|Young Mr. Othman Wok at right of LKY|
"Boon Tong Kee"'s chicken rice is famous in Singapore but I've never had it till last night at River Valley Road. A chicken drum stick, bowl of rice, cup of barely water and a small pack of moist tissue paper costed me $11. Wow!! It was the most expensive chicken rice I ever had but their chilli sauce was delicious. The same set would cost about $5 at a typical hawker stall elsewhere, without the frills. Well, this post is not about food but about a Muslim family I picked just outside the shop where I had my meal.
The couple, with a stroller and a four years child was flagging desperately at passing cabs but none stop for them. I understood why no cab would pick them because it was about 10 minutes before midnight and the spot was outside CBD, without the "extra" $3 surcharge. A few minutes more, the midnight surcharge of 50% more on the meter fare would also kicked in. Sensing their desperation for a cab, I approached them to offer my cab, though I was mid-way through my after-meal puff. They were absolutely delighted and we set off to West Coast Road.
The man was a conversationalist and sat beside me. Soon he asked what was my meal. I told him that I had the most expensive and famous chicken rice in town. In the same breath, I asked him whether he had taken that dish before and he replied that he cannot take non-halal food as he's a Muslim. But a moment later, the man whispered into my ear to reveal a shocking fact that he something do venture into the "forbidden foods" and prefer "ah kuah" (transsexuals). His wife was resting with closed eyes at the back. He had been in Singapore for the last 5 years running his own business.
Now what was interesting about this guy was that he mentioned that he was originally from Turkey. I know that Turkey is a Muslim country so right away the idea that a Muslim man with "sinful indulgence" struck me as fascinating. I had already gained his confidence by my "kind" offer of my cab earlier, so we could speak frankly. And we did.
He told me that he was, in fact, a Muslim, but (obviously) a moderate one. And this led to a discussion of which Muslim countries in the world would tolerate the presence of transsexuals. He said only in his own country, Lebanon, and Indonesia could such a thing be found. Morocco, he said, was liberal but not that liberal. Everywhere else - Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc, etc - forget about it. He went on to say that Turkey was by far the most moderate Muslim country in the world and that is why it is one of America's most important allies. An interesting thought.
With so much attention in the news these days about fanatical Muslims it was encouraging to me to meet someone who can consider himself to be of that religion but not feel compelled by it. Obviously this was a person who thinks for himself. In his own way, a breath of fresh air, in my opinion.
His last words to me was "I love my religion and would die for It". He is a good Muslim, albeit a moderate one and has my highest respect.