Disclaimer: We have not written this article with the intention to cause offence. Please do read it with a comical tone but understand that the purpose of this article is to get you thinking about all religions, not just Islam and encourage you to start having meaningful conversations. This article is based on our personal views and experiences.
We believe that everyone interprets religion in their own personal way. Every individual is unique and therefore every interpretation is unique. In the UK, about 75% of the population associate themselves with a religion, and yet it is not at the forefront of many conversations.
Coming to the realisation that religion is something that isn’t talked about, we feel society is afraid to offend and therefore many questions are left unanswered. In a multi-faith and multi-cultural society where we are starting to educate about race and gender, we fail to recognise the importance of religion and beliefs to some individuals.
Between us, we have been asked some pretty “interesting” questions about our religion. We decided to pick out a few to share and answer but also reflect on why they were asked.
Before we begin, let’s give you an intro to who we are:
Q: “So wait. You don’t eat or drink anything for 30 days straight during Ramadan?!” (Hafsa)
Putting religion aside, scientifically this is not possible. Google tells us that you can only survive up to three days without water and up to three weeks without food and, yet I have been asked this question during numerous Ramadan months, numerous times.
If it’s not scientifically possible why are you asking me this question? Ask me about Ramadan, i.e. the purpose, and reasoning behind fasting, not just the extreme logistics.
A: We don’t eat or drink from sunrise to sunset (daylight hours) during a lunar month.
Q: “You don’t eat pork? So, can you have bacon?” (Sana)
Seriously?! This isn’t even ignorance about religion. This is ignorance about the pig. It’s concerning how many people don’t realise that bacon, like pork sausages, comes from a pig. The Oxford Dictionary – a tool we should heavily rely on – defines bacon as “cured meat from the back or sides of a pig”.
A: The meat of a pig (bacon and all things pork) is haram – forbidden in Islam – because it is considered impure, unhealthy and harmful for humans due to the fats, toxins and bacteria it contains.
Q: “Oh you’re Indian – but you wear a headscarf?!” (Hafsa)
Indian, my ethnic background, is from the nation India. A nation is not a religion.
Being born and brought up in the most multicultural city in the world, it’s hard to believe that people fail to understand that one country can have numerous religions (and sub groups of religions).
A: Yes, I am Indian – and like 14.2% of the Indian population my religion is Islam. I’m also British but I still wear a headscarf.
Q: “Oh it’s Eid. Is that the festival of light?” (Sana)
Points for knowing that Eid is a religious festival. But that comment is confusing two religions as one, my friend. Please. Don’t.
You haven’t done your research and this question is based on your assumptions. Why not ask me what Eid is, instead? This way, I can commend you for taking an interest and wanting to know more, rather than looking at you with deep worry and concern and later saying a prayer for your sanity.
A: Eid occurs twice in the Islamic calendar – once to celebrate the end of Ramadan and another to celebrate the festival of sacrifice. Diwali is the Hindu festival of light.
Q: “Do you wear your headscarf at home?” (Hafsa)
This is the most popular question I’ve been asked. Whilst this question isn’t offensive, in a way it’s nice you show an interest, it’s like asking me if I wear my coat at home.
Ask me why I wear a headscarf, ask me about the purpose of a headscarf or ask me about the correlation of a scarf and my religion. The answer to these questions will probably eradicate the idea that I wear a headscarf 24 hours a day or even when I’m in the shower.
A: No – Never!
These were a few examples of questions we have been asked that we decided to share. Sadly, there were many more.
We thought about why there is still so much ignorance around the topic of religion and the truth is we don’t openly talk about religion, what we believe and why. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions, the truth is if you don’t ask you won’t learn – but maybe we need to start with the bare basics first, like “why?” or even take time out to research a little ourselves before we ask questions.
Why can’t we start by having more open conversations? In the workplace, with your circle of friends, with networks, with family or even with a complete stranger. What’s stopping you? If we can discuss politics, the environment, issues on gender and race, why can’t we educate ourselves about each other’s beliefs? It’s time to stop thinking that questions offend and time to start having more meaningful conversations.
When we don’t have these conversations, assumptions are made and as a result ignorance is born.