Sunday, November 20, 2011

Muslims in the West

Last Thursday, despite a midterm paper that was looming upon me, I attended a talk organized by Al-Aqsa Friends' Society, IIUM entitled Muslims in the West. You see, I had developed a liking on cultures, travel and people these past few years and this is also one of the reasons why I'm so intrigued to attend this talk no matter what. So after I finished my Advanced Quantitative Analysis class, I had asked a classmate's help to drop me off at the Main Auditorium.

The talk actually starts at at 8.45pm but since my class finished at 9pm and Professor had taken an extra 10 minutes time, I was really late. But thank God, I think I didn't miss anything. Yes, one of the perks (I would say perks because thanks for the lateness, I think I didn't miss anything :D) of Malaysians is that we are always not on time :P (I'm afraid that the foreigners who are studying here in IIUM is getting into that habit too).

Before the talk started, the audience was entertained with an inspiring video show (well I'm not sure but when I arrived, they were about to show this). This video had showed the fertility rate in Canada, United States and in the Europe. It also shows the fertility rate of Muslims in those countries. Based on the fertility rate, it is derived that these countries will have a vast number of Muslims compared to other religion in the near future. MasyALLAH!

The first talk was given by Bro Ali Nasser, a Canadian and the second talk was given by Sis Tami Newberry, an American.

Talk by Bro Ali Nasser

He spoke about the problems that Muslims are having in Canada. He had summarized them into two:
1) Education
According to Bro Nasser, knowledge must come first before action and speech. Therefore he said that although majority of the renown universities are in the West, it will never be sufficient enough if Islamic knowledge is not imbibed together with the other subjects. Bro Nasser gave one funny but definitely
should-be-pondered-upon example. He had once talked to a fellow Muslim who was reciting the Quran in the mosque. Bro Nasser said to the brother that his recitation was beautiful. The brother had grumbled, saying that his parents would send him to the evening school to learn the Quran after the morning school, that is why he can recite it properly. The brother had said that he could be resting; if not for the evening class. From this story, Bro Nasser had extolled on us that we are taking for granted all this opportunity to learn about Islam here in the Muslim country. Bro Nasser had told us how he had longed to have that in Canada.
2) Social issue
First off, Bro Nasser reminded us that Islam is not a religion, it's a way of life. Then he had asked us, "What happens if your religion does not mesh up with customs, traditions and etc?" Bro Nasser let the auditorium grew silent for a few seconds. He then answered, "A struggle. It is a struggle that you keep struggling and you hope to keep on struggling." Bro Nasser then elaborated more.
"Take a Canadian Muslim woman for instance, he said. When she is determined to wear the hijab and walks out the front door, every piece of her would want to go back into the house because the culture there is so different. In comparison to Malaysia here, the Islamic atmosphere is already here (although I know some of you might argue otherwise). Some here in Malaysia wear the hijab because that is how it is here."
What he meant was, it is normal here to wear a scarf, to wear the hijab. So the Muslim women here will be hard to understand our sisters' struggle in the West; as for me, I didn't even thought of that. However, Bro Nasser is not saying that the Muslims in the West are better, it's just that they are different. Despite the downfalls, he said that he still loves his country, because Canada IS his country.

Despite the downfalls, Bro Nasser had told us that Canada also possess positive points. Those are freedom of speech, freedom of religious practice and free to give da'wah. He said the Canadians are a very open minded people.

Before he ended his speech, Bro Nasser had given two advise to those who intend to live or study in the West:
1) If you feel that your level of iman here is weak, you might lose everything when you go to the West.
2) And if you want to go the West to chase some American dream, DO NOT forget the dream of paradise.

Talk by Sis Tami Newberry

Sis Tami shared with us her experience of becoming a Muslim, 20 years back if I'm not mistaken. When she had converted (the more exact word is revert but for general audience, convert will be more understandable) to Islam, her whole family hated her. Her mum, dad, sisters..all hated her. She told us this, "You all have a home to go back to. I do not." She told us that she needed to drive for four hours just to buy a scarf. During that time, it was hard to find a scarf, halal food even. She slowly learn to become a vegetarian. Job was hard to come by because companies would require you to change the outfit, to take off your scarfs if you want the job.
She had also touched one particular topic that is eerily true. That is we are not practicing the concept of one Ummah. She said this, "Nobody wanted to invite me to eat together during Ramadhan so that I won't have to eat alone." Other Muslim women wouldn't want to talk to her just because she's an American. And when she got married and had children, she saw that the United States does not provide a conducive environment, a place where she can raise her children. She felt that it is not safe because nobody there can teach her how to raise her children the Islamic way. There was no support system AT ALL. What she said next shocked me and the rest of the audience:
"I brought my children to Palestine and raise them there. There is a support system there. It felt safer in the war zone than in the free country of the United States."

I would like to end this post with a hadith from the Prophet pbuh quoted by Bro Nasser in his speech, and a music video that was shown by Sis Tami:

"The best of you in Islam are the best of you in jahiliyah so long as you acquire an understanding of Islam" (Muslim)