Raising funds

Have you ever participated in a thing called "hari kantin" at your school when you were young? If you haven't you must be 1) very young, 2) Not schooled in Malaysia or 3) Your school has a very wealthy PIBG (PTA). I still remember selling ice cream at our SM Lembah Keramat canteen day. Some schools use it as an avenue to collect funds for school projects, some just to instil entrepreneurship amongst it's students. I have been lucky to have always been acquainted with entrepreneurial friends at every stage of my life. Though I don't consider myself entrepreneurial, I've always loved to be part of a money making event - probably just me being able to meet more people and see the fruits of my labour at the end of the day.

During my lower secondary years, I was close to this guy called Syed Anwar. I knew him since I first joined school and we were the best of friends. He was very entrepreneurial. When we were 14 at our hari kantin, we sold ice cream with a host of toppings. We even sold our own "special" at that time which was our banana split. At this point I could see his business eye for things as he was the one who suggest to add the toppings to the ice cream, enabling us to charge more for the ice cream. The toppings were simple chocolate rice, ground nuts and chocolate syrup. We made the two latter ourselves to save money. 16 years ago this type of ice cream was not yet widely available in Malaysia, esp the toppings which were not available to the masses yet. This made our sale quite a commercial success. It was hard work but very fun. I like this type of hard work where at the end of the day you feel satisfied with what you've achieved for the day. Later in my schooling and Uni life I have made money for my Taekwondo clubs by selling T-Shirts I designed to members. It was all good fun back then. Anyways, that is only the opening remark. This is the main story.

As you may or may not know, I spent the Friday and the weekend in lovely Bangkok. I went with my schoolmate Fedtri and his housemate Meor Malek. Fedtri had a muslim Thai friend, Tasneem who with her father at the wheel fetched us at the airport. This is where the connection with the story above is.

A stall outside Tasneem's house selling some sort of desert.

After stopping by her house and meeting her family, Tasneem and her younger brother Furqan took us to a mosque for a "special event". At that time I was clueless as to what on earth can be happening at a mosque at night time other than a religious talk or something. I was half right, well maybe just a third right... We hailed a taxi hopped on for a 15 minute ride through the busy roads of Bangkok and this was the sight that greeted us:

 I took these photos before I was told off by a shop keeper who was worried I was stealing his designs! So sorry brother! I didn't take any photos at any of the stalls along that row after that

Yes, we were greeted with a pasar malam like experience. The entrance leading to the mosque was full of stalls selling Abayas, Jilabas, tudungs, niqabs, songkoks - almost everything muslim clothing u can think of. Fedtri was ever so eager to "help the muslim economy" he bought an arab robe and just wore it for the night. There Thais were very creative with their clothing lines, though my taking photos did anger one shop owner. I guess he thought I was going to steal his designs. Understandable, but we explained that we were Malaysian and said sorry.

He just couldn't wait to wear it...

After a good half an hour or so just going through the stalls we finally made it to the entrance of the mosque compound. The mosque sits on a large patch of wakaf land that now houses a full fledged religious school. I imagine this would be simmilar to what my great grandad's school would've been had it existed till today. Too bad in Malaysia parents favoured the national schooling systems more.


Inside we were greeted by some of the school students. Except for the Salam, I could not understand what they were saying... 

Inside there were more stalls. This time selling arts and crafts, books, modern islamic clothing and others. There was also a booth for donations for the mosque. communication was not very easy as most Bangkok Thai Muslims cannot speak any Malay. We needed Tasneem to translate for us. There was this stall selling Islamic themed t-shirts. There were many designs, short sleeved and long sleeved. One caught my eye because of its colours. It reads, in Thai "Your mother, your mother, your mother, your father" referring to the prophet's answer when asked about who should we respect and honour after Allah and Rasulullah. That sold it for me and I bought it. It was the last piece, if not I would've bought more..."helping the muslim economy" as Fedtri would've put it.

 "Your mother, your mother, your mother, your father"

Opposite the stalls was a huge square where a religious talk was going on. The talk was in Thai so I didn't understand a word of it except for some of the arabic terms they used. I totally forgot to take any photos of the talk! That was because, next to the square with the talk, there was another square with this:

The atmosphere was nice, food good.

Yes, there was food! Lots of it!! It reminded me of the hari kantin we had when I was young. Vendors would set up stalls around the square selling all kinds of food from stuff I've never seen before to our familiar kebabs and nasi biriyani. You could either buy stuff with coupons or cash. I asked Tasneem and she said that all the proceeds from the sale of food go directly to the Mosque for the use of the school and also for the welfare of the orphans who live there at the school/mosque compound. The sellers are not charged any rent for the space they do business at. The clothing and other stuff though are not compelled to give their proceeds to the mosque so are charged a rental fee for the space they set up their stalls at. I am confident though that they still give part of their proceeds to the mosque. These are some of the stuff we had. I only managed to snap a few pics before getting engrossed with the food...;)

The atmosphere was a good atmosphere, with the sound of people talking all around and in the background, the ceramah agama was still going on. We could see the various faces of Thai muslims ranging from Malay looking to turkish/middle eastern looking. From fair skinned to dark skinned. All united under the banner of Islam. Not many spoke Malay, and if they did it would most probably be Kelantanese malay. The tables were sturdy metal tables so eating there was a nice experience. The cleanliness of the eating area was managed by the school with the school children quickly re-ordering the chairs and clearing the tables once people left the tables. the kids also did all the washing up behind the scenes. I would say that this event was very well managed. If it weren't a mosque event you would've thought it was a well run food court! Kudos to the mosque management, the kids and all that help organise the event. It was a really excellent event!

Some desert thingy on the left. On the right is "agar-agar" but it was very sweet and creamy. Thai dishes, if not spicy are very sweet.

The Thais also love their "ulam"(leaves/herbs) and their "pulut" (glutenous rice) is very sweet and soft. Excellent! I can't remember what the names of the food we had were...

The actual mosque was at the far-end of the compound. It was rectangular in shape, with 3 floors which probably bears more resemblance to other mosques in non-muslim majority countries where space is at a premium. The inside of the mosque was very simple but quite nice - how a mosque should be without all the extravagance but used frequently. The marble floor is nice and the mimbar simple. Very nice.  

The mosque prayer hall
After performing our prayers and sampling the food there, we decided to head back to Tasneem's house. We haven't checked into our hotel yet so we didn't want to arrive there too late. Bangkok is an hour behind KL time so 10pm there was actually 11pm in KL so we started feeling sleepy earlier.

All in all, the first day in Thailand reminded me about how cool it is to experience Islam in a non-muslim majority country. The mosque always becomes the community centre and the sense of "brotherhood" amongst Muslims is felt more in those type of countries. Reminds me of my time in the UK, Japan and Spain where the mosque was a central part of the community, not an exclusive club for the old and pious.I would love to come to another mosque fund raiser and spend more money there! =)