Buddhist Husband and Hindu Wife Raise Three Muslim Children in Malaysia

By BD Dipananda
Buddhistdoor Global | 2017-07-21 |
Studying the Qur'an. From themalaymailonline.comStudying the Qur'an. From

A Buddhist man and his Hindu wife in Malaysia have raised three Muslim children, who all live together in their home in the state of Terengganu, on Malaysia’s eastern coast. Despite following different faiths, the couple have taught their three children to obey Islamic teachings and the moral code of Islam as described in the Qur’an.

“So, in our house there are Muslims, Hindu and Buddhist, but the teachings of Islam are still prioritized,” said 65-year-old Cheniah, adding that her Buddhist husband also encouraged their children to practice and learn about Islam. (Malay Mail)

Cheniah, from the town of Jertih in Terengganu, became the guardian of her Muslim sister’s three children when they were very young. Cheniah said her sister converted to Islam when she married a policeman, but later separated from her husband and left the three children in the care of her sister. The birth mother of the children now lives in Kuala Lumpur but visits frequently. Cheniah married a Chinese Buddhist man who welcomed the three children into their home. The children, now aged from 20–24, have been living with Cheniah for more than 23 years.

Twenty-four-year-old Norehan Mohd Nor, the eldest of the children, explained that the three siblings felt comfortable living with her Hindu stepmother, despite the difference in religion with their parents. “Besides preparing Malay cuisine for us, she also places emphasis on Islamic teachings for us and will get angry if we neglect to pray and fast,” he said. (Malay Mail)

“The life of the Malay society in this city caused me to greatly respect Islam,” said Cheniah. “And that is why the three siblings are trained to be close to the teachings of Islam.” (Malay Mail)

The story of Cheniah’s family serves as an much-needed example of religious harmony for Malaysia.

Malaysia is a multiracial and multi-religious society, with a predominantly Muslim population. According to the 2010 Population and Housing Census, 61.3 per cent of the population practices Islam, but other religions, such as Buddhism (19.8 per cent),  Christianity (9.2 per cent), and Hinduism (6.3 per cent), are also practiced, in addition to other traditional belief systems. 

The different religious groups co-exists in relative harmony in Malaysia, with many politicians advocating religious harmony, mutual respect, and mutual understanding. Religious groups are also actively working together to make society more peaceful by organizing joint activities, such as the Penangs “Journey of Harmony” or interfaith walk a few weeks ago, or by visiting each other and celebrating different religious events together. Political turmoil and problematic ethnic relations, however, continue to cast a shadow over the country. Only too often it is the case that the misunderstandings and falsehoods that create ethnic tensions are rooted in political agendas. As a reader of the Malay Mail posted in an online comment: “Shame on the politicians who are trying very hard to split us by race and religion.” 

See more

Hindu woman, Buddhist husband raise three Muslims in Terengganu (Malay Mail)
One small step for Malaysia’s long interfaith walk (Malaysiakini)

Population Distribution and Basic Demographic Characteristic Report 2010 (Department of Statistics, Malaysia)

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