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New ‘I have embraced Islam, but I’m still Chinese’

Civil servant recalls the stones and the breeze on her journey to Islam.


KUALA LUMPUR: Nurul Nadhirah Liew had to fend off a lot of negative perceptions about Islam when she converted 20 years ago.

Having been brought up in a Taoist household and having very little interaction with the Malay-Muslim community, it was only natural that her family knew very little about Islam.

When Nurul converted, her mother feared she had “lost” a daughter and that Nurul would abandon her Chinese roots.

“At first they also thought I couldn’t eat with them or join them for the Chinese New Year reunion dinner. They thought it would be difficult as they could not cook for me.

“So I told them what I could eat and what I couldn’t. It took a few months, but they got used to it. My mum now makes sure she buys halal chicken,” the mother of three told FMT when met at a Chinese New Year luncheon for Chinese Muslims here today.

But that wasn’t the only challenge Nurul had to endure. Some also came from the Malay-Muslim community.

Once, the Sungai Siput-born Nurul was told she could not identify herself as Chinese.

“That made me cry because race and religion are two different things.”

She was also told she had to wear “baju kurung” and on several occasions was reprimanded for her dressing.

Initially, Lieu, a civil servant, said she did as she was told. But not anymore.

Now, she explains her stand. That as long as she dresses modestly there is no problem.

“I may have embraced Islam, but I’m still Chinese.”

Free Malaysia Today