The Teo Nie Ching issue

Anyway, the point is, if there is a dress code then just tell the visitor to the surau that there is a dress code. And if they are not properly dressed (actually Teo Nie Ching was) then tell them they need to first be properly dressed before entering the surau.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

All is forgiven for teenage ‘surau vandals’

(The Star) – Five hours after being charged with committing mischief and pleading guilty to splashing paint on a surau, three teenagers attended a buka puasa event at the very venue they had vandalised.

The youngsters, aged between 16 and 17, were seen offering their apologies to surau-goers before joining them for the buka puasa at Taman Pulai Impian on Friday.

The three are now awaiting judgment on their case and could be jailed for up to two years, fined or both under section 427 of the Penal Code for committing mischief.

Wong Seow Wai, whose son was one of those involved in the incident, said the boys had learnt their lesson and realised the seriousness of their foolish act.

“Let this be an example for other youngsters who might not know that it is a crime to defile a place of worship.”

“As parents, we will make sure our children do not repeat their mistake,” he said, adding that it was now up to the court to pass judgment on the teenagers.

Surau committee head Mohd Hasbi Ismail, who spoke to the teenagers and their parents during the gathering, said he was glad the issue had been resolved.

“It’s nice to see the residents together under one roof. This residential area was built four years ago and this is the first time that we’ve all come together.

“We have accepted the boys’ apologies and hope that incidents like this will not recur anywhere in the country,” he said.

The buka puasa event, organised by the state MCA with the co-operation of the surau committee and neighbourhood Rukun Te­­tangga unit, was held to foster closer ties among the residents irrespective of race, religion or background.

State MCA chief Senator Datuk Dr Yeow Chai Tiam hoped this would be the first and the last incident of its kind.

“These boys were completely ignorant that their thoughtless act could cause religious sensitivity.”

“Although what they did was wrong, their actions stemmed from a simple misunderstanding with another group of teenagers and was never intended to incite racial sentiment,” he told the crowd gathered at the surau.

“It is important to organise get-togethers like this from time to time.”

“It’s an opportunity for all the residents to meet and mingle with each other,” he said.


That was what The Star reported above. A mistake (although intentional) had been made and an apology offered. So they have chosen to forgive and move on.

That is also what the Quran says. If they attack you then it is legitimate for you to go to war to defend yourself. But when they lay down their arms then it is unlawful for you to continue the war.

So says the Quran.

We scream and shout that we act in the name of Islam. But we do not always do what Islam asks us to do. That is the problem with some Muslims. We pick and choose what suits us and sidestep what does not work in our favour.

Why is race and religion always the backdrop of Malaysian politics? India would today still be one country instead of three if not for race and religion. And see what happened (and to a certain extent is still happening) in the UK because of religion? And this is Christian versus Christian, mind you.

I suppose race and religion sometimes does have its good points though. If not because of racial and religious discrimination and persecution the United States would not exist. I am not sure though whether the Native Americans (a.k.a the Red Indians) would agree with me. If the ‘whites’ from Europe and Russia had not suffered discrimination and persecution then they would not have migrated to the ‘New World’ and today the Native Americans would be running the United States.

Umno is so desperate that they need to pull out every trick in the book to ‘unite’ the Malays. And the only way to unite the Malays is to create an anti-Malay/anti-Islam bogeyman. And that is why the race and religion rhetoric has been stepped up of late — since the March 2008 general elections.

First was the issue of Lim Guan Eng using the phrase ‘amar makruf, nahi munkar’. This simply means ‘uphold good things and oppose bad things’. You may wonder what is so wrong with Guan Eng using that phrase? Well, the contention is that Guan Eng is quoting from the Quran and since Guan Eng is an unclean infidel (kafir) then he should not quote from the Quran.

There are in fact about two-dozen or so words from the Quran that non-Muslims are not allowed to use, even in Pakatan Rakyat states like Selangor.

Actually, most of these words (or phrases) are not holy words as such. Okay, so non-Muslims are banned from using the word insha-Allah (insya’allah). Well, they can then say ‘if God wills it’ or ‘with the will of God’ or ‘if God permits it’ and so on. Can Muslims now say that these kafirs have violated the ban seeing that the English word/phrase is a translation of the Quran?

Wong Foon Meng, the one-time MCA State Assemblyman for Kuala Terengganu, used to say insha-Allah, masha-Allah, Alhamdulillah, and so on, whenever he spoke. And no Muslim in Terengganu was offended. In fact, they found it rather cute that Wong spoke just like a Muslim, and at times even better than a Muslim.

Do you know that Wong won the election because of the Malay votes from Pulau Kambing and Losong whereas he did not get the Chinese votes from Kampong Cina? The Chinese voted for the PAS candidate. Funny or not?

It is actually quite ridiculous. Even Arab speaking Jews and Christians use words such as Allah, insha-Allah, Alhamdulillah, masha-Allah, etc. — the so-called banned words. And I do not see these people getting sent to jail in Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, or wherever.

Next was the issue of the Friday prayer sermons in Penang where it was alleged that non-Muslim leaders’ names such as Lim Guan Eng are mentioned in the sermon. And now it is about the MP for Serdang, Teo Nie Ching, going into a surau ‘not properly attired’.

Just to digress a bit, a mosque is considered a holy place and in Saudi Arabia you may not bring cigarettes into a mosque. The guards would check your pockets at the mosque entrances and would confiscate your cigarettes. This is because they consider cigarettes as haram so you may not bring something haram into a mosque.

In Malaysia, you can bring your cigarettes into the mosque but you are not allowed to smoke in the mosque. Is Malaysia just being liberal or is Malaysia practicing a deviant form or Islam? The Muslims from Saudi Arabia would say that the Malaysian Muslims are deviants.

Let me take you to Kuala Terengganu and to the surau (non-jamek mosque) of the famous Ustaz Aziz. Ustaz Aziz allows you to smoke in his surau. I once attended one of this lectures (kuliah) and I was surprised that he called a ten-minute ‘timeout’ to allow the congregation to smoke.

Now, note one thing, they did not go outside to smoke. They smoked inside the surau. And what surprised me even more was that Ustaz Aziz himself also lighted up and was happily puffing away with the rest of the smoking congregation.

In Saudi Arabia Ustaz Aziz would have been whipped.

So you see, the so-called rules are not carved in stone. Different people interpret things differently.

I would recommend you read the book ‘The Quran: A user’s guide’ by Farid Esack. This may open your mind a bit more and allow you to get a more global and wider perspective of what the Quran is all about. And ultimately the Quran is supposed to be the guide for all Muslims, not stupid fatwahs (decrees) issued by people with narrow minds and an even narrower agenda — such as like serving Umno’s political agenda.

Of course, we have such a thing called dress code. Even when you enter Parliament House or a private club there are dress codes to observe. And they can deny you entry if you are not properly attired.

I was once chided (and warned not to do it again) for using ‘slippers’ in the National Press Club in Kuala Lumpur even though my imported/branded leather chapal was more expensive than the shoes of the persons who told me off (Stephen Francis and ‘Rocky Bru’).

Another time my friend was refused entry into the bar in Selangor Club because he was wearing shoes that the waiter said were ‘jogging shoes’. Hey, MBT shoes cost almost RM1,000. I think he was wearing the most expensive shoes in the entire club. But no, the dress code says he can’t enter wearing those shoes, so we left.

So be it. A dress code is a dress code and I have been evicted or denied entry many times in my life because I did not meet the dress code. When I went to Maxims in London back in the 1980s they did not deny me entry. They lent me a tie and jacket and insisted I put them on before I enter.

I did, and thereafter enjoyed my meal. I even spilled gravy on the tie and they quickly came and took it off to clean it for me. I had to tip the waiter 20 pounds — it would have been cheaper if I had bought the tie. Hmm….no wonder they charged a bomb for the lobster. I could probably have fed a whole village in India at least two meals for what the four of us had to pay that night.

Anyway, the point is, if there is a dress code then just tell the visitor to the surau that there is a dress code. And if they are not properly dressed (actually Teo Nie Ching was) then tell them they need to first be properly dressed before entering the surau.

From what I understand, Teo Nie Ching was invited to enter the surau. If so, then the person/persons who invited her in is/are at fault. They could have just told her that since her head is not covered with a scarf then she has to stand outside the surau to give away whatever she wanted to give away.

Stand on the steps of the surau. Don’t enter the surau. Is this so difficult? You go and invite her into the suaru and now you make a big deal out of it and scream that she was not properly dressed. Actually, the issue is, her head was not covered, that is all. (And see here pictures of other Muslim women in the surau also with their heads not covered:

If you were to look at Teo Nie Ching’s photographs (below) of her dressed in traditional Malay and Indian costumes you can see how sweet she looks. Hmm…if I were just 30 years younger…

All she needs now is a scarf for whenever she enters places of worship. I think I will get one for her from Harrods in London.