A bilal at the Taman Free School surau in Penang has gone viral for assisting flood victims by letting them seek shelter in the religious building
Speaking to New Straits Times (NST), 50-year-old Sapno Tukijo explained how he ended up taking in the flood victims.
Sapno first saw the victims wading through the chest-deep waters along Lengkuk P Ramlee at about 2am on Sunday, 5 November. They were apparently trying to cross the road to seek refuge at the nearest temple, so, Sapno tried to tie a rope to two electricity poles in the area to help them cross the road.
"However, the effort was futile as the water surge became too fast and it had reached chest level, which became too risky for the victims to wade through," said Sapno.
He immediately asked the victims to come into the surau.
"Initially, they refused to follow me to the surau as they thought it would create an issue with certain people, seeing non-Muslims staying in the surau."
Sapno quickly explained to them that it's totally fine for them to stay there for the time being.
"They finally agreed and followed me to the surau," he added.
Sapno's quick thinking and act of kindness toward the flood victims were praised by netizens
However, there were other Malaysians who opined that the non-Muslim victims could have been placed elsewhere
"Flood in Pulau Pinang. Victims have been placed at the Taman Free School surau. I applaud the Penangite Muslim for being kind towards non-Muslims when they're in need. This is the dakwah about the goodness of Islam.
"They (flood victims) should have been briefed about the dos and don'ts of being in a surau. Maybe they didn't know about it (Referring to the photo that shows one of the victims sitting in the surau without a t-shirt on)."
Despite the criticisms, Sapno stands by his actions.
"As long as their lives are saved (I don't care). I would be left feeling guilty if I had ignored their plight."
Explaining why one of the victims in the photo did not have a top on while in the surau, Sapno said that the victims had left their homes in a hurry and didn't even have enough time to bring along clothing and other essentials due to the dangerous conditions of the flood.
"My wife and I gave them some telekung to be used as blankets as we saw them shivering," he said.
He added that the victims - around 70 Chinese and Indians - left the surau later that day after the water subsided, as they didn't want to be a burden to him and his wife.