[TheMalaysian Insider] Teo says surau row nadir in her life
~ By Debra Chong
The young first-term MP told The Malaysian Insider yesterday that the row had been the lowest point in her life.
But yesterday, she looked the epitome of confidence in her bold red dress and big toothy smile as she strode into the DAP national headquarters.
It was in stark contrast to the abject figure she cut a week ago after national Malay daily, Utusan Malaysia , front-paged a picture of her — a non-Muslim — addressing a Muslim group from inside the inner sanctum of a surau, dressed in a kebaya reminiscent of the Singapore Girl uniform and with her head uncovered.
The stunt earned her the Sultan of Selangor’s wrath, the paper reported.
“I cried,” the 29-year-old lawmaker admitted plainly to The Malaysian Insider in an exclusive interview, after reading the report.
The lawyer who was catapulted into the political ring after winning a seat in the federal lawmaking body two years ago was accused of disrespecting Islam by invading the sanctity of the dewan solat or prayer hall at the Surau Al-Huda in Kajang Sentral, Selangor and without covering her aurat, a major social and religious faux pas in predominantly Muslim Malaysia.
Her emotional distress was from a combination of fear and guilt without knowing for certain if she had committed an offence, mixed in with a bewildering sense that she had somehow betrayed her party seniors, built up over two days that led to her nearly-public breakdown.“Actually, I cried in my car. I don’t know if my assistant saw me or not,” Teo related.
She was attending a Phor Tor (Hungry Ghost) event in her constituency and had been frazzled by a flood of phone calls from sympathisers and party leaders from within the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) bloc.
“I got a lot of calls, from (Lim) Kit (Siang), (Lim) Guan Eng, Ms Foo, the DAP Chief of Staff, Tok Guru (Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat)... they didn’t try to scold me but tried to pacify me and give advice.
“But the more they tried to pacify me, the more I felt like crying,” Teo said, recalling the moment.
“I was so afraid and worried,” she added.
“It’s hard to explain. I thought I made a mistake that could jeopardise the DAP. I thought I did something wrong to make the Malay community hate the DAP. I thought it was my fault,” said Teo, a Christian.
She elaborated that there has always been a strong perception the DAP was a “Chinese, chauvinist, communist” party, and she felt responsible that she might have inadvertently reversed the years of effort by party veterans to erase the misperception.
Teo said she also felt bad that the surau committee has been suspended and its management taken over by the Selangor state Islamic Council (MAIS).
“The incident caused a lot of hardship to the AJK (committee members). They’re suspended. Even though they had invited me sincerely, what I did to them was a disaster,” the DAP national assistant publicity chief said.
But while Teo described the incident as her rock bottom, she has now recovered, and credits support from PR leaders and the general public who sympathised with her naivety for her ability to bounce back.
She was immensely grateful to PAS Spiritual Advisor, Nik Aziz, for giving her the strength to go on with his reassurance that she had not done anything offensive to Muslims, contrary to comments published in Utusan Malaysia.
“After seeing the comments, especially from Tok Guru Nik Aziz… I feel I’ve not done anything wrong. I went there with a pure intent,” Teo said, adding that reading sympathetic comments on the Internet helped cheer her up and prompted her to purchase a BlackBerry soon after — to enable her to keep in touch with Netizens.
Does she think she is getting more public support after the surau incident?
“To a certain extent,” Teo said, after a moment’s pause.
“Whether for good or bad, people now know who I am,” she added, and explained that even though she had been making the rounds on the ground regularly as an MP, few recognised her face, let alone her name.
“Now, when I go out, people know me. ‘Ini YB Surau’,” she burst out in giggles, relating how people who recognise her now hail her.
And her feelings about the nickname?
“To me, it’s okay. It’s a joke,” Teo said, glad for the free publicity, even if few still remember her real name.
Taken from The Malaysian Insider.