversion) were quick to emphasize first to me about 'masuk Melayu' myth, even before I could mention that first.

    Thinking from Malaysia constitution side, ever wonder how should we define Malays in pre-Islam era? S.E. Asian Indians? lol haha

    Aside, I think that Chinese lady wants to be in safe side, as obviously most Chinese Muslims here understands Malay, but rarely the other way round. Plus, it's not difficult to distinguish between Chinese and Malays despite in Hijab, right? (correct me if i'm wrong in this) ^_^"

    Nevertheless, admittedly I remember my heart beating fast in surprise when I saw a Malay lady conversing with a Chinese shopkeeper in Cantonese. :P

  10. Kak Aliya,

    I think u r too nice for me..i am more upfront.

    I did asked those who gave me that kind of question too in Singapore..i asked them if they really did learn English Language in Singapore...


    you can imagine their face when i put that insult up :P (a bit naughty but too bad)

    anyway...will you call those people who are Muslims in Japan - Malay or In China - Malay or in Vietnam Malay?

    It's sad right?

    when i learnt of your administrative issues in medical records..i wonder if your government is recording the correct number of Malays Versus Other races :P For all you know..they might have changed the cina to melayu status.

  11. Salam Ray,
    Well, I've lived long enough, and deal with naughty teenagers well enough, to know that there are some people who'd never change so why bother too much about them?
    The ethnicity of Muslim ladies can be hard to identify when we're in hijabs. I've been asked if I were from Sabah many times, as I don't really look very Chinese-y and I don't speak Malay like a real Malay either. Anyway I'm always speechless when my fair Muslim Chinese hijab-wearing mom-in-law speaks fluent Tamil with her Indian neighbours :P

  12. Salam Edz Lee,
    I've learnt to guard my sharp tongue, hehehe. Besides it's pointless getting angry over a stranger's comment.
    Being a civil worker myself, I'm no longer bothered about what they label me [Chinese/ Malay] as long as they do their job properly. it's tiring to continue pinpointing at their 'silly' error.