“So are you Muslim?”…This question always catches me a little off guard. Sometimes my answer can be a little snarky depending on my mood and the person asking. Take for example the person who looks at you and barks out “Where you from ?”, without so much as a Hello. I’ve stopped answering that question. Now I just say Canadian which makes them really annoyed for some reason. They keep insisting you tell them where you are really from…they would like DNA workup maybe? Nothing so sophisticated –They just want to be able to put you in the mental box they have created for: “ohhh you Sudanese?” “Ahh..you’re Somali eh?”, “haha Masr/ Morocco / Ewok…I knew it!”
For some reason though, when someone asks me if I am Muslim I wonder about :
1: their ability to problem solve (if muslim women wear hijab, if all people who wear hijab are women, if i am talking to a woman, in hijab, then ergo she must be a muslim woman…?) or
2: what they are really asking…(I really want to ask Why you are Muslim but that may seem rude or
3: they lack conversational skills and it’s rhetorical….?
Either which way my answer depends like I said, on the person. It can vary from “No! What makes you think that???”(sleazy Muslim guy who kept trying to chat us up) to a simple “Yes”(see above). Sleazy Muslim Guy was not liking me very much that day 😉 But when I answer a person respectfully it is because the person has shown me respect. Like today.
“Are you Muslim?”
“But you don’t really believe in all of that do you? I mean you seem so easygoing and independant!”
I just looked at her. “well…my personality and my religion…I don’t really see the fundamental tension between the two.”
“Oh..you’re a Western Muslim” (problem solved?)
The usual convo ensued: blah..blah…culture…islam…differences….me likey being muslim….blah blah blitty blah…
This conversation raised two things for me. One was that the asker was herself a Muslim by birth who expressed no affiliation with her religion except an Allah necklace she kept fingering as she talked about her boyfriend and how they may be moving in together. And two – I wonder exactly how I come off to people? Do I really seem not quite Muslim… a little off centre ? Am I doing something wrong or is that I should be doing something different? It brings up all those insecurities foisted upon you by the aunties who always let you know that you could never be Muslim enough for them. Or maybe I forget how rare it is in Canada to find people like myself, children of converts, born into Islam as well as into our own Western traditions. This feeling persists though, of having creeped into someone else’s dream and claimed it as my own. It chips away at me and leaves me wondering where exactly is my place – and is my lifetime to short to carve a spot for myself ?