There was a two-storey Lebanese restaurant behind the grand old Sultan Mosque in the old area here. The front of the establishment and the back entrance of the mosque was divided by a thin road. The restaurant owner was stationed in the Middle East. He visited occasionally to check on things.
I used to frequent this place when it was newly opened. Some time later, the management, a group of Singaporeans, decided to host an official launch party. Apart from having a live band, they planned to have a belly dancing performance. I was invited.
I came with a friend, a Malay-Muslim, but with no intention of joining the party. I requested a table outside the restaurant, right at the end of the walkway, in a really dim spot.
The waiters pestered us to go upstairs to join the party. In fact some guests, who were familiar faces, also urged us to join them. I refused.
We ordered food and two apple-flavored sheesha, then sat there quietly in our own space.
My friend was wondering why I chose this boring, isolated spot. I told him to trust me.
The party began. You could hear the drums reverberating, tambourines banging, the loudspeakers yelling incessantly, and shoes thumping on the wooden floor.
About forty minutes into the gig, the mosque Imam, dressed in his white robe and Haji cap, showed up. With a frown, he was accompanied by two clergymen. They marched upstairs.
The music and the craziness stopped.
Later, a senior waiter told us how lucky we were because the revelers received a telling off from the Imam, who felt disrespected.
I turned to my friend. “Now you know why I chose this spot,” I said. “You have to know your surrounding. I saved your face today because the next time you go to that mosque, at least you won’t feel embarrassed when you see the Imam.”