Muslim girl in Malaysian lion dance troupe warms hearts

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Despite opposition from her relatives and friends, a Mandarin-speaking Muslim girl insisted in joining a lion dance troupe.

"Friends and relatives think that as a Muslim, it is not right to join the lion dance troupe. I take lion dance as a sport," Mariam Abdul Nazar said in a StarTV video that has gone viral. The video is warming hearts at a time  when rising Islamic conservatism in Malaysia seems to be weakening inter-racial bonds.

The 20-year-old who could speak in Mandarin said she had to explain to her friends and relatives that lion dance troupes perform and participate in competitions.

She added that only then did her friends and family understood her desire to be part of the team.

Ms Mariam, a business student at Universiti Malaya, also said she has been a drummer in the troupe for the past eight years, and picked up Mandarin.

"It's part of the reason why my Mandarin is okay. I train here and get to communicate," she said.

Ms Mariam added that she joined the troupe because she liked "the sound".

"It's powerful, it looks cool and it has a pattern," she said, adding that drumming with the troupe makes her happy and releases her stress.

She also said the first time she played the lion dance drums, it made her scared and nervous as she was afraid that she would make mistakes.

She has now grown more confident.

As a half Malay and half Indian girl, she said that whenever she performs in public, audiences especially the Chinese, would be shocked.

But they would praise her drumming skills after the performance. "I feel proud and happy to be Malaysian," she added.

The video has caught the attention of social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, top comedian Harith Iskander and netizens.

Ms Marina had shared the video which received 14,000 views and 294 shares on her Facebook page on Saturday (Feb 17).

The social activist had captioned the video, saying it was "so cool".

Mr Harith shared Ms Marina's post, saying that it was "absolutely fabulous!"

He later shared the video on his personal Facebook page, calling it "absolutely brilliant! Malaysians are wonderful people".

Facebook user Priya Supra Sanbakam said Ms Mariam's involvement with the lion dance troupe was "the beautiful spirit of Malaysians".

Chin Hock Ooi commented that true kindness and love were the act of giving our best to others regardless of race, religion, politics or status.

"Good days are coming and let's continue to enjoy our many versions of celebrations, culture and religion," he added.