Hello again, fellow readers! As a Muslim, I regularly face statements such as:
"But you don't look like a Muslim."
"Wait! You're not wearing a scarf!"
"So will you like, have an arranged marriage?"
(That last one....mmm-mmm, that one is so original)
Most people have no malicious intent when asking about Islam or the tenets of my faith. This leads to enjoyable discussions about various cultural differences we may have faced through life and certain similarities we may also share.
However, I think the most meaningful discussions I have had over my travels has to be with fellow Muslims. Many people seem to associate Muslims as a monolith, uniform and one in appearance. This couldn't be further from the truth. Muslims are as diverse as the entire population in the world, especially since the central component of Islam is to welcome everybody.
That's all great in theory, sadly reality is much different. I once met a British Muslim brother who asked me how it feels to be an American Muslim. Aside from a few bigoted incidents in my life, my overall experience as a Muslim in America is excellent. I am respected by my peers, reasonable accommodations are made for religious holidays (i.e. getting a day off for Eid or time off for Jummah prayer), and I can have meaningful discussions about my faith without fear of ignorant backlash.
He pointed out that being a Muslim in America is vastly different from being a Muslim in the UK. On one of his visits to the US, he was astounded by the heterogenous makeup of a number of our mosques. He was raised in an area where the predominant Muslim group was ethnically Bengali so seeing Muslims of all backgrounds mingling after Jummah was refreshing.
Before this incident, I had never really thought of the cultural connotations that affected our daily "Muslim" lives. Was being raised as a Muslim in the United States so different than being raised as a Muslim in the UK or other countries?
I still wonder about that even today.