Interview: A Muslim Perspective

In these modern times I often find myself enraged by mainstream media coverage of Islam and Isis and the ignorant, racist comments/memes/pictures that drift into my newsfeed. So I decided to do something about it: shine the spotlight on a regular Muslim girl to show that islam does not equal terrorism or anything even close.

 

Me: Wanna do an interview with me for my blog?

Min: Sure, baby *insert pedo face here*

Me: hahaha that’s how I’m going to start the post – just a direct copy of this convo!

Min: oh my gosh, are you serious? Well, there goes the reputation of millions of Muslims all over the world…

Describe yourself in 5 words: Idealistic, Spiritual, Optimistic, Capricious, Naive

How did we meet? Oh my gosh, don’t kill me but I don’t remember exactly how. But I know it was early high school – Grade 8? – and I thought you were crazy at first. Which was okay. ‘Cause I am too.

What’s your favourite animal? Don’t make me choose! I’m going to say cat, but that’s only because Princess was a cat. But then there are horses, and pandas, and dolphins. And every other type of animal in the world.

          Me: Gosh you’re cute.

          Min: I know. LOL.

What’s your religion? Hmm…. Let me have a nice, long think about that…. Islam, maybe?

What’s the best thing about being a Muslim? The best thing about Islam, for me, is that it controls my life. That may sound scary for some people, but for me it means that no matter what I do, I know that I am in some way connected with God, that he is watching out for me not just while I’m praying to him but throughout every other moment in my life. Islam means that I don’t have to worry about my future – because He’s got that under control. I can just let go and trust Him, and I know that whatever happens to me – good or bad – is all from Him.

What’s the worst thing/thing you enjoy the least/find the most challenging about Islam? Mainly just other peoples’ reactions to it. Especially the prejudice that some have as a result of the negative image perpetuated by the media. For example, whenever I’m watching a video related to Islam and I check the comments, a lot of it is pure negativity. And all of it is misinformed. It’s very sad and I’d like to say it doesn’t get to me but it does.

Are you a feminist? I believe in gender equality, yes.

Isn’t that at odds with how Islam oppresses you? I could go on and on about how Islam certainly does NOT oppress women, but I know that those who are determined not to hear the truth will not hear it. So, instead, I will let the following verses (taken directly from the translations of the Qur’an) do the talking; “For Muslim men and women,- for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in God’s praise,- for them has God prepared forgiveness and great reward. (The Noble Quran, 33:35)” Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a new Life, a life that is good and pure and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions. (16:97) Whoever does an evil deed will not be recompensed except by the like thereof; but whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – those will enter Paradise, being given provision therein without account. (40:40) The Qur’an does this a lot: while describing the rewards or punishments for those of faith, it specifies both genders, not just one. The question is: why? Why would a religion that supposedly oppresses women have verses in its holy book that specifically includes both genders instead of grouping them together? The above verses could have written ‘people of faith’ or ‘believers’ instead of ‘men and women’, but they don’t. They explicitly include men and women together, and anyone who is open-minded can understand the importance of this detail.

Which misconception about Islam annoys/offends you the most? That we are terrorists? Very cliche answer, but it’s true. And that Islam is a religion that encourages violence and aggression, which is the complete opposite of reality.

Do you hate me/think I’m going to hell since I’m a Christian? Yes, I do hate you. I’m just kidding, you know I’m just kidding, right? Anyways, here comes the lengthy explanation….

Muslims are not required to hate ‘infidels’ (that word comes from mistranslation btw) or Christians. We have to respect them, just as we expect them to respect us. About hell… The Christians of Jesus’ time, and the Jews of the time when Judaism was revealed as the religion, we believe that the good, religious people of those times will go to heaven as long as God wills. I know! I just thought of a metaphor (its a metaphor right?) to explain this! Lets say we have the Jewphone 1.0. It is revealed to the people by their prophet, and those who update their nokias to the Jewphone 1.0 can go to heaven, right? Because that’s the newest, best phone. But then the Christphone 2.0 comes along, and all of a sudden the Jewphone is invalid. So everyone has to buy the Christphone since that is the one with the newest upgrades and the one that is the most up to date. So, all of a sudden, those who decide to continue with the Jewphone and not update to the Christphone lose their right to heaven. And then, later on, there comes the Muslimphone 3.0, and this is now the most recent phone. So those who have the phones before it (the Jewphone and Christphone) must update to the Muslimphone, since it is the newest one. Do you get the gist? All of these phones came from the same supplier (God) but they were sent at different times, and to different prophets. What happened was, the first ‘phone’ (Torah) that was sent was later changed by the people. As soon as they changed the contents of their religion, God sent Isa (Jesus Christ) (peace be upon him) to ‘refresh’ their faith and he brought along the bible. But then, people started to change the bible. Or at least thats what Muslims believe. And when the Bible was changed, God sent Muhammad (pbuh) with the Quran to refresh their faith. So that was a long winded way of saying: the Christians of Jesus’ time will go to heaven (if they were good Christians of course) but, as far as I know, and I hope my knowledge isnt wrong, unfortunately, as Islam is the ‘updated’ religion of this time, those who don’t believe in it may not have the chance to go to heaven. But of course, we can’t decide who goes to heaven or not. And Im not saying all Muslims will go to heaven simply for believing. There are some BAD muslims out there (and Im not such a great muslim myself). So in the end, its up to God to decide who goes to heaven or not.

How much do you love me? Not much, just a lot.

What are your goals in life? My goal in life is to be a beneficial person to myself and those around me.

Wait, what? You mean you’re a real human being?! I think I am. Or I might be an alien. Whatevs.

Are you the one reader I have from Turkey? Probably, yeah.

 

To finish off this interview,  I would like to propose a drastic viewpoint. “Muslims are not terrorists” has been done before, as has “Not all terrorists are Muslim” but how about this: “NO terrorists are Muslims.” I know, it seems inaccurate to say the least, but it’s not. It’s the truth. Islam is a religion that promotes peace and understanding, with a bit of regular prayer and donating to charity thrown in. Their religion does NOT tell them to denounce, hurt or kill people of different faiths. So anyone who commits acts of terrorism in the name of Allah is not a ‘Muslim extremist’! They haven’t taken the faith to the extreme, they’ve butchered and maligned it for their own purposes. They no longer have the right to call themselves Muslims.  Just as a ‘christian’ who walks into a church with a gun isn’t an extremist or a christian. They. Are. Just. Terrorists.

 

EDIT: When I first started interviewing Min (in 2016 for God’s sake), it was in response to some stuff in the media. She and I were – and remain – incredibly good friends and I thought that showing she is a completely regular person might make the world a tiny bit better. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but since then the world has gone to hell. So this will probably never be read by anyone except the gorgeous girl who answered my questions with patience and sincerity – and to be honest who also wrote most of it – but just in case it is I want to say one more thing: The God I believe in loves her just as much, if not more than me, so Islamophobia can piss right off!

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The Three Stages of (Wanting) a Relationship

Now, as a very single woman, I can offer no insight into ‘the stages of a relationship’ or ‘how to know you’re happy’ or any of that stuff that people in/bordering on relationships actually want to know. But having spent my life on the outside looking in, I think I have a pretty firm grasp on the lead up.

Stage 1: ‘hold my hand and sit with me at lunch’

If, as a kid (and if you’re brave enough to admit is, even as a teen) you thought that the entire point of a relationship was PDA, then welcome to the club. Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a creepy opinion! I just didn’t know that there was other stuff going on. Sex and deep emotional connections went completely over my head then (and now *cough* wait, what?), so what else could they possibly be about? Hand holding, of course.

This was the time that I was adamant that I would only ever date a guy I had been friends with first. I can remember saying that as young as eight years old! And I don’t think I’m alone in that. My friends didn’t ‘date’ boys they met on the playground, they ‘dated’ the guys that sat opposite them in class and through bits of eraser and pencil sharpenings at them. And they say chivalry is dead!

At this point in your life, relationships are hobbies, fun things to do on the weekend and brag about to your friends. You’re happy and naive, and have no concept of what is actually involved in a relationship.

Ah, the good old days…

Stage 2: ‘Test before you buy’

I cannot possibly be the only person in the world who has friends that told them that you had to have sex before marriage because what if you didn’t work together? Apart from displaying a complete misunderstanding of biology and being a tragic example of how sex education in this country is failing our youth, they had a point! What if it wasn’t good/magical/orgasmic? What if the physical side of things was… a dud?

At this point in your life, your understanding of relationships has developed; much like the chest of the girl who suddenly got popular halfway through high school, it’s gone from an AA (like a battery, simple and one-directional) to a D (Like the D, if you catch my drift). The actual physicality of relationships suddenly kicks in, whether you’re active in that department or saving yourself, and that’s the basis for your romantic decisions. You find a crowd of prospective partners that don’t bore you to death and then order them by how attracted you are to them. Because the rest can be figured out, right? It’s sex that is either gonna work or gonna flop (innuendo intended).

To a certain extent, there’s no problem with this mindset. It’s completely fine to go into a relationship thinking about purely physical things (so long as your partner is in the same boat) especially in your 20s, but this ‘all  or nothing’ attitude is damaging.

Which brings us to…

Stage 3: ‘I can tolerate you and we can work on the rest’

This stage can only be reached after several epiphanies and mental backflips. It requires full comprehension of the following;

  1. emotion and conversation are the backbone of a relationship
  2. sexual pleasure is not a yes or no kinda situation

It’s not a very complicated list, to be completely honest with you.

By this point in your life, when you think about the perfect person it’s not your best friend (unless you’re in love with your best friend (and if that’s the case please post a comment because I would love to hear that story)), and it’s not Channing Tatum in Magic Mike or Christian Grey. It’s good conversation and lots of laughter, and mediocre sex (before or after marriage) that develops into something mind-blowing.

It’s a kinda boring stage, to be honest. It’s adulthood and, like every other part of growing up, it has it’s good bits and it’s bad bits. And the good bit is that you can look back at your ‘perfect partner’ lists you had at thirteen and laugh about how ridiculous half of it is, and how ironic that the other half is back on your list even now.

My Lair

I don’t know how much time you spend looking around your room (and if the answer is a lot then you probably need to do something about that) but you may have noticed that it looks like you. Again, if you think I mean literally you should go and see someone about that.

What I mean is that your bedroom is an embodiment of your personality. It holds your life. Let’s see if you can figure me out from my bedroom.

If you can enter without breaking your neck or extensive experience as a gymnast, then it’s a good day for me. I’m usually a thorough (anal retentive) person, but in my room I can finally relax. It disturbs and disgusts my friends, but they forgive me.

Assuming you’ve made it in the door you might also notice an overwhelming amount of green. That doesn’t need explanation. Green is good. Green is great.

My technology is stashed in the corner, a printer, laptop, keyboard and monitor barely visible between the mass of cords. It’s a convincing set up; people might actually be fooled into thinking I accomplish things on a regular basis. Definitely serves its purpose…

Above loom piles of DVDs and above that an even larger collection of tea. A rich boy’s inheritance worth of textbooks stand intimidatingly to the side, their elevated position perfect for staring down at me derisively. And then the other books. The good ones. Lord of the RingsGo Set a WatchmanAnimal Farm, The Alchemist….I can’t wait for the day I actually have time to sit down and read them.

Now, you may think that I’ve revealed to you a whole lot of pointless information. You’d be correct. But me, myself and I are pointless. Pointlessly trying to prove to you that I am my room. Hard work with a strong streak of procrastination. Mess with a weak undertone of organisation. Life with a large proportion of naps.

Let me know how your room reflects you. Cause I don’t doubt for a second that it does.

Ex-Sexism

When I was 16 years old, I was sitting in a maths class being my usual insane self, and a new student – a boy I’m not ashamed to say I was slightly attracted to – asked me whether I was a feminist. I froze. How do you answer that question? I barely knew what feminism was! In fact, I was so confused that I (un)subtly avoided the question and went home to my Dad where I asked him exactly that: Was I a feminist?

“Do you believe that everybody should be treated equally?” he asked.

Yes.

“Then you’re a feminist.”

I took that on board and proudly proclaimed it for years. I was a FEMINIST! I wanted equal rights for women everywhere, I wanted equal pay and the right to choose and maternity leave and all of it served up on a platter before my bed time.

But then I saw the following clip in an episode of West Wing:

It’s basically a discussion between two people who work for the president – though from different parties – about the Equal Rights Amendment, which as I understand it is a change some want to make to the constitution so that the rights of women are written in. When I first saw this, I think I re-watched it 7 or 8 times. For as long as I can remember, people have been telling me that I will be discriminated against for being a woman. That it will be harder to get jobs in male-dominated fields because of sexism. That my life will be affected by genitalia. And I hate it.

I remember in primary school teachers would walk into the classroom and ask for volunteers to carry some heavy desks. Being the proud little goody-two-shoes that I was, my hand sprung into the air eagerly. Yet I was never picked. Because I was a girl. Even though I beat one of the boys in an arm-wrestling match. Little things like this fueled my hate for gender-bias, but after watching that episode of West Wing I had to reconsider.

It is my belief that I am not hindered in any way by my sex; not physically, emotionally, socially, culturally or academically. In electing to work in the sciences I have chosen a profession largely dominated by men. I honestly don’t believe this is because men are more or less intelligent than women or because women have not had access to the same opportunities. I believe this is because fewer women want to work in the sciences.

Novel idea, I know.

Now don’t get me wrong – in no way am I saying that women don’t experience discrimination and abuse because of their gender. That would be incredibly naive of me. What I mean is that in developed countries, women achieve what women want to achieve.

I’m not trying to antagonize anyone or start any fights, I’m just conveying my point of view. And I realize it is extremely biased: I have had an amazing upbringing where I was encouraged by family, friends and teachers to pursue whatever I wanted. I was provided with enough resources to succeed but not enough to have it handed to me on a silver platter. I was born with intelligence, but not so much that I could slack off or grow bored. I am very aware that I am very privileged.

Statistics will be thrown in my face about there being a far smaller percentage of CEOs and things that are women. Which is true. I can’t argue with the facts. Except to say that maybe there’s a reason for this. Maybe, women choose to have families and to take time off to raise them which doesn’t fit the time commitments of a CEO. The rebuttal: why should women have to give up their careers to have kids? They don’t. Social acceptance of men and women not wanting to have children is growing, and it’s now widely accepted that it doesn’t make you any less of a person. Women don’t have to have kids – they can just climb the corporate ladder instead. They don’t even have to choose just one!

What I am trying to say is that not EVERY case of a man getting hired instead of a woman is because of sexism – even if they’re being accepted into a position largely held by men. It’s derogatory to both sexes to think otherwise: that a man only gets a job because his boss is sexist and that if a women gets a job it’s just because they want diversity in the workplace.

We spend so much time talking and arguing about sexism when its honestly not the biggest problem in our society. I want politicians arguing about how to help homeless people get off the street and how to eradicate AIDs and how to deliver food and medical supplies to war zones. If I work hard enough, I know with absolute certainty that I can go anywhere I want and there are a lot of people far worse off than me who can’t say the same. And they need your help.

The Condition

I had a horrible incident the other day. It was terrifying. It led me to discover something I had been fearing my entire life: that I had inherited The Condition from my Mum. Now, I know what you’re thinking and yes, it is as bad as it sounds. It’s not deadly (not usually) but it can have some serious side affects. I’m talking about foot-in-mouth-disease.

Now, to clarify: I’m not talking about hand, foot and mouth disease the physical condition. No, I’m talking about the strikingly horrifying ability to say the exact wrong thing at the exact wrong time.

I recognized the symptoms in my mum from a young age. The first Incident I remember was when she was proudly telling a family friend about her niece who was a physiotherapist and doing some wonderful work with obese clients. All in all, relatively unoffensive. Until you consider the weight of said family friend. Mum didn’t know where to look or what to say. The Condition won that day…

I thought I’d been lucky enough to avoid this same fate until very recently when I was chatting to some friends, and happened to put my foot in it big time. Somehow we got onto a certain topic – for privacy’s sake, let’s say nail polish colours (because that’s totally a thing girls talk about) – and I was casually asking everybody what colour nail polish they would have chosen if they’d have been asked last year. Now, for this analogy to work you have to understand that nail polish colours are a really private thing that everyone has an opinion on. There are religious and psychological arguments for shade choice, people discuss number of layers with legal jargon, some can be ostracized from sections of society just for their decision…  in short, it’s a big deal.

So, as I casually, theoretically ask my friends what colour they would have chosen, I never expected someone to have actually had to choose a colour before. But, as I naively swiveled my head around the group and briefly contemplated why another friend was sending me the ‘oh-my-gosh-you’re-an-idiot-stop-talking-and-look-away-before-you-hurt-yourself-with-your-stupidity’ expression one particular friend spoke up.

“I chose pink.”

Such a simple statement, that brought so much chaos to my world.

You know those moments when time seems to freeze and you can hear the panic sirens going off in your brain because you’ve just caused someone to reveal something so personal about themselves when you’ve been throwing around your unfounded opinion willy-nilly and never actually considered that those people you read about choosing nail polish colours actually exist and could be sitting amongst you at that very moment?

No?

Lucky bastards…

Now, I’m considering sainting this particular friend. They said they had to choose their nail polish already, they let the conversation get swept away, and they never even cast me a sour look. Making an Angel a saint might be pointless, but I don’t care.

This friend of mine though… Well, Angel is pretty amazing. She’s had to choose some pretty brave nail polish colours over the years, and yet she wears each and every one of them with pride. I think she’s the strongest person I know. And that’s saying something. Currently, I find myself surrounded by awesome people who have been through some of the hardest trials imaginable, and still manage to keep a smile on their faces from day to day. It’s inspiring…

…but also humbling in an uncomfortable way. I want to be able to achieve so much – to help people and make a difference. But how the heck am I supposed to stand in front of strangers who I know nothing about and offer my advice? I don’t know what they’ve gone through, but it’s almost certainly been harder than my life. Me, Miss young-white-middle-class-reasonably-intelligent-supportive-family-fantastic-education. The only way I could be more textbook is if I was a dude. Phew! Dodged that bullet!

I have been blessed, without a doubt, and I’m trying really hard to remember that. To think before I speak and acknowledge that every fact I can spew about a topic doesn’t hold a candle to what someone who has lived through it can say in a word. I’m trying really hard to make sure that The Condition doesn’t make people think I’m an opinionated airhead or worse: lose me any friends.

Like Like

Coming into adulthood there are a lot of confusing things you have to learn to navigate. Budgeting quickly becomes top of the list when you realize you can’t buy a whole new wardrobe every week just because you don’t know the difference between laundry powder and flour. It occurs to you that leaving your dishes in the sink to spawn a variety of fungi and bacteria is not so much a science experiment as a social experiment to test your roommates’ patience. And you have to choose between leaving your windows open constantly so you wake up shivering and covered in mosquito bites, or leaving them closed until your room begins to smell like muddy socks and stale bread.

But the worst thing you have to learn to deal with is relationships.

Moving out of home puts you in constant contact with people you have previously had no exposure to; roommates who have no concept of personal space, classmates who can’t comprehend what the ‘group’ in ‘group assignment’ is actually referring to, lecturers who love their subjects so much they make little jokes you only pick up on when you’re watching the lecture on catch up for the third time the night before the exam, and random people in the street who don’t understand road rules, walk on the wrong side of the path, and look at you funny when you get on the bus. Personally, I’m learning to deal with these people. It’s the other elusive type that messes with my head: romantic interests.

Now, as previously mentioned my dating experience is diddly squat. Nada. Zilch. The one and only boy I’ve ever had a crush on was one of my very good family friends. People kept telling me for years that we would date, that we should date, that it would be cute if we dated…. I don’t know whether I actually liked him back then or not, but I do know I was determined not to date him because other people said I should. I’m stubborn like that.

By the time I realized I might have had a thing for him one of my other best friends was head-over-heels, stars-in-her-eyes, practically-drooling-when-he-walked-by, in love with him. I knew it. She knew it. He knew it. Actually, EVERYBODY knew it. The problem was that they were oh so very different. Friends, but opposites. He was science, she was arts. He was sports, she was dancing. He was David Attenborough films, she was broadway musicals. It couldn’t possibly work.

But then, he and I couldn’t either. We were too similar, we’d known each other too long and it would have been awkward.

At the end of the year a group of our friends went camping, and by the end of the week they were a couple. It made no sense to any of us, but for some reason they worked. After all, opposites attract. Now when I found out about this it was at a Christmas party and my friend – the girl – approached me and apologized and checked that I was OK with their relationship and… To be honest, I was fine. Utterly.

Now, I’ve decided that there are two possible conclusions to draw from this. Either a) I never really had a crush on him (I just wanted to want someone) or b) I can compartmentalize the hell of of everything and I’ve just sectioned my feelings off from the rest of my brain. I’m inclined towards the former….

My search for love didn’t end there, of course. I moved towns and was suddenly deposited in the city; a small, not overly-attractive fish in the big sea. I was terrified. I AM terrified. For the first few weeks, every guy I talked to was a possible relationship. To some, that may seem like an insane approach, but I’m sure there are many of you who completely agree with me: everyone you meet is an opportunity for a new relationship – romantic or platonic! I blame Hollywood: women are constantly exposed to men who approach them in a coffee shop and compliment the book they’re reading and men are confronted with sexily clad women offering to buy them shots in smokey bars. It’s completely unfair to both sexes!

But that’s not my point.

After all these years – of crushes, of feelings, of daydreams – we are all just those same, innocent primary schoolers aren’t we? Asking ourselves if we like that person or if we Like Like them.

Coming Out Straight

About a year ago now I was sitting on my lounge and multitasking like any good 21st century teenager: watching TV, googling on my laptop and playing Jelly Splash on my phone. I came across a few videos of kids coming out to their families and friends as gay. Now, as an avid LGBTQI supporter, watching these types of videos was not unusual for me. What was different this time though, was that my father walked in.

As I sat their, holding back the tears of joy as these people were accepted without a fuss by their loved ones, I noticed Dad looming in the doorway and grinned at him.

“What are you doing?” he asked me hesitantly – that should have been the first sign of what was to come.

Naive as I was, I explained the videos and turned my focus back to the screen. But he wasn’t done. As I sat there in shock, he calmly explained to me that he would love me no matter what my sexual orientation.

Two things occurred to me at this point: firstly, that there were so many people in this world that would give anything to have a father as amazing, loving and accepting as my own, and secondly… ‘Shit, I come across as a lesbian!’

I like to think that my reaction wasn’t due to fear of being gay, but rather fear that everybody – let’s be honest, boys –  thought I was a lesbian which was why they never asked me out. So, I sought out my friends for reassurance. At a sleepover a few days later, I recalled the story with a grin and chuckled along with them at the end. Then there was an awkward pause…

“Well,” one of my friends said, obviously braver than the rest, “Are you?”

Sometime in the next few months – after recovering from my shock – I came to a realization: this is what people in the LGBTQI community all go through and we don’t consider it weird. At all. It’s normal.

Still puzzling over that, I watched this fantastic comedy sketch a few months ago and it really stuck with me. Check it out and you’ll see what I mean:

He’s a funny guy, but more than that: he’s right!

In the several times I’ve been asked this question over the past 12 months, I always dig myself into a deeper hole. I’ll demonstrate:

They say: “Blah blah blah (vague reference to my sexuality) blah blah.”

And I reply: “Yeah, I’ve been called gay a few times…”

An awkward pause.

Them: “Are you a lesbian?”

And it’s this moment that stretches out to infinity: I weigh my options, think about my response and always say the same thing that gets me into strife: “No… Or at least I don’t think so…”

And they love that – they sense my hesitation and go it for the kill. What I don’t understand is how my refusal to be adamant that I will never fall in love with or be sexually attracted to a woman makes them so confused! Just because it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it never will – for me or for them!

So this is me officially coming out of the cupboard to my friends, family and all you random strangers and hoping for your acceptance.

I am straight.

For now.