There are a lot of Chinese malls around here, and my daughters, who all wear niqab, have often gone into them to go shopping.

Surprisingly they said that the feeling they get walking around in Chinese malls is nothing like what they get in ordinary shopping centres. The Chinese people completely, hmm, I don’t know if ‘ignore’ is the right word. The way they dress is just not an issue. The fact that they’re potential customers is.

After visiting Singapore I think I can understand that now.

Singapore is largely Chinese, but also has a good percentage of Indians (both Hindu and Muslim), as well as Malays (Muslim) and one other ethnic group, I think it’s Eurasian. They call it the four groups that make up Singapore and this concept of four being united is reflected in some of the sculpture in the city.

It’s surprising how well they all get along. Even at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content conference, it wasn’t an issue to see hijab wearing women, many of whom were teachers, coming into sessions. Nobody gawked, nobody thought anything of it. And I thought, this is how it should be!

There were LOTS of tourists. Singapore is a tiny city/country of 5 million people. It’s basically an island at the tip of Malaysia. For about two years Singapore was part of Malaysia then things didn’t work out and they went their separate ways. There’s a strong British influence in Singapore and Singapore decided to retain English as their main language.

I think it was a wise decision.

Singapore is ruled by a dictator. Oh he calls himself a president, but I don’t think there are real elections. I could be wrong. And yes, the rules there are stringent, I never saw anyone chewing gum and if they catch you with a certain amount of narcotics you’ll be considered a drug dealer and get the death penalty.

But it also seems to be the least corrupt place I’ve ever been to. Maybe everyone is too scared to be otherwise. But it does make for a pleasant place to visit! And the food is comparatively cheap. You can get a good meal for about $5 although the drinks are tiny and expensive. ($3 for a cup of tea and the cup is one of those teeny tiny teacups, not a mug at all!)

They had CNN on the TV, and I was flipping channels and came across several commercials for skin whitening creams!

I thought those bleaching creams would be black market goods. They can’t be safe!

The skin is the largest organ in the human body. It absorbs toxins and poisons, in fact in ancient times many a poison was delivered as a cream to be absorbed through the skin.

Coming from a chemical background, it can’t be good to alter the melanin components of your skin! Melanin–the pigment that makes skin brown–is there for a reason–basically natural sun screen. To remove it means getting into the cellular structure of your skin cells!

And here they were on these commercials, these happy ‘whitened’ women who’d used the cream and then at the end they’d gotten a boyfriend.

After seeing the commercials I started to notice how very white most of the Chinese ladies were, and how considerably darker the men were, and I started to wonder if they’d used the cream.

Very sad.

And it makes me glad that this whitening cream wasn’t around when I was a kid and I was taking five baths a day to wash the brown off my skin because the kids in my class said it was dirt.

On another note, I met a charming Malaysian lady at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content who was drop dead gorgeous, she wore a hijab and she came to almost all of my sessions. Turned out that she had been a model, and an actress and now she was a talk show host in Malaysia. She came from a mixed family, her father was a white Muslim convert and her mother was Malaysian, and quite devout.

She said how she’d grown up confused, and then wild, started partying and stuff, and a while ago, while still this talk show host, she’d started wearing hijab. All her colleagues were surprised at her.

She often did commercials, and then one shampoo company wanted her to advertise their product, so, yup, she did a shampoo commercial while wearing hijab!

People thought it was crazy! And you know what happened? The sales of that shampoo in Malaysia, tripled!

Soon after that advertisers started including other women wearing hijab in their commercials.

It’s about the bottom line.

Seeing and hearing about all this, I couldn’t help but think that the Western world could learn a lot about how the Chinese have learned to tolerate the Muslims in their midst.