Read this beautiful story of how a Malay-Muslim wed a Chinese-Catholic in Singapore. Has it been smooth sailing for this family?
They first met in Singapore through mutual friends. They had no idea then, that the chance meeting would change their lives forever.
When they met
When Chinese-Catholic Anne Chua met Malay-Muslim Norsham Husaini, sparks flew. Says Anne, "Several dates later, getting to know him and his friends and talking about what we want in life, I realised that this dude was one guy I couldn't live without! We met up without fail everyday, after work. We were kind of inseparable. He would bring me along to all his work events, introduce me to all his friends..."
And what does Norsham have to say? "Love at first sight? Yeah! We dated for a long time and I realised that she was the one for me!" exclaims this art director and graphic designer.
Did religion play spoilsport
Wasn't religion an issue, we wonder? Norsham says matter-of-factly, "Religion is always an issue. We are living in Singapore. It will always be an issue with society. And of course we had objections on both sides."
Anne, who is a biology teacher, elaborates, "At first I used to talk about Sham at home a lot, hoping that my parents would be open enough to accept him. But after a while, when they realised I was getting serious about him, they said they wouldn't agree to the relationship, especially if I had to convert to Islam. At that point, I just assured them that I wouldn't convert and said I knew what I was doing."
"From then on, I didn't talk about Sham anymore at home. My grandma also found out and wrote me a long letter about how I should find a better man of a higher status who would be able to give me a better life. I was very hurt after that letter and didn't talk to my grandmother anymore after that."
"I've always been a believer but had stopped going to church even before meeting Sham. I knew that it was important to Sham for his mom to accept and bless our marriage, so conversion (to Islam) was a definite. The thought of conversion wasn't so scary because Sham and I had had many discussions about our expectations, and we both knew that I was converting so that we could get married and be accepted by his family."
"Converting whole-heartedly to Islam is a personal thing for me and Sham understood that. We agreed to have a civil marriage so that my family could also take part. We registered at ROM, then had the Muslim solemnisation at his home a few months later. I had converted but did not tell my family about it."
Life as a mixed race family
"We got married in 2008. My wife adjusted so easily with the Malay-Muslim traditions. I do not practise rituals. I just pray. She can cook whatever she wants and I do not force her to embrace the Malay rituals and traditions. She just adjust so well with anything that comes her way," Norsham talks fondly about Anne.
Anne adds, "Before marriage we talked a lot about our expectations of each other and how we would live our lives and bring up our family. So it wasn't that alien or overwhelming to me. Sham didn't expect me to change much in my lifestyle."
"We lived the same way and remained as the same people before and after marriage. Of course, there were few rituals, very few in fact, that Sham's mother wanted me to do as a pregnant mother, that I wasn't comfortable with. I resisted at first and complained a lot to Sham, but after a while I just went along with it to make life easier for everyone."
"Married life has been great. We have 3 children now, and the eldest is just starting primary school. Whatever hardships we face are usually from outsiders, who judge us and our children, and tell us how we should behave and bring up our children."
Well, marriage is a lot about adjustment and today Norsham and Anne are parents to three adorable kids, Aleisha Chua Norsham, 6, Aqeil Chua Norsham, 4, and Aleina Chua Norsham, 2.
Are the kids confused
We asked if the kids ever get confused about their race or identity. Norsham says, "No, they are not confused. We bring them up to not differentiate people according to colour, race or religion. But they know they are Malay / Chinese boys and girls."
And are the kids aware of both Chinese and Malay traditions? Anne replies, "They know about some of them. But we don't specifically tell them what's Chinese and what's Malay. And furthermore, both my family and Sham's family don't really practise a lot of traditions. So that's good. We just celebrate the main festivals. We don't do any other traditions."
Celebrating Chinese New Year
Does Norsham find it difficult to blend in with Anne's family, especially now since Chinese New Year is approaching?
He responds, "Yeah we celebrate Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Deepavali and Christmas. Because our friends are all from different races and cultures. And of course our family. I don't have difficulty adjusting to different cultures because I grew up having different kinds of friends, and it was pretty normal to have gatherings."
Anne completes, "For Chinese New Year, we just have dinner with friends and family. We don't celebrate it in a big way, just with my immediate family and my close friends. I've stopped going around visiting relatives for a long while already."
Advice for happy marriage
So what does it take to make a marriage work?
Norsham shares, "Do not care what other people say about you and your family. Believe in yourself; what you feel for your wife is right and what you educate your kids is right. Other people do not have a say in what you decide and do as a family. At the end of the day people are just talking because that is what people are good at, anyway."
Anne has this to say, "A lot of communication is required, before and after marriage. It's important to know each other's needs, wants and expectations. It is also important to keep on working on the marriage. It is easy to get caught up with your routine - work, children, chores, stress, etc - and forget to enjoy each other's company and behave as a couple."
"Especially when children come into the picture, we tend to forget how it was like when it was just husband and wife. So it's important to arrange for couple time, without the kids, and enjoy each other's company every once in a while."
Lastly, looking back, is there anything you would have changed?
Anne : "Nothing."
In these times of hatred and intolerance, it is lovely to find a family that celebrates its differences. Here's wishing this beautiful family peace, love and lots of happiness. May love transcend every boundary that divides and separates us as humans.
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