“When Sa’ad and I first started dating after graduating from polytechnic, we didn’t put much thought into it – we only knew that we enjoyed being in each other’s company. But things progressed naturally, and we decided to take our relationship to the next level after a few years.
Sa’ad is a Muslim, and I knew that a Muslim marriage requires both parties to be Muslim. I was ready to face the challenges of being a Muslim convert, and while learning the basics of Islam was tough, it brought me closer to Sa’ad and his family. It helped that Sa’ad also made an effort to pick up Chinese just so he could converse with my mother, who only speaks Mandarin.
While my parents were welcoming of the idea of me dating someone of another race and religion, Sa’ad’s parents had some reservations initially. However, they slowly warmed up to me, and any doubts that they had were cleared up on the day of my conversion ceremony.
In reality, the biggest struggle I faced was not from our families, but from the community. After converting, I started wearing the hijab. I was working in the retail sector where I had to face many customers and would sometimes have curt comments made about me. It was saddening and disappointing. I was most commonly asked about why I was not able to speak Malay, even though I was wearing a hijab – they didn’t realise that religion is not dependent on race.
It was also commonly assumed that I converted for the sole sake of marriage, and some people would pass judgement on my spirituality when they didn’t even know me personally. Thankfully, my Malay colleagues and close friends would support me and provide encouragement during the difficult times.”
This article first appeared in the February 2021 issue of Her World.