I’m European woman, so no matter how long I live in Malaysia I am not very similar to typical Malay in terms of appearance. I never thought that someday I would be like that. It seems I added some kind of chastity to my life and myself. Now I will not walk along the street in shorts and T-shirt even if I come to the U.S. in the summer. I consider dressing more modestly now. How it all happened? During the trip through Malaysia I met my future husband. As you can already guess, my husband is Malay. I have been living in Malaysia for 5 years and I converted to Islam. In general, I am happy with my life.
I discover more and more good things in Islam but without fanaticism of course. In any religion there is both rational and irrational grain, but the attitude of Western man to Islam in recent times is very wary and it is understandable.
What is it like being a wife of Malaysian? Is it easy to find a common language with husband’s relatives? How husband and my relatives get along?
It is great to be a wife of Malays. I like that now there is a religious component in my life, especially due to the fact I grew up in an atheistic family and I probably did not have enough of religious understanding since childhood. I like that the Malays do not drink alcohol. My Malaysian husband has never drunk alcohol at all. I like the calm with which Malays relate to many difficulties. We both found a common language with our parents without any problems. I was very afraid that they would “torture” me on the basis of Islam, make me wear a handkerchief, pray, but they treated me very condescendingly, after all, they understand I am a person who came from another religion. My husband also helped me a lot so everything turned out perfectly.
Do you pray 5 times a day, as Muslims do?
Of course, NO. I have not been accustomed to this since childhood and it sometimes becomes difficult for me to force myself to pray at least even once a day. My husband is a very faithful Muslim and he prays 5 times a day and my prayers are closer to heart and I pray as I can. But I believe there is one God for all so I do not have any internal contradictions. And if something good happens in my life I often say “Aliluya,” although in Islam a similar expression sounds like “Alhamdulil.” Christianity and Islam are very close in essence to religion. Read also: Malaysian family, marriage & traditions
Did I change my last name after marriage and what is my name now
After the wedding ceremony in the mosque we were given plastic marriage certificates which remind bank cards. There are our photos and names. I did not change my name. In Islam the wife does not take her husband’s surname and the children get the surname of their father. Faithful Muslims can not live with non-relatives in the same house, especially the white girl and the Malaysian man so we use our wedding certificate to show when we travel the country. And when I was converted to Muslim, during the ceremony I had to choose my Islamic name. So now I have my own name and I add my new name at the end. At home my husband calls me “sayang” which means “my love” in Malay. I mainly use my Islamic name when communicating with the Malays. When Malayans find out that my husband is Malay, they ask whether I am Muslim and what is my Muslim name. It was hard to choose the name of our son and we accepted the variant that sounds good for Malaysian and the U.S.
What are the rights of a woman in a Malaysian family? Who is in charge? Does the woman have the right to vote?
Malaysia is a multiethnic country. Therefore, it may vary according nationality, but in general Malaysia is characterized by matriarchy. The Malays treat a woman in a special position. The status of a woman in Islam is sacred as she gives life and automatically finds herself in Paradise, so to speak. In many cases a woman is more important than a man in typical Malayan family. She often leads a family budget, distributes funds. She is responsible for resolving family issues between relatives, making decisions regarding children. And in general a woman in Malaysia is a full member of society with equal rights. Women have the right to vote in elections, drive a car. Approximately 70% of university students are girls. They are better educated, they get the best work, and they often occupy high management positions. So a woman in Malaysia feels very comfortable.
What role is assigned to men in Malaysia?
Must admit that women often are more dominant in Asian society than men. Malay men are very calm and balanced. They take an active part in family affairs. Husband share house duties with wife, wash dishes, clean up and deals with upbringing and caring for children. It is very nice to watch a resting Malayan family in the park – mom, dad, a child. And it is quite normal that a woman sits in a shade under a tree, and a man plays with a child, launches a kite and stuff. Particularly touching is when fathers walk along with babies. I believe that it is very good when the family life is common for spouses.
Of course, Malayan men work, but there is no such a thing that the man is all in business and the mother is at home with the child doing the house duties. If a wife has the opportunity to earn more than a man, then she will work and the husband will do the house duties. Usually, after 2-3 months after childbirth mother goes to work and the grandparents and other relatives are engaged in the upbringing of the child. Usually this is not difficult, because families live for 3 generations in one house.
In Malaysia it is customary to have a maid in the house. Maid is a housekeeper, a nanny, a governess. The Quran says that if a man loves his wife, he will try to save her from domestic work and invite an assistant. This is especially good when the family has many children, both spouses have to work and relatives are also busy.
How do I dress in ordinary life? Do I wear traditional Malay costumes or do I prefer European outfits?
In ordinary life I wear European style clothes, but a little more modest, to say. For example – skirts to the knee, trousers, long sleeve. There is no cult of the body in Asia and it’s still customary to cover it up. I do not carry special headgear but I always cover my head with a handkerchief or hat. In fact, this is normal, because the sun in Asia is very strong and if you forgot to cover the shoulders you will get sun burn and the white people get sunburn easy. And, of course, from here comes the Asian cult of white skin. If you did not cover your head you can get a sunstroke. For special occasions, I have a pair of Muslim costumes, an Indian sari and a Chinese dress. In special case I can please my numerous friends with the appropriate appearance during religious holidays.
What is the daily routine in Malaysia? How much do they work? How much and when do they have rest?
For average Malayan the working day as a rule starts from 8 am and the schoolchildren generally begin to study from 7 am. During the daytime there is obligatory break that reminds siesta. Sleeping half an hour after dinner is a sweet thing for Malayan. Often you can find notes on the work tables “He went to prayer” and you have to wait even if you have some quick business. When you go to the mosque which are usually large and cool because of air conditioners, the Malays are lying there and relaxing. Malayans can not be emphasized by special diligence, but it is very important for them to eat well 4-5 times a day with family, friends or colleagues. Malay food can not be called healthy. For some reason they prefer fried foods. They eat very few of fresh vegetables and fruits and prefer all to fry. Recently, American fast food was actively picked up by Malaysians. Malayans consume a lot of sugar as cane sugar is very cheap. As the result the most common disease is diabetes mellitus. Chinese are the first in sports in Malaysia. They often run, swim, play badminton, visit gyms. Hindus are less common on sports grounds as they often practice yoga. Malayans do not practice sports, unfortunately. Malaysia’s favorite entertainment at the weekend is shopping. Everyone goes to shopping centers, they watch movies, buy food for a week, play slot machines, eat. Children in Malayan multicultural families usually speak Malaysian, English and the language of non-Malayan parent. Read also: In Malaysia three women were punished for sex outside marriage