I walked into the train today to find a seat. Was slightly more pleased because it was the normal passenger seat instead of the bench. The Malay man in his white-blue check shirt welcomed me to the seat beside his, and removed all the luggage that was occupying it at that time.
“Travelling?” I asked.
(Thinking back, we were all travelling. In hindsight, sounded like a damn stupid question asking for a “NO SHIT” in response. Then again, it works as an easy conversation starter)
“Yes, I’m flying to Medan. I was about to take the ferry but they ran out of tickets.”
I later found out that he was actually Indonesian, and was an Arabic Language professor in Universiti Malaya. Somehow, we got to discuss the Low Yat incident, mutual respect between races, and the Quran for the next 45 minutes.
“Why are so many Muslims so sensitive?”
“Why can’t we just respect each other? This is what the Quran teaches all Muslims, and yet so many can still be so angry over a phone and other races.”
“If you were eating pork right beside me, and dropped a piece of it on the ground, I would gladly help you pick it up. I won’t be scared and distance myself away from you. I won’t even try to urgently wash my hands in the necessary manner right in front of you, because I know that it doesn’t affect me that much. My faith is strong, but I respect the faith and belief of others too.”
These were only some of the things he said, and they really caught my attention.
I liked talking to him. Maybe talking to academics about what so many call ‘sensitive’ issues are easier because they understand the difference between who they really are and the truth they seek, although the two often clash with each other. He encouraged me to read the Quran, and told me although the best way to understand its meaning is by knowing Arabic, there were English translated versions.
“I encourage you to read it, but I’m not forcing it on you. It’s just knowledge anyway. I had a friend who was Buddhist, and he had research to do which required him to read the whole Quran. Guess what? He’s still Buddhist. It’s all knowledge on how to live a better life.”
I introduced myself to him, and he did the same. Cikgu Hadi, he told me. That’s what his students call him anyway. I reached my workplace, and googled ‘Quran english translation’.
I wonder if he managed to buy a last minute flight ticket back to Medan.