This posting is part of a new project, where I like to introduce you interesting people along my journey.
This posting continues on the previous posting about Ramadan.
For sure, Bangkok is not the place where you think at first about muslims in South-East Asia, but I was lucky and met the 38 year old Thai, Mr. Vitsanurak Satsanapitak, his muslim name is "Yusof", born and raised up in Bangkok. Usually everybody in South-East-Asia is using a nickname. His is called "Nu".
radio moderator Nu
Nu is vice-secretary of the Muslim Broadcasting Assembly and radio moderator at www.thaimuslimradio.com in Bangkok. He is working active in the muslim community of Bangkok and during Ramadan he is moderating a daily live radio show at night. We met at a coffee shop in Silom, when he was on the way to the nearby studio.
"Hello Nu, first of all, I want to thank you for this opportunity to make an interview with you." Nu is sitting in opposite of me, having a Latte Machiatto and wearing a khaki shirt to the dark complexion. His black hair is gleaming in the yellow spot from the lamp hanging above the table, in an otherwise fairly dark, but very cozy surrounding of a coffee shop.
He could also be a guy from Italy. ;)
One might expect him in a different way, because his dark teint looks like a south European native, who has just returned from the beach. There is no evidence that he is a follower of a different religion, although the majority of Thai men are wearing no beard. This attribute alone does not prove to be part of 10% (6.5 Mio.) muslim in a land, dominated by Buddhism.
His well-trained body reveals, Nu loves to workout at the gym and doing other sports like swimming, jogging, badminton, snooker and surprisingly, winter sport as well, but of course not in Bangkok.
During his travel activities in Europe, he discovered winter sport and learned to know it. He likes traveling as well and not only for professional reasons.
He told me about several trips to Europe and individual stations, especially those in Germany and how it was the first time in life to be in a mosque of Shiite's. Nu likes to get in contact with other muslim communities during his travels, "because it is exciting. When I was the first time in a mosque of Shiite in Hamburg, everything was strange, new and exciting for me. It is unlike the mosques of Sunnis, and us in South-East Asia and I needed time to get used to, because the habit of praying is obviously significantly different. For example, some groups are using a stone while praying. They put this stone between the floor and the forehead."
Inside a mosque in Brunei Darussalam.
But my counterpart has also experience in other sectors. He was in the past few years in two film projects involved. They were both realized by his malaysian-chinese friend. The first movie was made and shown at the 99 filmmakers festival in Bangkok.
It was a short movie and the story is about the relationship of the Thai people to their King. The story shows a woman who works, day in and day out on a rice field close to Bangkok. One day the king arrives unannounced at this area and it was the first time experience to see the monarch personally. The film describes the extraordinary relation between the Thai people and their king.
The second movie project with the title "Take me with you" contained a completely different issue and shows the other side of Thailand.
The third gender in Thailand.
The story describes not only the life of the third sex, the Lady Boys, it is also a kind of melodrama with an unrequited confusing love story.
But for today we want to talk about Ramadan and his work at the radio station during this time. My first question is aimed on the issue of dehydration: "For us western people is it difficult to understand, how is it possible to get along all day on a hot summer day whitout drinking water?"Although I am aware that people living here are used to this climate and avoiding probably exhausting work during this time. Though, I approve to ask, whether they really don't trink anything over the day?
Instantly Nu answered in a serious tone "It is no muslim allowed to drink while fasting. It doesn't matter what temperatures we have. There are no exceptions!"
(In special cases are exceptions possible, have a look at the previous posting about Ramadan.)
So I adressed immediately the next question: "How is it possible to avoid health problems at fasting, espacially the problem of dehydration?
"It is all in your mind." He answered prompt and smiles. "You have to bethink yourself. It starts with the morning pray. You can also medidate, be aware and don't let you distract. Use your mind and program yourself."
Yes, that sounds familiar. Before I started traveling again in last september, I gave workshops to this kind of topic. They had the title "Create your own realitiy!" and were about self-healing technics.
Everybody of us is creating his/her own reality, each day, each hour, each second of our life.
If you like to know more about this topic, check out this site: www.matrixquelle.com or take look at this flyer:
Please note, this is both in German. Any questions? Don't hestitate and write me an e-mail.
Working at night means Nu's routine of the day is different then others. "Nu, please tell me your night schedule while Ramadan."
"After praying at 18.30pm I break fasting and start eating dates and some water. Sometimes a snack or soup and fried rice before praying again around 20.15pm. This pray could last several hours, some muslims are praying the whole night. Around midnight, I'm on the way to the studio for doing my daily live show from 1.30am to 5.30am."
This is the link to the Live-Stream for his daily show: http://www.thaimuslimradio.com/index.php
"Around 3.30am, I indulge myself an extensive meal. After 4am I only eat dates, drink water again and at 4.40am I start fasting with beginning of the first pray again. After a long busy night I allow myself the well-earned sleep till the second pray at 12.30pm."
"Normal working muslims are preparing themselves similar. They are praying already at night before the first pray in the morning and they focuse on the essentials of life, on their faith, the worship of Muhammad and taking time for contemplation" explained Nu. "For the regular working muslims we offer a second live show from 5.45am-7.00am."
The entrance hall of a mosque in Brunei Darussalam.
I want to know about the topics at this shows. "It turns everything around, of course, the Islam. We recite from the Quran, providing clues about staying healthy while fasting. There are also other issues such as the relationship of the muslim community to the royal family."
I am interested in more details about the hints and advice, although I read about in the internet. (Have a look at the previous posting about Ramadan.)
"Yes, we provide useful tips and many hints for our listeners. We have 15 professors for various topics. For example, a doctor considers fasting for medical reasons. If somebody has an illness like lunge disease, or having a cancer therapy, they will provide useful clues for staying healthy during fasting."
"Another adviser considers fasting for children. They rather use the perspective of a mother than a doctor and recommending start fasting from an age of six years. They should not fast more then half day at the beginning. It is important to keep the child's care in mind."
"Other tips can be very practical in nature. How to organize the best daily routine and how to support each other for improving living together."
"Basically, we are talking about the theses of the Quran in words for everybody. We explain it in common words and telling examples for daily life."
I reminded my visit in Brunei Darussalam a couple of weeks ago, by the last words. When I visited the mosques they welcomed me very kindly. But when I asked them about a translation of the written words at the ceiling, nobody was able to translate this words. They told me they have not studied the reading the Quran. I was irritated.
Inside a mosque in Brunei Darussalam.
This would be the same if I have a bible in greek language and couldn't read it. I guess they probably thought I want an interpretation of the words. Even in Indonesia are more than 80% of the muslims able to read the Quran in arabic language. An explanation or interpretation of the words is, of course, a different challenge.
"How about the daily routine of praying, When are you praying Nu?"
"We are praying five times a day. The first pray will be held at 4.40am, the second at 12.30pm, 15.30pm, 18.30pm and here is also the break of the fast after finishing this pray. At 20.15pm is the last pray for the day, but the times are a flexible and were daily adjusted. It depends on the particular Imam, the preacher."
I am asking about the relationship between muslim and buddhist people in Thailand: "How is it to live as a muslim in Thailand? A country with a majority of Buddhists?"
"You can see it in two ways," answered Nu instantly: "It is sometimes confusing with all of that special kind of entertainment and sexual offers and it would be easy to take the wrong way, but this can only happen if you are not in the middle of yourself, not down to earth, not concentrated and not following your belief."
"If you see it in a positive way, it gives you the opportunity to work at yourself, to control yourself in different situations and this is like the Quran asks you. Taking the right way is a survey and this is the correct way, the positive one. "
Nu told me about his uncle with name Ali. "When I traveled around Europe, I had one day bad mood and felt not well, although I didn't know what happen this time. Returned to Thailand later, I heard about the violent death of my uncle, who was a leader of a village in Narathiwat (province in the South) this day. He was murdered."
"Do you think I will revenge?" he asked me more rhetorical, because he answered this question by his own: "I don't bear somebody a grodge." I am looking obviously a bit suprised an so he start to explain me his background: "Look, when a muslim is born, he had already a deal with God for the day and the kind of his death. That's why I feel not revenge."
Mosque in Brunei Darussalam.
"Talking about violence leads me to another topic.Is it not a shame, that terrorism is already in touch with the Islam? The area in the South of Thailand, espacially around Hat Yai till the border of Malaysia, is since several years a place for turmoils and riots of the so called extreme muslims in Thailand. One of their requests is buillding a sovereign state." The majority of muslims in Thailand is living there. In Bangkok is the muslim community around 700.000 people."
"While my travels in this part of Thailand, I couldnt find anybody who wants to have a sovereign state there. All the people I asked answered similar: "We are not interested in a sovereign state, we are Thais, we are part of Thailand." So, what happen there? Do you have any idea why it is repeatedly place of attacks?"
Nu answered with a few counterquestions: "What happen really there? Who knows it exactly? It is far away from Bangkok and even from the next tourist areas. The question is, who is liable for this strikes?"
"Take a look at the last 60 years in history of Thailand. You know about the various attempts for creating a democracy. You remember the military coups? We had 11 military coups in 60 years of regency of our King Bhumipol.
The army lost power over this long time. You had an economic crises in europe shortly. You know where that leads. The budgets for households will be reduced directly. We had the worsest crises in the 1990's and there is only one way to get out and save money. The budgets of each household has to be reduced.
Do you think the army likes this? What would happen if there are no more turmoils and strikes anymore? There would be no need for keeping the current budget for the army.....Do you believe the army will accept this? How is it possible to keep the budget or support for the army on a high level?"
It sounds obvious, but I have no evidence, nor i am able to proof this statement. I am only confused, because I saw in this area plenty of police with barriers on the roads, but no army.
I hadn't any bad feeling and no impression like this, while traveling through the South of Thailand. I didn't meet any people who want to be separated from Thailand and couldn't realize any aggressive people there. They were all very friendly, but I have to say, I do not know, I am not involved enough to have an answer.
"Who is the leader ot the muslims in Thailand?"
"The leader of the group of Maschab believer (South-East Asia) is called Sheikhul Islam, or even in Thai Chularatchamontri. Formerly the King of Thailand named the muslim leader. Today the king accept the proposal of the muslim community and will give his blessing. The Chularatchamontri has the authority to administer all affairs in the islamic nation and to provide the government agencies with instructions for Islamic affairs."
The relationship between the royal family and the muslim community in Thailand seems for me very relaxed with a high mutual respect and appreciation of the other religion.
"King Bhumipol got from the Prince of Saudi Arabia an english version of the Quran. Afterwards the king asked the 13th Sheikhul Islam at this time for a translation from the original version into Thai language, so that the Thai people better understand the muslim brothers and their faith."
"This request was delighted by the muslims and well accepted and so the muslim community of Thailand translated with private finance of the King the Quran in Thai Language" told me Nu with a smiling face.
Muslim officials in Thailand having a half day holiday for meeting the friday pray and once in their lifetime, they get a four month paid vacation for traveling to Mecca.
"At the end of Ramadan is in predominantly muslim countries a three-day-festival, called "Id al-Fitr". These three days are also public holidays. How is the situation in Thailand?"
Nu answered: "We don't have this event in Thailand. Government officials getting three days off, but employers of private companies don't get days off. I deeply regret this situation, but we have arranged us and participating of August, 12th, the Queen's birthday, as an occasion to celebrate a bit. It is also mother's day in Thailand and we are using that day for a get together."
"What are you doing after Ramadan?"
"I will go to a small idyllic island at the Andaman Sea, called Koh Lipe. It is near the malaysian border and I will take care about the customers in a nice resort."
In the meanwhile it is already 1am and "I have to thank you very much for joining me and taking time and giving me a short insight from the view of a muslim about the Islam. Thank you and all the best for you and the muslim community in Thailand."
He went out of the coffee shop directly to the studio for his daily live show at 1.30am.
If you want to listen to the show click here. http://www.thaimuslimradio.com/index.php