I consider myself well-educated, well-read and well-travelled. But that all don’t mean anything when I drive to the mosque in my luxury car, my $28,000 Rolex on my wrist with my tattoos showing. Some would wonder why a contractor is here – is there any work to be done?
The stares don’t stop when I perform my wudu and walk into the prayer hall. And yes, I’ve been shouted at and talked down to, a few times as well. As much as born-Muslims hate to admit it, they judge on physical appearance. They don’t care if I’ve donated thousands of dollars to the mosque or other charities, or if I’ve helped some hard-up people get a job. They only wish to see what they want to see.
If this is how I am being perceived, what about the other born-Muslim brothers who have more tattoos than me, who dress more lavishly or are publicly recognised in the papers for any crimes that they may have committed? What then? Would the stares stop? Or would the tongues stop wagging? Will people like us, who have chosen a different lifestyle be shown the same welcome?
The 2015 Central Narcotics Bureau statistics on drug abuse (http://www.cnb.gov.sg/Libraries/CNB_Newsroom_Files/CNB_2015_full_year_stats_final.sflb.ashx) show that there is an increase of Malay drug abusers of 7% from 2104 to 2105. Although that 7% translate to 114 persons, it’s still 1 person too many.
How many good Muslims have we lost to drugs, to anger, to violence, to arrogance? No doubt, for the most part is our own DNA. But we have been saying that their weak family ties, poor morals, or be it their social or economic structure is to blamed. But as a community, how often do WE blame ourselves? At some point or another in time, we would’ve passed judgement – leading to disrespect, not giving them the charity of a kind word or action. ALL of us are guilty of that. Instead of expecting them to change, why can’t we see that change needs to come from us?
I remember the very first time I visited Masjid Salim Mattar – 2 elderly men – the Imam and the Bilai, welcomed me with their warm smiles!!! Subahan Allah! The Bilai speaks good Hokkien too! How wonderful is that? I’ve not been there for a long time now because parking can be quite challenging, and I also prefer to go to the Masjid nearer my place. I still get calls and text messages saying that they miss me over there. Such is the community in Salim Mattar! May Allah bless all of them for their kindness and sincerity!
On the other hand, I got told off by one elderly man in a Masjid in Bukit Merah (I’m not too good with roads – so I may be mistaken), so unless I’m in a hurry and I know I won’t be able to perform my solat on time, I’ll not go there. Even if I may be closer geographically, I’ll skip that Masjid and drive further down. Not because I’m afraid of confrontations – oh no, not that. My close friends will tell you otherwise. But I see no need to have ill-feelings, especially when I want to perform my solat.
I used to give salam to the person on my left and on my right during congregational prayers. But I’ve been met with indifference and annoyance that I stopped. Not because I gave up – but I just don’t wish to disturb anyone. Maybe it’s just the culture. But I read somewhere that we should greet one another with at least a smile. In Malaysia, it is very different. Most people with give or return salams with both hands.
We, as a community need to do more. Opening our doors is not good enough. We don’t need to drag those who lost faith and hope in the religion to the Masjid. We can go to them. We can reach them through how we display our faith. If social or mainstream education on the evils of drug abuse, on hate and arrogance fails – as it has on them, then surely our faith must follow-up.
Do not gossip or back-talk on someone who has messed up. Instead, offer a prayer.