A Question of convenience


MekkaThere is no new truth I am about to mention. My recent epiphany is something I am sure plenty of people have had before me and more will too after me; nevertheless I’d like to humbly share some of my ‘uneventful’ experiences.

I am a Muslim, African female student currently studying Medicine in Central Europe. A region of the world, where people shun that which they are not familiar with. Now being female has it’s own set of problems; what with being the weaker sex physically and all other discriminative fields where plenty of research has managed to point out.

Being African in a world which seems to never quite get rid of it’s racism problem is another hurdle.
Especially here with people who are completely flabbergasted by my mere existence, seeing as how some of them have mostly grown up in secluded sections of the respective countries’ rural areas. A non-white human that can communicate and by God, be understood too? What is this sorcery? No, this is not a hyperbole. They really do seem genuinely shocked at my state of being.

But being Muslim? The biggest peculiarity of all.

Recently, I was on a trip to Budapest with a few (non-muslim) friends of mine & it was prayer time.  So I asked that they help me find a place to pray, give me 5 minutes & we’d soon be on our way again. A random old lady who was passing by with a little boy, her grandson I assumed, saw me.

I’m quite used to people staring at me, whispering or pointing and so on. But I don’t appreciate my photos/videos being taken and especially when I am praying. So I completed my first 2 units of prayer & asked my friends to politely ask her stop while I finished the rest of my prayer. The lady came really close with her phone camera, started telling me off, how I am not allowed to pray in this country and so on. The young boy was pointing earlier and saying “what was the dark one doing?” – coming from a rather large family, I know all too well how children can be embarrassingly open with their curiosity & so I took no offence. I am dark skinned, I do dress differently.. but it is at that very crucial moment that she should teach him: it is impolite to refer to people like that. Simple.

So I said to my friends let’s go ladies at which they insisted “NO! You must finish your prayer. We’ll block you from her. Don’t let her harass you. She’s silly and ignorant!” and so on. It was actually quite comical how they were more furious than I was. Of course I was put off. I was not hurting anybody by praying, nor was I praying for the sky to fall. So I mentally recited Chp. 25, V. 63 from The Holy Qur’an and I said “guys, that is Islam. To say peace to avoidable conflicts. It’s really alright. Perhaps she’ll learn from this or maybe she won’t, but at least she won’t say ‘I met with a terrorist black muslim girl trying to practice her barbaric religion and almost heinously attacked me when I heroically instructed her to stop her military style yoga and leave my country.’ Instead she’ll say “I came across a black muslim girl praying, took a video while shouting at her to leave and..she did. She just said okay & left”. Anti-climatic. Without doing exactly what all the internet and news says that a muslims first instinct is. (PS: I’m sorry her video won’t be the internet sensation she was hoping it would be, what with trying to stir conflict with me).

Again at the Budapest airport, 3 days after the Brussels airport attack and 5 days after the above incident, my father was coming to visit me. I was just another student waiting to meet a loved one, just like everyone else at the arrivals section. But not really, according to the 3 men unashamedly snapping photos of me in plain sight, the airport security guards plus the other 4 guys from the antiterrorist response team who all quite literally surrounded me. We actually had a face-off at some point as they stared at me, guns semi pointed & prowling around me, as I casually surfed my on phone. The tension was indescribable. I felt quite humiliated at first because these men, were at an entirely different terminal when I first came and now suddenly, I had my own special mini army assigned to me 8 minutes after I arrived. Eventually I bought some coffee. That broke the tension in some ways.

In all fairness, I did not come here thinking all would be well and easy. Actually to be quite frank, I stick out like a sore thumb and perhaps I fit the stereotype of who you’d be instructed to look out for at an airport when terror alerts are high. And that is alright, I respect that you’re trying to protect the people. Even me in a sense.

Except, understand that I come in peace. If I didn’t blow myself up in the 26 minutes you stared your eyes dry at me, do you really think you’ll miss the exact moment I pushed a trigger? In the nano second it took for you to blink? Quite unlikely. I have no ill intention in my heart to take innocent lives or any lives for that matter.

In conclusion, I have lived in peace for 21 years of my life. I hope to live in peace for another 21 and another 21 & so on after that Insha’Allah (God willing). Islam has over a billion people practising it and I believe I speak for the majority when I say about 99% of us are decent individuals, genuinely just trying to go about our business & not looking to hurt anyone. Let’s do the maths; 1% of the 1.3 and growing billion is 13 million. And I’m quite certain the troublesome don’t add up to even a half of that.

If anything, we get hurt 2 fold in any unfortunate event because : first we mourn for humanity too.
Then we mourn over the coming repercussion we have to endure because well, here comes the next worldwide wave of hate.

What happened in Brussels, Cote d’Ivoire, Paris or Syria is not my doing. I am completely unrelated to those events and I wish they never happened. It saddens my soul that human beings have to die and worse even, children die. But I am linked to them by default because I am muslim and my religion is ‘inconvenient’ in this time and age.

The inhumane idiocy that these misled individuals get up to in the name of Islam is not representative of the larger >1 billion. But between me (plus the majority like me) and the ‘muslim’ guys who shoot/blow up things.. well, there’s only so many spots on the hot news.

But even with all these trials and inconveniences, I wouldn’t change my beliefs for the world.
May the Peace and Blessings of Allah (SWT) be upon all those who read this.

M. Ali