KUALA LUMPUR – The days preceding Chinese New Year always finds Lim Ah Hong busy in the kitchen at her home in Taman Rakyat, Taiping, Perak.
She can count on the help from her children and daughters-in-law, but only the 70-year-old knows how to prepare mee suah, a traditional Tionghua dish.
The salted Chinese noodles made from wheat flour are her specialty. It was a treat that her children have enjoyed since young, and they have always regarded the mee suah made by their mother the best and tastiest.
However, these days, Lim uses a special set of utensils and wok to prepare the noodle that is usually served with boiled eggs and chicken soup.
The meats served with the dish are also bought from Muslim suppliers at the wet market.
This extra effort from the loving mother is in respect to the dietary restrictions of her fifth child, who embraced Islam seven years ago.
“I have never doubted the food prepared by mother as she thoroughly understands the issue of halal and haram and the Muslim lifestyle. Furthermore, we have been neighbours with Malay families for over 34 years,” said Lee Choon Kooi, popularly known as Adam Corrie Lee Abdullah.
The mee suah, also known as “longevity noodles”, is normally eaten on the morning of the Chinese New Year or during birthday celebrations.
It was the favourite dish of the 47-year-old actor, choreographer and professional stuntman.
Lim, who has 10 children, is well-acquainted with each of her childrenâ€™s taste buds and tries to cater for all of them during the auspicious celebration.
She believes the benefit in keeping her family close together despite their differences.
As the Chinese proverb goes, harmony makes both family and nation prosperous (jiÄ hÃ© rÃ¬zi wÃ ng; guÃ³ hÃ© wÃ n shÃ¬ xÄ«ng)
NOT A HINDRANCE
Her beliefs and values had made it easier for Adam to inform his mother of his decision to become Muslim in 2007.
“Embracing Islam does not stop me from celebrating the Chinese New Year with my family. Blood is thicker than water. Though we subscribe to different faiths, our family ties remain strong.
“I make it a point to go back to my hometown for the Chinese New Year celebrations every year,” he said.
His wife Fazima Fuad, 37, whom he married in 2008, also enjoys a close relationship with his family.
In fact, his family looks forward to the couple’s arrival for the reunion dinner on the eve of every Chinese New Year.
“What is important is the respect we have for each other. Isn’t it wonderful how we can still get together although we are of different faiths?
“As a son, I often remind myself to not leave my mother by herself,” said Adam, who has been featured in many local films such as KL Gangster 2 and Gerak Khas.
The trip back to his hometown was also a time for the family to get together for some spring-cleaning.
This year’s celebration, however, is expected to be a simple affair as many of Adam’s siblings are celebrating with their in-laws.
Adam’s family may be cognisant of what the Islamic lifestyle entails, but there are still those with the misconception that new Chinese Muslims can no longer practice Chinese culture and customs.
This was not true, said Sharin Low Abdullah, 68, who owns a chain of Chinese Muslim restaurants.
Islam has always celebrated the differences between the races and encouraged new Muslims to retain their racial identity, as long as its rituals did not clash with Islamic principles and values, he said.
The grandfather of eight, who embraced Islam 47 years ago, still practices Chinese rituals in his daily life.
His chain of 26 restaurants nationwide is recognisable from the red Chinese lanterns hung at the entrance.
Red is the favoured colour among the Chinese as it signifies happiness, prosperity and success.
“We maintain the Chinese elements as it is the identity of the restaurant. Only those who approach my restaurants would be able to identify it as a Muslim restaurant due to the presence of Islamic calligraphy and Quranic verses at the entrance,” he said.
A “FATHER” TO MANY
Sharin, who embraced Islam when he was 21, understands the challenges faced by new Muslims and is actively providing assistance for new Chinese Muslims through the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (MACMA).
He provides temporary housing and jobs to those who received opposition from their families or who have been thrown out of their homes for accepting Islam.
“They have nowhere else to go. Together with Macma Selangor, I, as a “father” to over 200 Chinese Muslims, try my best to help them. Many of them have even been disowned by their families,â€ said Sharin, who is also the chairman of Macma Selangor.
In light of the situation, Macma Selangor is hosting a grand Chinese New Year dinner for them, whom Sharin said was like his own family.
The dinner, to be held at his restaurant in Ampang, is an annual event that is entering its seventh year.
The event is also open to other new Muslims who would like to celebrate Chinese New Year with a halal Chinese meal. – BERNAMA