Islam Awareness Week 2013

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Last week week, the 30th September – 4th October, was Islam awareness week on campus whereby students not of the Islamic faith could learn more about the Islamic faith from Muslim students on campus and various speakers throughout the week. Allowing students to experience various facets of the islamic faith including listening to passages of the Qur’an (The holy book), letting students write on a board their perceptions of Islam, answering other students questions with regards to faith , experiencing islamic art and cultural aspects such as a mass prayer which was open to anyone and using mehndi (henna) as a artistic reference to the artistic side of the religion.

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It was a wonderful idea by the MSA (Muslim students association) of UCT and being a little more than conflicted I wasn’t particularly certain of my own feelings towards the event.

I admit, i was highly skeptical and somewhat wary of the entire event at first. Similar to the reaction of a wild animal experiencing kindness for the first time. I didn’t trust it, I didn’t want to learn more but i found myself drawn to a topic which seemed strange and somewhat elusive to me. It fascinated me, this topic which was integral to my fathers life, taboo to my mothers and mocked and defamed by many media outlets because of preconceived ideals and common misconceptions fed to the masses by media and reporters who spend their lives rushing to meet deadlines with what is often considered to be sensationalistic hard hitting news. So instead of taking the time to do a little proper research and present the public with facts. The public is fed bite sized portions of propaganda which makes that pill much easier to swallow and believe.

I decided to take a step back from my preconceived ideals with regards to the religion to try and understand it from the viewpoint of a non-believer attempting to understand it ; without letting any of my own history and current interaction taint my perception.

Certain aspects of this awareness week I liked:
– The clothing collection for the underprivileged.
– The talks by various outsiders on the five pillars of Islam, the role of women in islam and the misconceptions of islam.
– The tours of the prayer room and the Jumu’ah prayer which was open to everyone.

Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the talk on the misconceptions of Islam and the Jumu’ah prayer but I believe that it was set out wonderfully allowing people of other customs and religions to experience facets of Islam in ways that show what the religion is truly about. I recall the man who had given us the talk with regards to the misconceptions of Islam telling us that the Arabic root of the word Islam is derived from “slm” which encompasses not only humility and unity but peace as well. Others may not agree with me but I find that, that is my interpretation and I find that it does indeed seem that way. The speaker also mentioned the difference between religious and cultural beliefs, regardless of what people believe the two are not always interlinked therefore the cultural customs practiced in Saudi are not practiced in Somalia for example, even though people of both countries practice the Islamic faith. The cultural belief is different. The Jumu’ah prayer was enlightening as well, speaking about the duties of the child to his or her parents.

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The main aspect I disliked about the event are the signs that some of the Muslim students held signs saying “Meet a Muslim” Or “meet another muslim” To me it seemed offensive and belittling to the believers, as if they were a strange anomaly with whom the rest of society is finally coming into contact with.

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The other was somewhat funnier .. But only somewhat

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However I believe that overall Islamic awareness week has actually created an awareness not only about the religion and the various misconceptions which surround it but about the people who practice it and the manner in which they came together to make this event a success. There were no pushy “you must convert” types it was just a beautiful experience.I found myself blessed with a desire to learn more, not because i am meant to (due to my fathers religious beliefs ) but because *I* wanted to. It had nothing to do with either of my parents but rather about what I wanted to learn.

One person remarked that my soul is searching for something more; an inner calm and peace which it has not yet found and I replied that I agreed but my soul strives to learn and I see nothing wrong with learning until I settle and discover what I truly want from life.

Ignorance is bliss is how the saying goes but I believe that to go through life ignorant, is similar to going through life blind and unprepared for the many facets of life that fate may toss my way. Doing that is a sure way to live my life unfulfilled.

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My life, my religious choices.

For some reason people place so much faith in their .. well respective faiths.
I don’t have an issue with this, I think it’s perfectly acceptable. I find it to be a “cool bro, you do you” kind of thing yet the only thing that seriously gets to me is during religious occasions (Christmas) or customs that are observed (Ramadan) and it seems like people suddenly find religion all of a sudden and that gives them the right to preach about your supposed misdeeds regardless of the fact just last month that specific judging asshole was drinking himself into oblivion.

Hypocritical much?

I’ve mentioned it before and it seems like I’ll need to mention it again..

I am .. To put it mildly

Religiously screwed.

I have an overprotective muslim indian father who only wants me to date a muslim/indian boy and a coloured mother ( German /Filipino mix) who prefers white/christian males.

And honestly? I think I’m okay with being “religiously screwed” for now. I’m learning more about myself in the process and the respective religions.

However I loathe that when it comes to religious occasions (Christmas) or customs that are meant to be observed (Ramadan) the biggest sinners become the ones who decide you MUST follow tradition.

I mean I go to church sometimes and it isn’t always full … Until Christmas Day when people decide they need to get their “blessings” and decide to turn it into a fashion show in the process.

Uhm.. No the good Lord does not care that you’re wearing the the latest fashion, cover your ass up you’re in church. Also? Do you REALLY believe despite all your previous transgressions that Jesus wants you to like and share a status/photo about him … Or “you will go to hell”.

And then I saw, what could only be described as the epitome of human stupidity (with reference to religious context).
Regardless of the religious clashes between the two groups ( and let’s be honest, there are plenty of clashes between Christians and Muslims) .. There was a Facebook photo up with the caption “Like if you believe in Jesus or Comment if you believe in Islam” .. And no my dears, that’s not the worst.. The rest of the caption went as follows “Let’s see who gets the most likes/comments”

How stupid can you be to decide to which one is better based on comments or likes, and people had actually liked an commented, when chances are you barely know anything but the basics of the opposite religion. I mean people dedicate their ENTIRE LIVES to researching their own religion how do you suppose you of all your what? 21 years? Know enough about BOTH religions to adequately judge or make commentary.

So to end that social media tangent I felt the need to vent…
Keep your religion away from social media. No one but you cares or join a like minded group but don’t tell others they will go to hell for not believing, don’t say one religion is better than the other when you barely understand your own religion well enough.

Back to the hypocrites ..

Currently it is the month of Ramadan and since my name is Arabic sounding enough and I apparently look the part, I’m often asked if I fast.
Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. Granted I’ve made more effort this year than in any other (but that’s for altruistic reasons if I must be honest – I’ve decided that since my father makes an effort with regards to my mothers religions beliefs/celebrations, I should make more effort for his)

What gets to me is the judgement I see in some people’s eyes if I or others don’t fast yet these same people (who are judging myself and others) are usually to be found drinking in town or Claremont on Thursday nights etc.

Personally, if I’m NOT going to be remotely religious EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR. Why on earth should I do it for just one month , just to make myself feel better for MY transgressions (of my own making) so I may place myself on my pretty little religiously moral pedestal and judge those who do not conform or observe the religious customs during this holy month.

My understanding of the Islamic culture is limited, and I won’t deny it, but surely I’m not incorrect to say that technically Muslims are not allowed to consume alcohol?
So I don’t see why someone who usually consumes vast amounts of alcohol deems fit to call me out on whether or not I fast and if not, when will I begin to do so.

Point In case:

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Whether I fast or not, it has absolutely nothing to do with anyone but me and well in this case, Allah. When I die none of you will be up there with me. I will probably die alone and I’ll meet my maker (whomever he/she may be) ALONE. The fact that you seem to have this misguided subconscious belief that when you kick the bucket you’ll at least be able to say “Well .. I told Mish she must fast and so-and-so that his behaviour is wrong etc”. It honestly wont stop your god from judging YOU. Since your god is the only one who should be passing judgement**. Mankind has somehow given themselves a god complex, and in doing so man believes that he/she has the right to judge others regardless of his/her own less than exemplar behaviour.

I’m happy that you have a religion and you’re welcome to share it with me as I’m not opposed to leaning more, but don’t try and judge me because I don’t comply with your standards because chances are mine are still much higher.

To each his own and the like but when you meet your maker, Kudos to you for the GOOD DEEDS you have done for others NOT the judgements you have passed on others.

Live and let live should be a simple concept but most don’t understand it, I try and avoid religious debates/conversations/arguments etc because I’m living with a duality that isn’t the easiest thing to manage based on the preconceived notions others have of me that is solely due to my appearance and how I dress.

I AM ME AND YOU ARE YOU and I’m happy for both of us.
You’re not an indecent person and neither am I but if I decide to observe religious occasions or customs it is a personal thing between me and my god and should have nothing to do with anybody else. To reiterate that point ME AND MY GOD; not you,me and god. It’s a one on one thing between the two of us; not you me, him and the rest of the world. The fact that I’ve tried or am trying should be enough to appease and satisfy him, It has no impact on your life, so try and keep it that way.

**Yes the irony of this post and that statement does not escape my notice but the truth must out and I must vent before I end up strangling someone

Religiously Screwed

Am I even date-able? ,
I sometimes wonder to myself. Like seriously my home life is messed up .. Super over protective Muslim indian dad who only wants a muslim/indian boy for his “moekies” (yes, that’s what he calls me) and a coloured mother ( German /Filipino mix) who prefers white/christian males :/ Seriously? When did MY choices become that of my parents. My mother is still a Christian so she never converted to Islam and my father is still a Muslim who didn’t force her to convert. So I’m royally screwed in terms of religion.

I was raised by my mothers family, mostly shunned by my fathers family ( hence my mums family raising me) so I do lean towards one side more than the other but regardless of that I can’t choose either religion despite what people say. According to some, you are what your mother is and according to others you are what your father is.

So WTF am I?? I can’t choose either without offending the other parent. So I decided that I’d adopt whatever religion my future husband or whatever has and I admit, I’ve experimented with some religions.. Some more pagan than others but still. I’ve taken an agnostic view of this thing but there was a conversation I had with a friend that bugged me.

Today, we were in one of the buildings on campus, chilling on the stairs and talking (He had previously joked that next time he saw me he’d ask me out – He forgot XD) so I asked why he bothered coming to campus since he hardly goes to lectures and he replied he came to Uni to get a degree.. Lectures weren’t a necessity, being me, I asked so not even for the girls? And he replied in kind that he tried that as a first year and it didn’t work out so great, so now he’d rather go to “temple” ( He’s hindu) to meet girls, as they aren’t as distracted or busy at temple.
I admit, I laughed.

Later on we had a talk about him having forgotten to ask me out and in turn I replied that he shouldn’t ask me out and then I said something which kinda stuck with me, ” Go meet a nice, normal, religious girl at temple. It’s the safest thing to do”

Have I become so bad that I’ve gotten to the point of being that girl overly religious parents warn their sons about? Not by doing any dirty deed mind you but by simply not having one set faith?

What is the definition of “normal”? And why did I even set myself down like that in the first place?
Is it seriously all because of religious differences or differences within myself? Like a great divide which separates my brain from rational thought almost like a defence mechanism to protect me from being shunned further because of religion.

I’ve always wondered how awkward it must be to have to explain to parents exactly how you are, especially in terms of religion and religious ignorance is not bliss.

Even more so when the guy (who could be fanfreakingtasticly amazing for all I know) has an overly religious family.

I grew up in a situation like that and quite frankly, it sucked. There is no eloquent way to describe it. It just sucked. Always on the outside never quite sure if I belonged or not. This religious divide can seriously fuck a kid up and it did fuck me up and I guess because of it religion in general will always be a touchy, raw nerve kind of subject with me.

Where does one draw a line (if ever) in terms of religion and dating? Do you only date within a specific religious group? (Some people do – but what if you miss “The One” because of it? Settling sucks) Do you try and force them to accept your beliefs? What should one do?

Sad thing is .. No one really knows the answers to these questions because everyone’s life is different and I can only hope that one day I’ll be able to answer these questions.