Multi Race & Religion experience in Malaysia from youth to adulthood

Growing up and living in a multi-racial country like Malaysia most of my life, I have learnt the importance of mutual respect for the cultures and religious aspirations of others different from mine. This I've learnt from young even when I really had no religious affiliation with any group. This was due to the beliefs of my parents that I've described here. So though I didn't have any spiritual aspirations or any religion in my life then, I would still be respectful of the religions of others. This I saw in my parents' attitude towards the beliefs of others and so I must have naturally followed them to this day.

From a government school, I eventually changed to a Catholic School, St John's primary and later secondary, due to my father's concern that the old school was too rough and tough for me. I've written it recently as an 'Owl to Eagle' experience in a special blog post for our class/school reunion in Oct 2013 when most of us have turned 55 years which is the official retirement age of Malaysia. It was something for all of us to celebrate or shout/sing about I guess and we did it merrily together with old boys and teachers as recorded in the blog post link shared earlier! The Catholic school was way stricter than the government school where I will never forget that there are always two bells to ring at school. After the first bell, everyone is supposed to freeze whatever you're doing and keep silent. The second bell was for you to quietly proceed either to the assembly hall or to your classroom depending if it was the start of school or end of recess time.

In the Catholic school, there were students of other religions too including Taoists, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, other Christian denominations and agnostics too I suppose though 'mixed up pups' like me would always fill in a government required form that declared I was a Buddhist seeing that most Chinese would choose this category as our vocabulary for different religions was way limited in those days. This is not surprising as even to write Mormon today, I worry if others knew what it meant and if it would cause confusion to them so I would just write Christian though we're quite a different kind of Christian who believe in Jesus Christ but have additional scriptures such as the Book of Mormon that caused us to be better known as Mormons. The proper designation would be Latter-day Saints (LDS) which is part of the official name of our Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I only learnt in my latter years that in the United States, most government forms do not require you to fill up your religion or race as they consider this to be an attempt to segregate the people and cause inequality which is against the Constitution of America!

Malaysia handles race or religious harmony quite differently. The government uses Economic policies to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor following principles different from the west. While economic assistance or subsidies is normally given to minority racial groups like the African Americans in the US, in Malaysia there is a preferential Economic Policy that has been maintained over my life time since I started middle or secondary school in 1971 to assist the majority race of the country that is the Malays or Bumiputras. It was called the New Economic Policy when first launched with a name change over time but still carries the name today in its operation. As a young Chinese student then, realizing that I would not be favored as a citizen in my own country, I just kept two simple thoughts that was an encouragement to me to be a Malaysian. One I told myself if things were made unequal for me and I was given a more difficult path, surely in that journey, I would turn out to be a tougher, more hardworking and eventually a smarter and successful individual in the long run. Next I felt that such balancing policies may be necessary to keep racial peace in the country as I was aware in neighboring Indonesia, racial riots occurred where the Chinese minority who held most of the wealth in the country suffered much.

Racism and religious intolerance has caused many to suffer in the world and in Malaysia peace has been kept by balancing economic policies and a controlled press where negative views of the citizens are curtailed to avoid offensive writings that would stir emotions further.  I believe my inborn character of respect and disciplined educational background will allow me to write in a style offensive to none but is sensible from a humanitarian view point and know that I do believe that we are all really brothers and sisters of a common Spiritual father and mother! From this last statement, I may already be categorized by some to be an extremist but even so, let me assure all readers I am a man of peace even if others may disagree or emotionally hate me for views or beliefs that I hold. This comes from the education I had received which I am grateful for so let me continue....

The school I grew up in though Catholic provided an education that all of us appreciated not just in academic terms but moral and philosophical too. It included 'moral' classes where the different backgrounds of students were sent to different classes. For Catholics they had their Catechism classes while Muslims had their own 'Ugama' or religious class. For the rest of us, we had simply a moral or civic class where I vividly remember the teachings of an Eurasian teacher named William Goldman who made the remark one day that "All Men are Equal as we wear our pants the same way"! This very same quotation has been printed on the special website that I had build for my Alma Mater found here. What I and my schoolmates like about the school is that it didn't segregate the rich and the poor and all were treated equally. We had children of Sultans and even our former prime minister Abdul Razak had his sons schooled in St. Johns and all mingled together happily as I can recall.

Having parents who never really taught us or forge any religious or spiritual ideas to us children, I naturally grew up thinking it was a private decision for later life and focused more of my time on academic studies and social time with great friends from the school. Among the school friends, the Chinese who were Taoists or Buddhists and the Indians who were either Hindus or Christians did not seem to have much restrictions in their activities with others and those who were Catholics seem quite open minded too.

The Malay students, who were quite small in numbers in those days since it was after all a Catholic school, however had some obvious differences. They would dress different on Fridays with extended time to go to the mosque, they would fast during their Ramadan month and they would not eat any non-halal meals. One thing that I only realized years later of why I was ignorant of the Muslim religion when they had their printed holy scriptures ie the Koran was that while in class when I asked to see their Koran or their exercise books, I was told that I could not touch them as only a Muslim can. Being respectful I just accepted that and didn't think much more about it until later years.

When I came across Christians in Australia where the bible was shared freely and was introduced to the Book of Mormon by the LDS Church missionaries, it suddenly dawned on me why I knew little about Islam as the Koran was never shared with me. I even thought it was a religion that only the Malay race could follow and didn't really think much about it as religion itself was not a subject I had pursued at all. At the end of my academic pursuit, I was literally 'struck' to learn what was the purpose of life after my little accident.

As the early posts of this blog records, I got baptized to become a follower of Jesus Christ but not only that, I progressed so quickly to my own surprise that I receive the call to serve on a proselytizing mission for 2 years for the Church in Malaysia and Singapore, after my graduation in Australia. I had turned 21 when I started my mission but was considered really young in age spiritually. My missionary experiences of daily scripture studies, constant prayer for the Lords spirit to lead us in our search for the ones ready to hear the gospel and being out with the people in the community daily helped me to grow in spirit and love of the people around me. Indeed after accepting and becoming familiar with spiritual and personal revelations, I began to see my life changing again first from becoming a multi-disciplinary person in my academic pursuits and then with my spiritual awakening, I then qualified to be called a 'multi-sensory human' as compared to the 'five-sensory human' that the majority of people are. From there I advanced to be a multi-sensory husband of a great woman to be blessed with six wonderful children who kicked off my early writings in familylane! Let me continue with my true story of my experience in Kuala Lumpur...

One day in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, at the Bukit Bintang Plaza Mall, a stall in the public area with a television playing a video tape with some loud speeches that caught my attention. The tape cover had a controversial title, "Was Christ Crucified?" by an Ahmed Deedat from Durban South Africa. I was so surprised that such a controversial presentation on religion was being played in public. I didn't really react much as missionaries we are men of peace and just noted down the address of the shop that set up the temporary stall in the exhibition area of the plaza. It was the year 1982 which was close to the end of my mission and I thought I could follow up later after my mission on my own.

This I did after my release sometime after the middle of the year and found the shop in the old Cambell Complex near the Wilayah Complex in the Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman area of the city. The shop was run by a Chinese Muslim and provided rental services for their video tapes. I therefore rented a couple of the tapes to watch on my own privately with full concentration. The Internet that was not existent in the early 80s did not allow me to research more on the video but today, as my inspiration led me to recall my past experiences on this subject, I spent some time to search  the net and I found this old video with the same title:

The other video tape that I remembered viewing was entitled, "Is the Bible The Word of God?" Ahmed Deedat has since then held many open debates with Professors or Ministers in several parts of the world. I found this more recent video of his visit to Sweden even more interesting as I felt the Christian defendant of the faith, Pastor Stanley Sjoberg, did a very good job as his reasoning was strong, not overly emotional and was multi-lingual to be able to speak Urdu as he had ministered among Muslims in Pakistan and other Muslim countries. A more emotional debate I found was a match to Ahmed Deedat who though resides in Durban South Africa is originally an Indian from India. This other video is of the defence of Dr Anis Shorrosh who is a Palestinian speaking Arabic,who had moved to the USA, thus is also of Asian origin though is more Middle-Eastern! He took up the debate against Deedat on the controversial topic of "Is Jesus God?" This same topic was the 2nd day topic for Pastor Stanley Sjobergy that was handled in this video here.

Wow, the 4 video links above that I listened to took many hours. As a Toastmaster in later life and a debater in school, I love to hear speeches and participate in debates. Perhaps that is why the stall playing the videos not only caught my attention, I had also followed up with it later to listen to the rented videos to analyze them further. The clear impression that came into my heart and mind then was an immediate appreciation that I felt the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Church that I had grown spiritually in very fast, really had all the answers that Ahmed Deedat was questioning the Christian world! I remember my feelings of wishing that I could meet Ahmed Deedat himself to have a discussion with him to find out if he knew anything about the Mormons and the teachings! I really wanted to share with him if he didn't already know much.

Time passed quickly, about 10 years to the month of February 1992. I was already married then and father of 3 children expecting the fourth in November. I was a busy MD of my own group of companies and serving as DP for the Church. I remember it was a Saturday morning and I was browsing the local newspaper, the local Star paper, to find an advertisement of Ahmed Deedat being in the country. The advert showed all the places he would be speaking and he had a full agenda for a couple of weeks, speaking in mosques, universities, public places including the Raintree Club of Kuala Lumpur of which our family was a member then. The Raintree Club venue was Sunday but I would be heading to Singapore on that day. I had to see Ahmed Deedat somehow so I tried to finish my work on that Saturday morning as fast as I can to head out to the very next venue he would speak at and this would be the Universiti Teknologi Mara in Jln Semarak (formerly Gurney Road) that was close to my office in Bukit Bintang as well as our home in Ampang. The following is my experience and personal dialogue I had with the man.

I was late, as usual, when I arrived at the campus hall where I peeked into the door and found that the meeting was just ending. I saw two men with white caps and beard were seated up on the stage with other guest speakers behind a table. They were about to have lunch in the hall and I had to think fast what I would do!  I decided I would wait outside so as not to interrupt their lunch and try to speak to Ahmed Deedat when he would come out through the door! After a short lunch, the door opened and the VIPs were walking out with the guest speaker. Now there were two elderly men in white with a cap and both bearded and I had to walk up to one and start a conversation that went something like this from memory as the whole event was still vividly recorded in my memory:

I had to intercept the group to interrupt the man who was in light conversation to probably a VIP or Executive of the university as they walked out of the hall along a passageway that led to the main porch where a van was waiting for him to bring him to his next destination. I said, "Excuse me, are you Ahmed Deedat?" to which he replied with an arrogant tone, "Of course I am, don't you know me by now?" I immediately responded, "I'm sorry I had to ask as I came late to the hall and missed your speech and wasn't sure which of the two men in a white cloak with a beard was you!"

Then I had to keep walking by him as the whole group was heading toward the van and the University exec was still exchanging some last few words with him. When he turned to me again, I asked him a quick question, "Do you know anything about the Mormons?" in which he paused for a moment and started throwing out the names, "Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor..." and added this comment before he turned back to talk to the University exec, "...Mormons are like Morons, once you meet them, they stick to you like flies!"

I had kept up the pace walking beside him until coming close to the waiting van, acting calmly as others might be wondering who was this man so rude walking with the VIP group interrupting the University exec who was saying his last goodbye and well wishes to Ahmed Deedat!

We had already reached the van, the door was already opened for him and as he placed one foot on the floor of the van, I blurted out, "But did you do any serious research on the Mormons?"  in which he quickly replied, "Why should we? They are no threat to us?" and he got inside, the door closed and the van whisked him away to the next venue for his speaking assignment.

I was wondering about his last statement. Why did he use 'we' and 'us'? Any way we could only exchange a few lines that afternoon!  I went back home and began writing a letter with the words to this effect:

Dear Ahmed Deedat,

I am the Chinese man who spoke to you at the UTM after your meeting and before you boarded the van. I'm sorry that you feel Mormons are like Morons. I've enclosed a Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants which are scriptures from our Church with some pamphlets for you to read so that you may have a better understanding of our teachings.

I am traveling out of town to Singapore for a few days and will return by Thurs Feb 29. If you feel you like to spend some time to visit with me, please call my home number: 457 XXXXX  or office number: 217 XXXXX

Yours sincerely,

SF Chong

Before I started my journey on that early Sunday morning, I dropped by at the Raintree Club to leave my envelope with the enclosed items with the Banquet staff there to pass to Mr. Ahmed Deedat who would be the guest speaker speaking in the banquet hall later in the day!

When I came back from Singapore, I waited with anticipation each day from Thursday onwards but by Saturday with no phone call yet, I had given up to think that he would call me. On Sunday morning, while preparing to go to Church the phone rang and it was Ahmad Deedat. The first thing I remembered he said after introducing himself was his mighty apology to me, using the words, "My Son, My Son. I am so sorry. You're now my son and are entitled to come stay in my home anytime in Durban" He was so apologetic. In short, he felt sorry that he had made the statement that 'Mormons are like Morons' but I responded quickly that I wasn't really hurt as we are used to be called names. In my mind, the situations have been even worse in the US where pioneer members were persecuted and even lost their lives due to their faith. He thought I was one of the Muslim students in the University asking about Mormons and that explained to me why he used the 'we' and 'us' words in his last statement to me. He though I was a Muslim asking him if he had done any research on the Mormons!

He asked me if I could meet him that morning. I asked him where was he and he replied he was at the Concorde Hotel (former Merlin Hotel) along Jln Sultan Ismail. I informed him I had Church service that morning but could come later about 1 pm and he agreed. At that time Church was at a temporary location opposite Ampang Park and was close to the Concorde Hotel. When I arrived there at noon, I didn't see him in the lobby. I waited awhile and when I didn't see any sign of him I decided to inquire with the Concierge staff. They seem to know of him and informed me he had left for the airport earlier in the morning!  Hmm well, I was disappointed that I couldn't meet the man and left it as that.

A few days later in the week, I picked up the phone at home in the night time and it was Ahmed Deedat. He apologized that he couldn't meet me that Sunday as he thought he had a late flight but the organizers had him check out early on that Sunday morning to leave for the airport for an earlier flight. He expressed himself in an apologetic manner again reminding me that I was his son and would be welcome at his home in Durban anytime. I asked if I could keep in touch with him by correspondence.  I had started reading the Koran and had some questions which I thought I could address him and he said it would be fine to write to him. I felt he would be the perfect man to help explain things that I couldn't understand in the Koran as well as relating the subject matter to the Bible in which he was also very knowledgeable. I did write a few letters to him but what I received were no personal replies from him. Instead, they were letters that merely contained general flyers from his organization to me. Perhaps it was only his secretary or staff member who opened my mail and did not pass it to him for his personal attention.

Again I closed the chapter and did not think much about the man and the lost opportunity I could have discussed Mormon theology and doctrine with him. I had thought perhaps I could help him appreciate that Joseph Smith was a true prophet for the world and could clarify all the loopholes he had seen in the Bible and appreciate that Jesus was greater than a mere prophet that he had thought or preached about in the world. Like the Christians or Muslims or any other religion often times the death of its founder results in a lack of continuity or a distortion of the teachings of the original founder due to the misinterpretation of original writings or works. In the LDS or Mormon Church our very foundation of the restored Church is that God had once again had chosen his prophet to restore his truths to the earth again and that same authority will continue till the 2nd coming of Christ if we believe that this is the last dispensation for his truth to be established on earth before the end comes. In my patriarchal blessing, I have been blessed with several gifts and blessings that seem to be fulfilled over time. Some others that seem to be happening today is that I will comprehend all things that are taking place as the coming of the Savior is at hand.

One thing I'm appreciative of the revelations given to us is that we should obey the laws of the land. This applies to even when we have a desire to share the gospel with others but there are laws of the country that may stipulate conditions or limitations which we are taught to follow. For example, we do not teach any communist Chinese in China but have to follow what the Communist government has stated as their law for teaching the Chinese people. I realized this when I was in China that I could not recommend anyone inside China to join the Church as I was a foreigner. My daughter who lived in Beijing for 3 years attested that the Church truly follows the laws of the land that exists. The Chinese citizen could join a Christian Church overseas. This Chinese convert from overseas when he or she returns home can share the gospel with his family but could not teach his friends or say a new fiancee who is considered outside the circle of the family. We had such a Chinese male student in KL who returned home and brought his fiancee to be baptized overseas, ie Hong Kong and return home as a member. They now have a daughter and are part of the Church in Southern China.

We had a Muslim taught in our home in Singapore by the Elders and he is quite an inspiration to me. He has such great and sincere faith in Jesus Christ! I am appreciative that the Church has a revelation that we obey the laws of the land. In Malaysia, we obeyed the laws that we did not teach any Muslims as such is the law enacted by the government. In countries like Singapore or Indonesia, the laws are such that Muslims do not have this bondage or restriction but  I am aware family persecutions do arise and sadly even death threats from within, something that seems extreme in the Muslim community today as expressed by the Swedish Pastor Stanley Sjobergy in his debate with Ahmad Deedat in the video above.

The above story about Ahmed Deedat was almost forgotten by me as in those busy days of my life, I couldn't find time to write the many things I should have written down but somehow, for things that touch us, it somehow never leaves our deepest memory. Such stories of my life like a few others teach me about patience and trusting that the ways of God are sometimes a mystery to us but eventually, truth reveals itself. Thanks to the internet, videos I had seen once and forgotten could be recalled. I was surprised over and over again in doing this blog post that involved a bit of research and links to new areas and not of old were discovered. What I had yearned for to meet Ahmed Deedat so that he could perhaps be in touch with a member of the Church with personal time spent with him to exchange knowledge did not happen. But he did meet with the Mormons long after my question to him was posed of whether he had researched about the Mormons. Take a look at the video below:

From the video, you can see that Ahmed did a lot of talking but he seems more appreciative of the Mormons now. These young Elders who didn't get to talk as much in the video clip I believe stood to be very symbolic to Ahmed Deedat that the Mormon Church has more than one good sales point he was looking for.  From this meeting with the Elders, I know he has gained far more respect for Christian missionaries than the time he was first exposed to them in Durban as a young boy where his religion was belittled with the use of the Bible. Ahmed Deedat passed away before he had time to seriously research the Book of Mormon or the many new revelations, from living day prophets since the time of Joseph Smith to today, to contend with our Church. At least I now have a better understanding of why he gave the reason of not researching about the Mormons as that they were no threat to the Muslim world when I asked him in 1982!

I hope the Muslims of the world will feel the same way too about our Church for our master Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace and is the head of our Church and have called living prophets and apostles to guide us how to truly follow him! Read what a modern day apostle of our Church, Russell M Nelson, a heart surgeon before he was called to be an apostle had to say in his address entitled, "Blesed Are the Peacemakers"

I am also reminded as a Mormon that the scriptures I have studied over the years, particularly the old testament, reveal that the Arab people who are Muslims are descendants of Ishmael. God did bless that Ishmael would be fruitful and that he will be a father of a great nation but the covenant we believe that carries the rights of the priesthood would pass through Issac. Both Ishmael and Issac were sons of Abraham through different mothers and were blessed accordingly. Click here for the relevant scriptures. More accounts of Abraham and his children can be read here.

Post dated videos found and shared in May 2017:

Fair presentation of BBC documentary videos to better understand the religion of Islam of it's origins to what it is perceived today.

Technology has allowed knowledge to flow freely as all nations agree that education is very important for the progress of a country and its people. This is our 21st century world that we live in. 

It is good that the free nations and people of the world are doing all they can to find peaceful solutions to the problems we are facing with Islam. We do not want Muslim bashers nor terrorists to continue the killings. I believe the cultural atmosphere in Malaysia that is of mixed races and religions, though predominantly Malay & Muslim in population, is conducive to help bring about more peace in our world. We just need to avoid the fights in the political arena where from history, we can see the suffering of the masses of people due to poor political leaders who were either self-imposed or even elected by the majority but acted like dictators, unfortunately.

I see the right spirit of conversation with objectivity in the video below.

Listen to this Aussie's viewpoint on the War on Terror!

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