OUR BANGKOK JOURNAL – PART 03/03
Street Dawah Experience in Bangkok
During the Regional Youth Convention 2018 (RYC2018) in Bangkok, Thailand, one of the activities that we had to carry out was to perform street dawah in the area near the hotel.
The slot began after lunch with Brother Muhammad and Brother Ali introducing themselves and briefing us about the activity. Then they divided us into five groups of brothers and five groups of sisters.
Brother Ali led our group to the location as not everyone in the group is local and most were unaware of the location. He later briefed us on what we should and should not do.
Our team of 5 sisters consisted of 3 Thai people, myself from Malaysia and another sister named Nhada from the Philippines. The majority of the Thai people could not speak in English, thus we decided to separate the tasks in our team into 2 groups. The foreigners in the group were tasked with recording the activity because we couldn’t speak in Thai and the locals were tasked with approaching the passersby with the assigned question.
The first thing we had to do was to ask to the passersby “Who Is Muhammad”. When we first approached 2 ladies, they refused to be interviewed thus we proceeded with the next lady – a cleaner. To our surprise, she was born a Muslim but she no longer practises Islam.
Sister Afnan, the girl who did the interviewed got teary-eyed as she listened to the explanation given by the interviewee. Sister Afnan instantly felt blessed to receive protection and hidayah from Allah – that she is still a practising Muslim. We later proceeded to interview another local who is one of the vendors in the mall.
She explained she never heard of Muhammad (the question we were assigned to ask) and Sister Afnan took the opportunity to explain about our beloved prophet during that brief period. At the same time, two members of our group interviewed a brother who is a Muslim.
He explained that Prophet Muhammad was the husband of Khadijah, that he was known as Al-Ameen and was a prophet.
The sisters later shared that initially they approached different people and got rejected before they managed to interview one brother who was willing to participate by sharing his answers.
Through this activity, we learn to appreciate the blessing of guidance by Allah, to be able to practise Islam accordingly and to be free from being tested with situations that strayed us away from practising Islam. We also appreciate the opportunity to perform street dawah in Bangkok; some scholars believe dawah should be done like how the Prophet and Sahabah used to do; from door to door. Thus street dawah reflects this practice somehow.
May Allah guide us all in His path, always.
يَا مُقَلِّبَ الْقُلُوبِ ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِي عَلَى دِينِكَ وَ عَلَى طَاعَتِكَ
“O Turner of the hearts, make my heart firm upon Your Religion.”
Shaikh Albanee declared this hadeeth to be Saheeh in Saheeh at Tirmidhee (2140)
-End of our journal in Bangkok-
OUR BANGKOK JOURNAL – PART 02/03
Our Visit to Bangkok Tamil Muslim Association
Our journey to Bangkok for the Regional Youth Convention 2018 (RYC2018) was made mainly for the launching of our new Digital Dawah product – The GOODTIDINGS. As a non-profit organization, we truly understand it is important for us to make every moment count as the opportunity to learn about Muslims in another country does not come easily for us.
Being Muslims in Malaysia, we are blessed with so many opportunities to increase our understanding of Islam. There are official Islamic study programs in the education system, unofficial study opportunities (like TV programs with Islamic contents) and so much more.
In Malaysia, Muslims make up 61.3% of the total population with the Malays being the majority Muslims whilst other races were either born into Islam or reverted to Islam; like the Chinese-Muslims, Indian-Muslims and a few other races.
I’m an Indian-Muslim myself (Tamil-Muslim to be exact) and we are among the minorities (ethnics) in Malaysia but our religion is the majority in Malaysia. Before making our way to Bangkok, I googled for ‘Muslims NGOs in Thailand’ and the results suggested a few NGOs with Bangkok Tamil Muslim Association being listed as one of them.
Tamil Muslims are mostly born as Muslim-Indian from the Tamil ethnicity. The spoken language is Tamil. Most of the Tamil people originated from Tamil Nadu, mainly Chennai — my grandfather himself came from Paramakudi and later resided in Georgetown Penang, Malaysia.
I contacted every listed NGOs that I could, including the Bangkok Tamil Muslim Association, which responded to my message. The association gave me their Secretary’s phone number, Mr Shameel, and I immediately texted him, introduced myself and my organization and finally set an appointment with him.
As we landed in Bangkok, WAMY Thailand took us to the designated hotel, Regent Ramkhamhaeng 22. We got some rest first, took a stroll near the hotel area and then took the Grab transport service from the hotel to Bangkok Mosque , where the Bangkok Tamil Muslim Association is located.
Funding to build the masjid were obtained from donations made by the locals and foreigners. The masjid is now run by the Bangkok Tamil Muslim Association. It is a building consisting of 4 storeys and the facilities include a (mini) library, lavatories, an office and a prayer room for Muslim ladies.
When we arrived, there was a tafseer class in Tamil taking place. The khutbah was delivered in Arabic but most classes were conducted in either Tamil or English. I managed to interview 5 Tamil brothers and 5 Tamil sisters — the video is as attached in this entry.
They expressed their gratefulness in living in Thailand and being able to practise Islam freely, even though they live in a Buddhist majority country. Islam makes up 4.29% of the total population in Thailand
In my previous entry, I’ve shared about the generosity and support that Muslims received from Thailand’s government by providing numerous prayer facilities for the Muslims.
The brothers and sisters of the Tamil Muslim Association welcomed us by serving bonda and ginger tea. Later we joined them for Maghrib prayer in jama’ah and interviewed them. The brothers gave us some insight into their history in Thailand (Bangkok to be exact). Most of them are traders (gemstone business) and they initially didn’t reside in Bangkok with their family members. They plan to return to their homeland in Southern India for the purpose of putting their children in school because the education system in Thailand is not in English.
Only a few of them are able to speak Thai, while most of them are fluent in English. The sisters stressed that their main concern is the education system as they understand the importance of learning science, mathematics and other subjects but due to these subjects not made available in English, they feel as though their kids are being left behind.
The Tamil Muslim sisters are rather shy, thus I’m not able to share footages of them in the video. As soon as we finished with the interview, two of the sisters took us out for dinner at the nearby Pakistani Restaurant. They later invited us to visit their family at their homes and this was truly a special memory to me — I honestly felt like I was visiting my long-lost relatives.
They are quite surprised that I don’t speak Tamil – we usually use English and Bahasa Melayu at home in Malaysia. The night didn’t end there for the sister and her brother generously offered to send us back to our hotel. They were such hospitable hosts and we could not thank them enough for their hospitality. It is my sincerest hope that they would be able to solve the education issues for their children.
End of Part 02.
Our final part (part 03) – street dawah experience in Bangkok in the next entry.
OUR BANGKOK JOURNAL – PART 01/03
Recently our team traveled to Bangkok, Thailand to attend the annual Regional Youth Convention (RYC2018) and also for the launching of our new Digital Dakwah product — TheGOODTIDINGS.
Last year during RYC2017, we launched our first Digital Dakwah product — DoGood, in Manila, The Philippines.
Our second product, TheGOODTIDINGS is a project that focuses on reverts (new Muslims) and those who are interested in learning more about Islam through the social media, and our TheGOODTIDINGS portal.
Our journey began from preparing every detail of the launch, then followed by making sure the launching ceremony is scheduled, to assisting the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), Malaysia Office, with their student representatives in Bangkok.
We promoted the video contest for TheGOODTIDINGS before the launch with the intention of getting as many participations as we used to during last year’s Regional Youth Convention (RYC2017) in Manila. Unfortunately, we received very little participation from the crowd. Thankfully, our big boss agreed to extend the competition duration so that we would have more time to find amazing talents that can create the best video content. The organizers were giving away cash prizes of RM500, RM300 and RM100 — but the participation we received were not encouraging.
Our team of three departed from Malaysia on November 1st, 2018. The other two of our members couldn’t make it; our Research Executive who had a medical appointment he could not miss, and our Editor who had PhD commitments she needed to attend to.
As we reached Bangkok, the hosts from WAMY Thailand were already waiting for us, ready to take us to the hotel. I’ve made prior arrangements in Malaysia whereby I establish contact with Bangkok Tamil Muslim Association through Facebook for an NGO collaborative initiative and they gave me their Secretary’s number for me to contact upon arriving in Bangkok. After settling in at the hotel, I texted him and we made an appointment to meet on that same day, November 1st, 2018.
And so, we booked the Grab car service and headed to Bangkok Mosque in Bang Rak, Bangkok — this is where the Tamil Muslim Association is located. The idea was for me to carry out an interview with the Tamil Muslim Association in Bangkok and this story will be shared in my next post.
On our 2nd day in Bangkok, we walked around the hotel we stayed in, which was a Muslim hotel called Regent Ramkamhaeng 22, Bangkok. Everything is Muslim-friendly in this hotel and even the TV channels include a channel broadcasting Masjidil Haram, Makkah and other channels broadcasting Islamic contents.
We didn’t face any difficulty in adjusting to the time difference as Malaysia is only an hour early from Thailand. However, we did wonder how Thailand, our neighbouring, next-door country could be an hour behind us but The Philippines, which was farther from us than Thailand, share the same time. Obviously, there is a logical explanation for this but we couldn’t help but wonder on the miraculous planning of Allah over His dominion.
There were approximately 3 malls that were within walking distance of the hotel. This is my third time visiting Thailand but a first for Bangkok. One of the things I noticed about the Thais were their driving skills. They drove recklessly, stopping whenever and wherever they wanted to, even in the middle of the road but miraculously, I didn’t witness any accidents. Another thing is their haphazard electric cables that were strewn openly. The cables were just above our heads (you could easily reach it) and were very much tangled. I was uncertain if there have been records of electrocution cases involving pedestrians or people in Thailand due to their seemingly dangerous electric cables.
I also noticed the locals were absolutely fine with Muslims wearing the hijab, it wasn’t a strange sight for them. I was aware that Bangkok is a Buddhist-majority country and the Muslims amount to only about 4% to 5% of the total Thailand’s population but despite that, I saw numerous facilities for the Muslims in Thailand.
You can easily find a masjid (mosque) and there are musollas (prayer rooms) in every mall and in the airport, and they do provide musollas in their rest area too.
We Malaysians look pretty similar to the people of Thailand, thus the Thai people can’t tell we’re not local until we tell them so. I experienced the same thing in The Philippines as well when they mistook us as locals in the Philippines too.
Our event took place on Saturday and Sunday and even then, we were still able to find time to visit the local Halal/Muslim Festival on Saturday night, right after our Saturday program ended. On Saturday morning was the launch of our new product – The GOODTIDINGS. WAMY Thailand invited Mr Panadda Diskul, Assistant Minister to His Excellency the Prime Minister of Thailand as the guest of honour and surprisingly, he was willing to visit our humble booth to find out more about our project. He also made the time to sit and listen to our big boss’ Keynote Address about our projects — what an amazing personality!
In the evening, we conducted street dawah in several selected locations. I’ll be sharing this story in another post.
The Muslim Festival sells halal food and Muslims’ attires. Our team including the three Malaysian students have been looking for keychains, fridge magnets or T-shirts that say “Bangkok” to bring home as souvenirs but we just can’t seem to find any. Even our hosts were uncertain as to where one could find these items (we later found out these items were sold in the airport).
Most of the Thai people can’t speak English. Some do speak English, but they were very difficult to find. At the Muslim Festival, quite a number of the vendors originated from Pattani or Yala – a state in the south of Thailand; quite close to Malaysia. They do speak basic Bahasa Melayu (with a Kelantanese dialect). They were indeed helpful to us Malaysian (and Indonesian) when shopping at the Muslim Festival. For the others, I think learning sign-language is a must in Thailand. Or one could just use Google translate. We did this in Hatyai, Thailand whereby we simply typed what we wanted to know on Google translate and showed the translated version of it to the local. It worked wonders!
As our currency exchange rate was not as high as it used to be, things were not that cheap in Thailand but they were still affordable. The two male students representing WAMY Malaysia managed to find T-shirts that said ‘Bangkok’ at an affordable price — the material quality of the T-shirt was excellent, it was no ordinary cheap t-shirt.
We rode a public transportation called ‘Bas Bodi”, which was similar to the Philippines’ Jeepney-like public transport, to the Muslim Festival earlier but later as one of our team members got injured (she sprained her foot) we decided to return back to our hotel using the service of Grab instead.
After the end of the third day in Bangkok, we set ourselves for our final day in Bangkok.
We kick-started our final day by “interrupting” the event with a special session from our team. We provided four special gifts for four of the best Facebook caption on the topic of ‘Islam Has Changed My Life’, and a guy from Laos won 2 of the prizes! Way to go.
We then did our final packing of the bunting that we left until the very last minute (we wanted to pack it just before the program ended); and we were informed to leave the hotel by 4:30 pm. The hosts provided us with the transportation to take us to Don Mueng International Airport.
While waiting for our flight, we strolled around the airport and did some final shopping before we headed home. This was when we found the souvenir keychains, fridge magnets and t-shirts we were looking for; just as a memento to mark the occasion that we’ve been to Bangkok. We checked in our luggage and later saw on the electronic flight announcement board that our 9:00 pm flight has been delayed to 9:40 pm.
We entered the immigration anyway just to be ready at the departure area and we noticed that there were more shops here (however the items were sold at an even more expensive price). Soon after that we heard the announcement about our flight being delayed to 10:40 pm (which meant the total time of delay now amounted to 1 hour and 40 minutes). Wow! We were stranded with no money left and we had to wait for 1 hour and 40 minutes later for our in-flight dinner (or should I say supper?)
When the flight arrived, we queued to be boarded in and get on to our assigned seats. We then heard the flight attendant making the announcement regarding the safety instructions and we instantly knew this was no ordinary safety instruction. The instruction made was clearly humorous and funny! He introduced himself as David Beckham and he definitely knew how to entertain us and cheer us up after the stress of the flight delay that most passengers went through.
We landed in Malaysia at around 1:55 am alhamdulillah. We surely miss Bangkok and flight AirAsia AK889. Despite the delay, we were left with good memories.
Missing this journey
Oh, and did we mention that he is the grandson of The Enlightener “Sang Pencerah” and National Hero of Indonesia, KH Ahmad Dahlan?
Plus: the swept-under-the-rug torture stories during the ‘rub nong’ and why Islam calls for it to stop.