Mar 4, 2012

Reflecting On Assimilation And Islam

by Jenn Fawzy

The act of women covering their hair is nothing new for Muslims, but for others it seems very unusual. Head covering is not just limited to Muslims; in fact, Catholic Nuns wear a garment called the Habit which includes a veil like headpiece. Nuns are respected for keeping their modesty and chastity as it coincides with the Catholic faith. Images of the Virgin Mary adorn church walls with her wearing a long veil on her head and she is often depicted wearing a long flowing dress. These images are accepted in society as part of being pious, feminine, and respectable. Why is it then, that when a Muslim woman wears the hijab, she is called oppressed? Why does head covering seem to create a stir when worn by Muslim women, but appreciated when worn by Catholic women?

Cultural unfamiliarity plays a part when it comes to the negative images that have been used against Islam and Muslims. As Muslims, our faith is a huge part of our lifestyle. Generally, we do not partake in actions that are considered sinful. Many Westerners accuse Muslims of not assimilating in the countries that they live in. First, what do we consider assimilation? How does assimilation affect our faith?

I watched a video online recently, and there was a gentleman who starred in the film. He began to talk about why he thought Muslims and Islam were a ‘threat’ to the American people. “If Muslims are good and everything, why don’t I see them out in regular places?” He said. “I never see them at discos, baseball games, or night clubs. Something bad must be going on with them.” This statement stuck with me. You see, part of the reason that we are not at discos, or nightclubs is because it goes against our religion. These places usually have or sell alcohol-which is against Islam-so why would you find Muslims there? Why would you find us blatantly disobeying our Lord? We adhere to our religion; it does not adhere to us.

Assimilation should not mean that you lose your identity just because you move to another city or country. Sure, you should learn the language of that place as well as the laws there, but you should not have to surrender your religion and your cultural identity for the sake of relocating. Most Muslims continue to hold steadfast to Islam, especially when living in a society that is comprised of mostly non-Muslims. Islam gives us strength and hope; it fosters a deep connection to God within us. Does fitting in with society mean more to us than obeying God?

Non-Muslims do not see any “fun” in abstaining from alcohol, pork, premarital sex and immodesty. Many of them simply don’t want to be restricted. Making 5 daily prayers is just too much for their busy lifestyle, after all, they have to be successful at work and make all the money that they can. They cannot understand that our boundaries serve a great purpose. Muslims are supposed to stand out. We are supposed to be different. There is nothing oppressive or archaic about our faith. Islam has withstood the test of time because we live by the Truth, and in the society that we live in, the truth has been distorted and made to seem like it is oppression. Personally, anything that separates me from God is oppression. Islam made me free.

As always, it is my prayer that you gain something from this piece. I pray that you have encouragement to be steadfast in your worship to God, despite what anyone else thinks. May Peace be upon you.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please comment below and let me know :)



Asalaamu Alaikum

Great message but.....your ad is going against what you are saying...snorg tees....women with her underwear showing...yikes!

Nice topic! The subject of assimilation needs to be discussed more often as it is so relevant and popular these days.

I must add to the 3rd paragraph of this article: Muslims do not prefer bars, night-clubs, etc. not simply because religion ordains it, but also because those places are not as safe and peaceful as one would like it to be when hanging out, relaxing, socializing, or brainstorming. This does not mean that Muslims do not hang out late at night. They do, but at safe and peaceful places, such as cafes, restaurants, friend's house, etc. Also, I don't think bars and night-clubs define a person's level of ethics or intellect.

However, I don't think Muslims are "supposed" to stand out or be different! Cultural and religious practices can over-lap comfortably, as can be seen in the various ways that a Muslimah decides to cover herself according to the proper rules of hijab. In fact, I am a strong advocate of maintaining cultural heritage while still practising religion. Culture is what adds diversity (within halaal limits) to our lives. There are many cultural practices which are not prohibited by religion. Cultivating and respecting this diversity is perhaps what the proponents of assimilation call for! :)

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