A Chinese man and his Indonesian wife continue to celebrate the Chinese New Year with their families just like before they converted to Islam three years ago, only this time round they do it the Muslim way.
Ben Ooi Chooi Beng, 38, and Ema Ariani, 43, who were both former Christians, don’t perceive celebrating Chinese New Yer as an obstacle to their Islamic faith as they perceive it as a “cultural” celebration not a religious one.
“Although I am now a convert, I’m still Chinese and my relationships with my family members have never been stronger. I became a Muslim, not a Malay. So, every Chinese New Year, I would head over to my brother’s house in Bayan Lepas to celebrate with other family members, including our parents, ” he said.
His parents who have been staying with him in Bukit Mertajam, usually attend a celebration dinner on the eve of Chinese New Year at his brother’s home and then visit their relatives and friends.
“In addition to Chinese New Year, my family members, who are all Christians, celebrate Christmas but they know my limits as a Muslim, especially regarding halal food. My brother would cook for all family members and buy halal food for me and my family from outside. We would then enjoy the meals together. We hardly see each other due to work commitments, so the Chinese New Year celebration provides a golden opportunity to get together with the family, ” he added.
He also highlighted that his parents never disapproved of him for converting to Islam but instead encouraged him to be a good Muslim.
“We respect his decision and our relationship will never change or be broken. As the saying goes, ‘blood is thicker than water’, ” Ben’s father said.
Ben sincerely expressed his gratitude to all his family members for accepting his choices, especially his brother, Ooi Chooi Leong, 44, and sister, Ooi Kim Suan, 47, who provided his family with a prayer room in their homes.