GEORGE TOWN: Being a Muslim did not stop independent preacher, Ben Ooi Chooi Beng, 38, from celebrating Chinese New Year with his family just like before he embraced Islam three years ago.
Ben, as he is fondly known, and his Indonesian wife Ema Ariani, 43, who were both former Christians, have never missed celebrating Chinese New Year with his family as it is a cultural and not a religious celebration.
“Although I am now a convert, I’m still Chinese and my relationships with my family members have never been stronger. I became a Muslim, not a Malay.
“So, every Chinese New Year, I would head over to my brother’s house in Bayan Lepas to celebrate with other family members, including our parents, ” he said.
The father of three said his parents never stopped him from converting but encouraged him instead to become a better Muslim.
“In addition to Chinese New Year, my family members, who are all Christians, celebrate Christmas but they know my limits as a Muslim, especially regarding halal food.
“My brother would cook for all family members and buy halal food for me and my family from outside. We would then enjoy the meals together. We hardly see each other due to work commitments, so the Chinese New Year celebration provides a golden opportunity to get together with the family, ” said the youngest of three siblings.
Ben said he was happy and thankful to all family members for accepting him, in fact his brother, Ooi Chooi Leong, 44, and sister, Ooi Kim Suan, 47, also provided him and his family a prayer room at their homes.
During Aidilfitri celebration, all his family members would gather at his home to celebrate together.
Ben has two sons Gabriel Ooi Wei Sheng, 15, and Joshua Ooi Shan, 11, and an eight-year-old daughter Angelina Ooi Wei Ting.
“We respect his decision and our relationship will never change or be broken. As the saying goes, ‘blood is thicker than water’, ” Ben’s father said.