Wednesday, January 30


"Su, why is Lina absent? "
"She's not feeling well la.."
"Oh, fever again?"
"No.. she couldn't sleep well since last week. She's too scared to sleep well."
"Scared? Scared of what?"
"Haven't you heard? Our place has been attacked by the Orang Minyak."
"What??!! You are kidding!"
"Ehh.. no la. There's been stories... Many girls have been 'you-know'.."
"So what are you girls doing to protect yourself?"
"Read the Quran at night la.. what to do."

I asked around. True enough, everywhere I go, there are rumours about the so-called Orang Minyak or Petroleum Man. Apparently, a man who's studying black magic needs to rape 40 virgins in order to gain invinsibility or whatever spells. And guess what, everyone will point to the mystery attacker as a Malay man. Why? Because traditionally this black magic is learnt by the people of Malay origin. And yes, too bad that Malays are also generally known to be Muslims. Don't know la if in this modern age, the Malaysia Boleh ideology has made the Indians and Chinese men interested to learn this black magic spell too. Anyway, rumours have it that this 'sticky oily black petroleum man' is invisible if he wants to and can penetrate walls (heck, he's better than David Copperfield the illusionist) which helps him to achieve his goal of 40 virgins. So the panic has already begun last week among the young ladies when news of the attacks surfaced. Apparently, the local Chinese-medium newspaper has run a report on it. I'm not sure what's going on because I am not a permanent hostel resident.

"Have you seen the 'orang minyak?"
"Aliya, I pray I don't have the chance to," replied an Indian friend.
"So what do you do to stop that 'orang minyak' from attacking?"
"Pray a lot la..what to do," replied the Muslim girls.
"I'm hoping for the best la.. but I'd be lying if I say I'm not scared."
"You shouldn't be scared, you should be angry. Anger will help you to fight back. That creature is disturbing you. Don't allow him to create havoc in your life," I advised another friend.
"You should recite whatever prayers in your own religious teachings before you sleep, " I told
my Chinese friends.
"Why are you scared? Don't you have your Hindu god with you in your hostel room? That should give you enough protection," I tried to comfort a panicky Indian friend.

"Then you should keep a lighter with you la.. burn him if he comes near you. After all he's covered with oil."
"Yeah, and I heard that a yellow bamboo stick will make him weak if you hit him with it. So always have a stick with you. Just whack hard between the legs."
"Aiyah... no need so scared la. Just hang your soiled undergarments high above the door before you sleep. If he passes underneath, he'd be soii (unlucky) for seven years.. just remember to take it down every morning mahh."
"Lucky thing I'm married... maybe I should put a notice at the door so he'd leave me in peace - Married and Unavailable. Ooh no, that's MAU (want).. the undergarments seems a better option. I don't think he can read anyway."

Anyway, all sorts of preventive remedies have been suggested to prevent from getting raped by this orang minyak:
1. wear pyjamas inside-out ( to prevent from being hypnotised or a new unappealing fashion?)
2. put the broom at the door (to sweep him away?)
3. keep a yellow bamboo stick in the room ( to scare him or hit him?)
4. put a surah yassin book beneath the pillow when you sleep (can or not ustazah?)
5. scatter the ‘keladi’ leaves and ‘kelopak jantung pisang’ on the floor ( too slippery for him to walk?)

I mean, this is 21st century. And besides, believing all these 'remedies' instead of Allah's power can make one syirik. Does the orang minyak' really exist or is it just a human being disguising as one to scare the victims into silence? My vote goes to the latter. Yet the panic that this creature creates is so great that some young ladies have spent nights trying to stay awake and losing precious sleep as a result. A few have become sick due to the stress of being too scared to go to the the loo in the middle of the night. Also some have been squatting with friends at their rented houses because they fear sleeping at the hostels. If indeed the oily man exists, he certainly succeeds in creating fear in the hearts of the young ladies. What are the Muslim girls doing to overcome this problem among themselves? The general feeling I get from the population is one of fear and worry. This shouldn't be. Perhaps young ladies are more vigilant nowadays due to the rumours of this creature, but they should also realise that everything is determined by Allah swt. We should pray and trust Him to protect us from harm, as well as talking every precaution for our own safety. I pray that they don't let fear of the unknown to take over their lives.

Sunday, January 27


I used to enjoy Chinese New Year when I was a little girl because there'll be a lot of goodies to eat and best of all, to receive money all wrapped in red packets from my family and relatives. The fun of course, diminishes when I got married. Then it was my turn to give the ang-paus or red packets. Used to spend about rm300 just for that.

Of course, when I got divorced, the first Chinese New Year without a husband was sheer bliss. I no longer had to slave in the kitchen, preparing traditional dishesa and desserts. Also no need to give angpau to every child who came to the house with the excuse that I had got myself 'unmarried' ( how cruel of me, hehehe). Although stung with the stigma of being a divorcee, I had a good time.

On the other hand, my first one as a Muslim was a quiet one. I spent it in my university hostel alone, because I had nowhere to go. I wasn't unhappy but I missed the warmth of home, the decorations I used to put up in my own house and the traditional dishes that are cooked once a year. Yet I survived the season, and grew stronger spiritually.

This year, I am a wife, and a Chinese Muslim daughter-in-law. My husband who has returned from hajj gives me the liberty of celebrating this coming Chinese New Year the way I see fit. Problem is, I haven't really decided how. My mother who is still phobic of appearing in public with me in a tudung had suddenly called and invited me to join her for the reunion dinner. I consulted my dear husband and we agreed to not only go, but also to pay for the dinner.

There is a big issue to be settled. Mum hasn't met my husband but she knows who he is, having met him before when I was still a non-Muslim. She does not approve of my marriage because she'd still refuses to believe that I chose to leave everything for Islam. Perhaps she finds it easier to blame my husband as my reason for reverting to Islam. I on the other hand, needed a new man in my life. I was afraid of doing bad things and getting tricked by men I didn't really know. I needed a good practising Muslim, a strong, responsible and loving man who is knowledgable and can guide me in Islam. And Alhamdulillah, Allah swt brings me a man who fits my criteria. Knowing that seeking Mum's blessings will be futile at that time, and not wanting to aggrievate her sickness (she was unwell then) we sought his parents' blessing and tied the knot in a small ceremony, almost a year after my reversion to Islam. We invited Mum but she didn't attend the wedding reception, citing she wasn't feeling well.
My Mum's emotions are still unstable. I don't know how things will be when husband and Mum meet at dinner on Chinese New Year eve. She might nag and scold both of us in front of my husband's parents (we invited them along to meet Mum) and cause unpleasant feelings all around. Frankly speaking, I'm nervous. I wish I could have the dinner in my house instead of a halal restaurant but my present temporary nest is small and unsuitable. I just want the dinner to be a happy occasion where both sides of our families meet. After listening to my brother's narrow-minded rantings today, I'm not sure it's a good idea anymore. It might turn out to be a disaster.

To go or not to go to the reunion dinner ?
To risk public scoldings or play safe by cancelling the event?
I just don't know... dah bingung.
Any advice?

Friday, January 25


“ Ling Ah-yi, ni hao mah?” (“Makcik Ling, ,makcik apa khabar / Auntie Ling, how are you )
Wo hen hao, xie xie..” ( Makcik khabar baik, terima kasih/ I am fine, thank you)
That’s Mandarin.

Ah-pek, lu ciak pah boi?” (Ah-pek, Ah-pek dah makan hingga kenyang belum? / Ah-pek, have you eaten until you are full?)
Wa ciak pah liao” ( Saya sudah makan hingga kenyang / I have eaten till I’m full)
That’s Hokkien, my mother-tongue, one of the Chinese dialect spoken in Malaysia.

Kah cheh, nei yu hoi pin tou? ( Kak Long, kak nak pergi ke mana?/ Sis, where do you want go?)
Ngo yu fan okh kei” ( Kak Long nak balik ke rumah / I want to go home)
That’s spoken in Cantonese, another Chinese dialect.

Notice the difference in the dialogues?
The Chinese use the first pronouns ‘I, and ‘you’ in their conversations. On the other hand, Malays have a softer approach, preferring to use addressed forms such as ‘kakak, ‘makcik’, ‘encik’, ‘puan’ etc instead of first pronouns ‘I’ and ‘You’ as a sign of respect to the people they speak to.

Complaints about the misuse of the language by the non-Malay students:
“ Apa lah budak-budak cina tu… berani sungguh cakap dengan kita ni macam cakap dengan kawan dia,” commented the senior lecturers who were displeased with their female students.
“ Mereka cakap dengan saya, ‘Awak bila ada di pejabat?’”
“Mana boleh guna istilah ‘awak’, ‘kamu’ dan ‘engkau’ dengan saya, saya ni pangkat lebih tinggi, saya pensyarah mereka. Patutnya mereka guna istilah ‘Doktor’ atau ‘Puan’.
“ Dah jadi mahasiswa pun masih tak reti nak guna laras bahasa yang betul. Teruk betul.”
“Ya, benar. Bukan saja depan kita mereka panggil “Awak”, “Kamu” bahkan dalam sms kepada kita pun begitu. Sedangkan kita dah ada kempen berbudi-bahasa peringkat sekolah, kolej dan universiti.. apa yang mereka belajar agaknya?”

Complaints about the use of the Malay language among non-Malay speakers have been very common among the Malay-speaking lecturers, especially when it comes to term of address. Malays who grow up on Malay social etiquette naturally expect people of other races to think, behave and speak the way they do. This is especially so when the speaker addresses somebody of a higher social status. Well, difficulty arises when the speaker is ignorant of the intrinsic Malay terms of address.

Just compare these:
“I” in English and “ Wo” in Chinese
– direct translation : “Saya”, “Aku” in Malay
-polite form for family : “Abang”,”Mak”, “Kak”, “Abang”

“You” in English and “Ni” in Chinese
– direct translation: “Awak”, “Kamu”, “Engkau”
- polite form: “Encik”, “Puan”, “Cik”, “Tuan”, “Cikgu”
- polite form for family: “Abang”, “Kak”, “Mak”, “Ayah” in Malay language

When I was at school, I had difficulties using the correct form of address for different people because I only know one form, “Ni” which is, “You”. In order to be polite, we Chinese just add the ‘pangkat’ or social status of the person we speak to before the sentence. To us, that’s already fine. Saves time, and we need to learn to write only two words to represent the masculine and feminine form for‘You’.

Does going to school help to educate me on this particular aspect? Yes, and no. Yes, because I learnt about all those confusing social forms of address for different people such as the king, friends, VIP and VVIP; polite social forms of address which are confined only to the soils of Malaysia. Hu-li-hu-tou…So pening la. No, because everything is on paper. I may get A for my Malay language paper but that doesn’t guarantee that I know what term of address to use when I speak to a professor at the university. Unfortunately teachers at school don’t really emphasise on this aspect. I myself self-learnt through trial and error on the correct and most polite Malay way of addressing somebody.

Therefore, I really think if teachers and Malay students themselves help their non-Malay friends to understand the ways Malays speak, then real education will take place. Hopefully, we will not have anymore young undergraduates addressing their female lecturer as “Makcik” or “Kakak”, while the male lecturer gets called as “Pakcik” or “Abang”… ehehehe. Oh believe me, it happens all the time.

I think it’d be a good idea for teachers, lecturers and anyone who deal with students to remind them at the beginning of the class about the correct Malay language form of address that should be used. The Malay language is different from the English language and Chinese language, so we should first seek to understand why people of other races make mistakes when they speak Malay. Although I consider Malay as my second language ( I grew up near an army camp so I picked up Malay before English), my husband still corrects my pronunciation and choice of words now and then :D

Sunday, January 20


I received several email forwards this morning and one of them, sent by an Indian lady friend is too disturbing to be ignored.

I checked for clarity. True enough, 'peykeiran' is the independent Iranian online newspaper. Yet something seems to be wrong somewhere. I don't understand why those pictures were taken and posted in the worldwide web. Other than the writings, there is no verification that the event actually took place in Iran. And the message is indeed disturbing, when it is circulated among Christian and non-Muslims who are liable to condemn the act to Islam as a bad religion.

May I state here that Islam does not teach people to mistreat children. Some ignorants may connect it to hudud las but even hudud laws do not condone such hideous act, because hudud will hold the parents and society responsible for letting a hungry child steal a piece of bread, therefore no punishment will be given to the child. Certainly not by crushing his hand.

The Iranian nation has diverted from the true teachings of Islam. Young women, some as young as 13 has been wrongly persecuted and human rights ignored. Children and teenagers especially girls, if indeed the pictures above happened to take place in that country, are often abused in the name of Islam. Often other nations like to highlight this injustice and accuse all the 'Iran's divinely ordained' harsh punishments to the Islam religion.
May I also add here that there are many nations that imprison and torture children and teenagers. Not all of them are so-called Islamic nations. One of them is the nation ruled either by the Republicans or Democrats. The country which declares itself as a liberated country has a large number of child offenders in prisons, awaiting executions for crimes they committed. So shall we also blame that country or blame Christianity for those punishments on children, as most of its citizens are Christians?
It saddens me when looking at those pictures. Children should not be punished so severely for a piece of bread, but they are. I told my non-Muslim friends that the people who did that crime are not following the true teachings of Islam and prophet Muhammad... if indeed the people in the pictures are Iranians, they are Shiites.
"But they are Muslims too, aren't they?" they asked.
Well, I abide by the sayings below.
On one occasion ash-Shaafi`ee said concerning the Shi`ites, "I have not seen among the heretics a people more famous for falsehood than the Raafidite Shi`ites." [Ibn Taymeeyah, Minhaaj as-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah, 1/39] On another occasion he said, "Narrate knowledge from everyone you meet except the Raafidite Shi`ites, because they invent Hadeeths and adopt them as part of their religion." [Ibid, p. 38]
Ibn Hazm al-Andaloosee
One day during the period of Muslim rule in Spain, Imaam Abu Muhammad ibn Hazm was having a debate with some Spanish Catholic priests about their religious texts. He brought before them evidence of textual distortions in the Bible and the loss of original manuscripts. When they replied by pointing out to him Shi`ite claims also being distorted, Ibn Hazm informed them that Shi`ite could not be used as evidence against the Quraan or against Muslims because they are not themselves Muslims." [Ibn Hazm, al-Fisaal fee al-Milal wa an-Nihal, 2/78 and 4/182] Their claims have been rebutted by numerous other early scholars like Ibn Taymeeyah in Minhaaj as-Sunnah, adh-Dhahabee in Muntaqaa min Minhaaj al-I`tidaal, Ibn Katheer in his history book [al-Bidaayah wa an-Nihaayah], Ibn al-Jawzee in Talbees Iblees, and al-Qaadee ibn al-`Arabee in al-`Awwaasim min al-Qawaasim.

Thursday, January 17


“How could they? Imagine having to use different stairs and eat at separate tables…you call that education?” commented a friend when the news came out in the dailies.

There are good headmasters, and then there are other categories of headmasters. The latest group are called the ‘little napoleons’ because they run the co-ed schools like a military camp, separating students based on gender to the extend of requiring students to study at separate classes, use separate staircases and eat at separate tables during lunch break. And when the news leaked out, the Education Ministry had to send officers to conduct investigations and declare that those were school-made rules, not directions from the government. And the official report stated that the rules have been abolished in those schools.

Which comes to one question: What have the teachers and parents been doing all these while?
Surely the teachers and parents of those culprit schools know the going-ons but they prefer to keep quiet. Do they remain silent due to administrative pressures (talk too much and we’ll transfer you to a rural school nobody wants to go to) or because they too, have supported the new ruling? Headmasters, headmistresses (I’m being gender-sensitive) and principals, as well as the senior administrative assistant teachers, have great powers at schools. Their words can be considered law for who dares to go against the individuals who decide how much salary you’d bring home next year? And a new head at school is always received with great anxiety. Get a strict no-nonsense super-principal who is eying the best chair at the state education department and every teacher will hurriedly fill up the transfer form, because there’d suddenly be a dozen or so new extra duties for teachers at school. Have a religious principal and there’d soon be daily doa recitals every morning and on Friday afternoons, and all female students will be required to adhere strictly to the Islamic code of dressing.

“I don’t understand. Why do they want to bring down the cross which has been placed on the wall for centuries, and replace them with those Arabic verses? Why can’t they put both up on the wall instead?” demanded a Christian mother who sent her daughter to a missionary school, run by a Muslim Malay principal.
“Not another mural with Arabic words. This place is beginning to look like a Islamic school,” groaned a Chinese teacher at a national school with 80% Muslim Malay students. “Can you blame the non-Muslim parents for not sending their children here?”
“Do you think the children actually read all these Quranic verses on the walls? The money for the paint can be better used to buy books for the students,” said another critic.

I’ve been there, experienced it, seen it and pray that I won’t have to go through it again for the rest of my life. It’s quite ugly when only one form of religion is considered superior to others. When the whole school community is grouped at one compound and only the Islam doa is recited loudly for 5 minutes while those who profess to other religions have to keep silent and listen, some may even call it a form of discrimination. Any non-Muslim student who dare to whisper to friends during the doa recitals even when they are bored listening to verses they do not understand will most probably get punished by the discipline teacher or the prefects. Too bad. When the whole school enrolment sit at the school hall to listen to an Islamic talk by the ustaz, the non-Muslim students are forced to join along and listen quietly because administrators consider it easier to manage the students if they are grouped together. They had not bothered to ask if the non-Muslim students want to listen to those talks. While I agree that the children should be exposed to Islamic teachings, I do not think it is appropriate to force the religion down their throats for the whole of their schooling life. In fact I don’t think it is a good idea for those non-Muslim students to be over-exposed to Islam without their consent. They might end up hating Islam for the wrong reasons.

School is the place where our young get education. It is an institution of learning and for our children to assimilate into the real world. Indeed, religion has an important role to play but when one religion is being highlighted well above the beliefs of others who study under the same roof, it is quite distressing. We should teach our youngsters about respect. While it is fine to strive to be a good practising Muslim, in a multi-racial multi-religious nation like Malaysia, we have to be sensitive to the rights of other students who are non-Muslims. One way is to give them the rights to practise their own religious beliefs like silent prayers, and wearing their religious talisman. We also need to educate our youngsters on the correct way to get along with people from the opposite gender, while at the same time, following the Islamic code of proper behaviour. Segregation is not the answer. However, many overbearing adults of authority insist on enforcing these Islamic dressing and code of behaviour on youngsters, especially girls without actually teaching them the why's and how's. Indirectly, they can make Islam seem too remote, rigid and pressurizing for the young minds at these institutions. So can you blame the confused young ones if they complain and rebel?

“Kak, my principal forced all the girls to stay for an extra hour after school on Fridays to recite the surah Yassin, because he said that will help to catch the school thieves. I don’t see why we have to do that. I think it’s silly and a waste of time,” complained a 14-year-old Malay Muslim girl.
“My daughter is only nine. She hasn’t got her menses, so can’t she be exempted from wearing the tudung?” asked a Muslim mother when the ustazah punished the girl for not covering her hair at school.
“We can’t have a cheer-leading team this year. The new headmistress said it’s not suitable for girls to be involved in this activity. Heck, we wear track pants, not mini skirts,” complained another girl.
“We are told that we can have a Chinese lion dance but no drum is allowed. Imagine a lion dance without the drums. So stupid la,” stormed an angry boy.
“ How can I trust the school from turning my son into a Muslim if everyday he hears the doa being recited aloud? Why should my son who is not a Muslim be forced to listen? There’s no way I’m sending my son to the national school,” reasons a Chinese Buddhist mother who drives her son daily to a crowded Chinese vernacular school 20 km away from home although the national school is just beside her house.
“My son came home crying and refuses to go back to school. He said that the Malay boys told him that their ustaz said that my son will burn in hell because he does not pray to Allah,” sighs an Indian mother who sent her young 7-year-old son to a national school.
“ If we are caught using the stairs for boys, we will have to pay 20sen as forfeit and later we will be punished for accumulating too many demerit points,” explained a school girl about how the school implemented the segregated use of staircases.

Thank God I am no longer a school student. I don’t think I’d ever see Islam in a positive light if I had been subjected to such rigid way of school life proposed by over-zealous educators, using Islam as the reason for their extra rules. Perhaps they think they are correct; but don’t they think they might be wrong too?

In the 70s and 80s, my friends and I did not have any Quranic verses on our missionary-run school walls. We didn’t have to attend any Islamic talks about Maal Hijrah, Ramadhan etc at school halls during school hours (The only talk we did attend was about National day, 1986 and all of us agreed it was dead boring!) .Only a small number of us wore the tudung to schools then but we did not practise discrimination. We didn’t become mat rempits and minah rempits. Most of us do end up wearing the tudung at our own accord after we left school. And because we had genuine friendships regardless of our religious backgrounds, we learn a lot about each other’s religion sand culture indirectly.

However today, despite all those efforts being done to create an Islamic environment at national primary and secondary schools, the overall discipline among students has deteriorated. So what is actually wrong with our schools?

Thursday, January 10


“Hah? Teach nasyid?”
“Please, you have a good voice and nobody else can sing those high notes.”
“We can teach you the song, then you can teach NorAziana.”
My first posting as a teacher in a rural school in Trengganu back in the early 90s was full of strange but exciting events. One of the challenges was to teach a group of Malay girls to sing songs for a local nasyid competition.
With only four lady teachers in the small school, I was roped in to help. My vast experience as a choir singer during school and college days was considered an asset. Although I was the only non-Muslim in the kampong area, I was treated with respect by the community.

And the nasyid song?
It’s called Maal Hijrah.

Satu Muharam detik permulaan ( first Muharam is the beginning)
Perkiraan tahun Islam Hijrah (of the Islamic calendar)
Perpindahan Nabi dan umat Islam (the migration of prophet and Muslims)

Dari kota Makkah ke kota Madinah ( from the city of Mecca to Madinah)
Atas keyakinan dan iman yang teguh ( with strong faith and beliefs)
Kaum Muhajirin dan Ansar bersatu (Muhajireens and Ansar were united)
Rela berkorban (willing to sacrifice)
Harta dan nyawa (their properties and lives)
Demi menegakkan Islam tercinta ( for the sake of Islam)

Hijrah itu pengorbanan (Hijrah is sacrifice)

Hijrah itu perjuangan (Hijrah is struggle)
Hijrah itu persaudaraan ( Hijrah is brotherhood)
Hijrah membentuk perpaduan (Hijrah builds ummah)
Oleh itu mari semua (Therefore let us all)
Kita sambut Maal Hijrah (celebrate Maal Hijrah)
Tingkatkan semangat ( Be strong and enthusiastic)
Tegakkan syiar Islam ( spread and strengthen teachings of Islam)
Untuk sepanjang zaman (until end of time)

I was totally alien to nasyid. No non-Muslim in their right mind in Malaysia would listen to nasyid songs without being accused of wanting to revert to Islam, so teaching that song was my first experience of actually listening to nasyid.
Also, it was my first understanding of Hijrah, and about the journey taken by prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Madinah. Teaching my students how to sing that song had not made me decide to be a Muslim at that time, but it gave me a new understanding about Islam and why Hijrah is considered important to Muslims.
I always believe that the events in our lives are interlinked; the past will have an effect on the future. Little would I know that teaching that nasyid song would have a lasting effect on me. Each Maal Hijrah I’ll definitely recall that song, the lyrics, and the hospitality given to me by the villagers who were materially poor but spiritually rich.

And what is Hijrah to me now?
I’d say that all reverts to Islam undergo some sort of personal hijrah themselves. The journey from being a kafir to a Muslim is a tough one; a journey that only Allah Almighty gives to the ones He choses. To be willing to leave everything behind for the sake of Islam requires personal strength, humility and patience; in others words, to have taqwa. Yet it doesn’t end there when one becomes a Muslim. Hijrah should be a continuous journey that each Muslim undergoes with the aim to be a better mukmin, a better person, and a better member of the community. It is not easy to put Islam before self interests. To control our ‘nafsu’ or desires and put the teachings of Islam as the pillar of our lives needs self-discipline and constant monitoring. We should never give up during hard times, be patient during personal trials, and always strive to be a good Muslim. As for me, I always aim for self-improvement, while at the same time, asking Allah s.w.t for strength and guidance for all things are possible with His help.

Well, there have been many contrasting views about bid’aah and what-to-do’s during the month of Muharram. I shall not delve into that. Personally, I prefer to do self-reflection at the end of Zulhijah and pray directly and sincerely to Allah swt at the beginning of the Muslim New Year, ‘cause I’m terribly bad at memorising prayers specially written by others.


Thursday, January 3


“Tell me,” I asked a friend before I reverted to Islam, “why do some Muslim Malays don’t follow the teachings of Islam?”

I had a lot of opportunity of observing how the Malays, who comprise about 60% of Malaysian citizens, live in this country since I grew up. As all Malays are supposed to be Muslims, most people take them as models of Islamic living. Yet there are a number of those who don’t adhere to the teachings of Islam. There had been reported news of incest, rapes, break-ins and all sorts of crimes conducted by Malays. There were and are Malays who drink liquor, had extra-marital affairs, eat food at non-halal restaurants yet claiming that they’re Muslims, and that they pray 5 times a day. Oh, so confusing.

My friend paused for a moment.
“Well, Muslim Malays are not the only Muslims in the world, but of course being in Malaysia, it’s normal to judge Islam through the Malays’ behaviours and lifestyle. But don’t see Islam by what the Malays are doing here. Islam is a universal religion, so you shouldn’t narrow your scope to just Malays. The best way to discover the true teachings of Islam is to read the al-Quran and the Hadith. You may read the translations of Quran in English or Malay to find out more.”
“I have, but I still don’t understand. If Islam teaches the right behaviours, why do I see Malays performing all acts of sins? Aren’t they Muslims too?”
“Yes, they are Muslims because they believe in Allah s.w.t and prophet Muhammad as the Rasulullah. But they may not be Mukmin, or the faithful ones.”
“What do you mean?”
“Islam is the same religion everywhere in the world; it’s never wrong. It is the true religion. But its followers are people of many races, each with different local cultures and lifestyles. It is not easy to remain faithful to the true path when around you there are many temptations. Human nature is ruled by desires for fun. Everybody has the choice between good and bad. That’s why we need Allah to guide us, by always remembering His teachings. You’ve heard of people of other religions doing bad things too, haven’t you?”
“Yes, I have.”
“When we read news about Christians priests or Buddhist monks doing bad things, do we say that Christianity and Buddhism teach their followers to do bad things? Of course not. We know that those people chose to do the bad things although as religious leaders, they should show good examples. We don’t blame their religions. Same goes for Islam and Malays. Do not blame Islam for the bad things some Muslims do. There are good Muslims and not-so-good Muslims, same as there are good Christians and not-so-good Christians.”
“So what’s the point of being a Muslim then? I don’t want to be like one of them who do bad things after reverting to Islam.”
“InsyaAllah, you won’t. Like I’ve said, we are given choices, so always choose to do the good things by following what Islam teaches, not by emulating what everyone around you are doing, for they may all be wrong and you’re the only one right. Muslims, regardless of our races, should always strive to be better people, by following the true path and putting Allah as the centre of our faith and our conscience.”

“Well, what about terrorism? If Islam teaches peace, why do we hear about the attacks by Muslim militants on other countries? Why choose war and kill other people?”
“Terrorists should not be limited to just Muslims. Israelites and Americans attack other countries, but are they labelled terrorists? No. Muslims do not choose to go to war. But when they are attacked, should they just remain quiet and let themselves be victims? Would you let yourself be bullied if you were them? Look at Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. How long have those people suffered? When people are pushed into a corner, naturally they’d retaliate, in the only way they think best. I’m not saying that everything they did was right but we have to understand why they’re doing them.”

There’d be many more of such dialogues I had before I was finally convinced about my choice to revert to Islam is the best, and that the time is right.