Ian McIntyre, The Star, January 24
This brought about a semblance of the rich learning culture of
With the reputation came a mushrooming of religious schools and it is estimated that there are some 100 of these sekolah pondok state-wide.
Inspired, many foreigners came to visit Kelantan and some stayed on and made their home here.
Among them is American Muhammed Taha Abdullah, 38, who has stayed here for the past 11 years.
There were setbacks initially after he ran into problems in his first job here.
But rather than give up, he chose to stay and teach the locals to speak Arabic.
Taha, who hails from
“We teach Arabic as the native Arabs speak it. No slang. Just Arabic,” said Taha, who has acquired a good command of Kelantanese Malay.
“I start with simple basic words. Just the basic facts. I do not want to complicate things.”
Admitting that he was an atheist during most of his childhood, he embraced Islam in 1988 after meeting his Malaysian wife, Norliza Ghazali, 40, at the
In 1993, Taha was one of seven out of 2,000 applicants from the
He later followed his wife back to
However, the lure of serambi Mekah drew him to Kelantan, where he wanted to improve his knowledge in Islam.
Together with fellow convert Zulkarnian Khoo, Taha often takes part in open discussions on Islamic issues on a broad perspective.
In the aftermath of the “9/11” terror attacks on the