PETALING JAYA, April 2 — Chinese Muslims have existed in Malaysia for hundreds of years, said historian and writer Yusuf Liu, who is originally from China but has made his second home here.

A tall man who speaks rapidly in both English and Malay, Liu employs graceful hand gestures and movements when illustrating his point.

A resident of Malaysia for over three decades now, the academic has been a prominent link between the Chinese Muslim community here and China, and is given to using both Chinese proverbs and quotes from the Quran when speaking about this.

Beyond bridging the two nations' Chinese Muslim cultures, Yusuf has accompanied senior Malaysian leaders visiting China, having gone with former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the current Senate president, Tan Sri Rais Yatim, among others.


“There are at least five roads in Malaysia that are named after Chinese Muslims,” he told Malay Mail during an interview at his office.

To emphasise his point, Yusuf brought out a photograph of him standing by a sign for Jalan Husin Che Lee, which he found in Pangkor.

Other streets included Jalan Laksamana Cheng Ho (named after the famous Chinese Muslim admiral) and Jalan Puteri Hang Li Poh, both in Melaka.


There were also landmarks named after Chinese Muslims such as Dewan Dato’ Kailan and Kompleks Dato’ Kailan, both found in Penang.

“I also found a graveyard with graves belonging to Chinese Muslims from Guangzhou in Pangkor,” Yusuf said.

He also showed Malay Mail pictures he took of Masjid Kampung Kling in Melaka, which had Chinese characters in its architecture.

It was constructed in 1748 and was proof that Chinese Muslims had a long history in the Malay Archipelago, he said.

“There are people who look Malay but have Chinese Muslim ancestry,” he said.

Yusuf Liu speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at his office in Petaling Jaya March 25, 2023. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Yusuf Liu speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at his office in Petaling Jaya March 25, 2023. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Born in China, Yusuf has lived in Malaysia since 1989. When asked why he likes it here, he replied that here it is easy to practise the faith.

“Even if I go to the supermarket, there is a surau there,” he said, adding that it was also very easy to find food in Malaysia that followed halal, or permissible, restrictions.

When the academic, who has performed the Haj pilgrimage four times, spoke about Islam, his eyes grow soft and his hand gestures slow.

Like the Chinese Muslims of centuries ago, he said he has found a home here and has given the country further generations.

“My grandson is Malay,” he said with a smile.

He has also published many books about Malaysia, from the history of the country’s watchtowers to the role of Chinese Muslims in the Malay world.

What he is most passionate about, however, is promoting understanding between the Chinese and Malay national cultures. Yusuf said this has led him to publish books such as Peribahasa Melayu-Cina (Malay-Chinese Proverbs), which he co-wrote with Rais.

“I want Malaysia to become a model of multicultural coexistence,” he said.

Yusuf Liu speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at his office in Petaling Jaya March 25, 2023. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Yusuf Liu speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at his office in Petaling Jaya March 25, 2023. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

With knowledge comes understanding, which then leads to respect and love, he said.

“Study each other and love each other, respect each other,” he said.

When asked about the friction that exists between different communities, Yusuf said hostility often comes about because people do not understand each other and instead see their differences.

“And before prosperity you need harmonious relationships,” he added, saying that this could be encouraged through communication.

For emphasis, Yusuf plucked a Malay translation from a book he wrote on Confucian sayings from Islamic perspectives (Teks Lengkap Lunyu Konfusius & Huraian dari Perspektif Islam) from a bookshelf in his personal library.

But Yusuf said he not only promotes understanding through his books, as he has also done so through calligraphy and wood engravings in Arabic and Jawi.

This is important because it is impossible to develop a society without an advanced culture, he explained.

“Highly developed societies and nations must also have highly advanced culture like thinking, art, literature, calligraphy, heritage, and so on,” he said.

Cultural interactions were particularly essential, he said.

“Malaysia is a multiracial society. We must remember: Unity in diversity,” he said.

Yesterday, it was reported that Malaysia has secured a record RM170 billion worth of investment commitments from China.

The amount, the biggest so far from China, is from a total of 19 memoranda of understanding (MoU) sealed between businesses in China and Malaysia.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said this showed the confidence of the investors in the country.

Anwar met President Xi Jinping on Friday during his first trip to China as Malaysia's leader, as his delegation hopes to tie up several projects, likely including assistance for a high-speed railway linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.