People do appreciate my believe as how they see me appreciate it.
At least that is what I learned here while being part of the minority, particularly in religion. To give you a rough picture of how minor is that minority I mentioned; In my flat I live with five other international students which none of them are Muslim. In my program, I mingle with 160 other students from all over the world which only 6 people who are Muslim. There is only one praying room in the entire University which quite far from my school. It is almost impossible to find praying room in public places (mall, hospital, market, restaurant, etc). So, practically I need several adjustments of how I live my life here as a Muslim.
It is obvious that people here are not familiar yet with Islam nor Muslim. In many chances, I got some international friends who asked me about Islam, about my hijab (which people usually addressed as headscarf), about halal food, about anything that relates to being Muslim. Some questions are merely casual and I can answer them pretty fast, clear, with no doubt, such as;
– How many times do you pray in a day? Aren’t you tired of that?
– What are forbidden foods for you apart from pork?
– How many hijab do you have? Isn’t that hot wearing hijab everyday?
Some other times, those questions got deeper that made me took few more minutes to think and few more minutes to answer. Usually those questions start with “why”:
– Why Islam prohibits you from having a boyfriend before getting married?
– Why sexual intercourse is strictly prohibited prior to marriage?
– Why can’t you drink alcohol even just one drop? One drop won’t make you lose your mind, though.
– Why do you wear hijab while the other muslim girls do not wear it?
and so on and so forth..
Here is the thing, I am glad of having friends who are willing to know more about Islam. I am more than happy to answer their questions and share further talks. But, it is actually not as easy as I thought it would be prior to my study here in UK. I am aware that as a muslim, with or without my approval, automatically I become representative of the religion that people called as Islam. Mostly I face people who has no understanding about Islam previously, yet they might already have their own assumptions and their own way perceiving Islam while they are asking me questions. So, I have to be careful and try my best to give at least appropriate ‘picture’ of what Islam is about (Oh Allah, this is hard) moreover, I, myself is still struggling in this never ending process of learning about Islam. Along this past 10 months, I hope I have been providing at least a clear view of Islam and Muslim as simple as it might be understood. Those answers do not have to be satisfying, because that is not my job to satisfy people’s curiosity, but at the minimum level I hope our casual conversations could broaden their view about Islam, about Muslim.
Apart from all those, I was quite surprised about my friend’s efforts as they try to understand my role as muslim. They recognize that I am not supposed to be seen by men without hijab. So everytime they bring male friends to our flat, they will text me something such “please wear your headscarf, I have some male friends in our kitchen.” Another time, in a group work, my friend reminded me casually “Don’t you need to pray, it’s already 2 pm?” . Or when it was Ramadhan, they told me, “Come on, 4 more hours until sunset! Keep going!” And some other similar moments like that 🙂 Awww, they are just too adorable to be true. Alhamdulillah.
However, this got me thinking, mostly friends who did such friendly things like that are people who ask me questions about Islam out of their curiosity. So more or less they already had understanding about Islam and Muslim as they can see from my point of view. As a result, they try to treat me as a muslim as they see me treating myself as a muslim. They respect Islam as a religion as they see me respecting Islam with all its attachments. They voluntarily be my ‘alarm’ as they see how ‘strict’ I usually am about Islam rules (hijab, praying time, etc). They automatically serve some halal food in a party as they understand how important it is to me. They just simply appreciate our believe exactly as we show them how much we appreciate it. So, the bottom line is, the value of our believes to other people is inexplicitly attached to our daily behaviour. Ya I know, it is not a simple task 😦
I abundantly thank God for this chance to sip the taste of being minority after 24 solid years of being exceedingly comfortable doing my muslim role as part of the majority in a country with the largest Muslim population in the whole entire earth.