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Celebrating CNY as a Revert

Nur Ashalina Ang's Experience

If you’re Muslim, you’re definitely Malay.

This is a perception that few might have in Singapore.

For reverts, they might sometimes get asked if they still celebrate their cultural holidays, such as Chinese New Year. Some seem to think that CNY is a religious festival, however it’s actually a product of centuries of Chinese culture.

It’s a time when Chinese families - regardless of religion - gather together to share a meal and spend time together as a family.

We caught up with Nur Ashalina Ang, whom we interviewed for our Revert Stories segment, on how she celebrates Chinese New Year with her family and friends.

Nur Ashalina, it’s been a while since we last spoke to you! Since it’s nearing Chinese New Year, how will you be celebrating CNY this year?

Celebrating Chinese New Year is as usual. Having my own pot for steamboat and griller for my meat! My family will make sure that I have halal options for my steamboat and meat, alhamdulillah. Every year, I look forward to red packets, then money that my family will give and CNY hamper goodies as my grandma said, “You can only open on the last day or after CNY”. So I would look forward to that day *laughs*.

Is there any difference between celebrating CNY before you revert and after?

There was quite a major change in meal consumption as I would have bak kwa, steamboat as how my families will eat it. But now that I'm a Muslim, I will want to have my halal option of bak kwa, steamboat.

When I was a young adult who didn't have much access to halal bak kwa, I would not eat, or opt for vegetarian bak kwa. It's nice too! I would also take away halal food from outside to bring it over to eat at my grandma's house.

Ahhh, that’s nice to be able to adapt your meal consumption and still be able to join your family. Since reverting, has it affected how you celebrate CNY with them?

I would say it definitely took some time for my family and I to adjust ourselves when I decided to put on a hijab during Chinese New Year. And also having to eat separately from a separate table as they usually eat at one table and now, having a halal table for myself. I would miss eating with them sometimes.

How do you uphold your culture or heritage in your new life as a Muslim?

Islam and Chinese culture are two different things. Islam emphasizes respect and being respectful to your parents, and people that you love. Being tactful of their heart and the way we speak. I will uphold and remember it but when it comes to practices that I will not compromise. As stated in Surah al-Kafirun:

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

Say: O ye that reject Faith!

I worship not that which ye worship,

Nor will ye worship that which I worship.

And I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship,

Nor will ye worship that which I worship.

To you be your Way, and to me mine.

Allahu 'alam.

Do you have any stories about friends in the same position as you? How do they celebrate CNY?

They were people whom I knew, close to their family, who aren't so receptive about the sudden revert of their child. There are others who don't really celebrate Chinese New Year anymore. There is one sister whom I contacted recently that shared with me how she doesn't celebrate CNY anymore, but she will have a reunion dinner with Chinese reverts.

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