Friday, August 26, 2005

What does a Muslim look like?

Last week at my MPA gathering, a group of us were sitting around having a discussion about different issues like dealth penalty, abortion, crime, etc. One of the participants was like, "Sabrina, you just don't look Muslim." I was like, what is a Muslim suppose to look like? Someone with a beard and fair skinned? It was a funny comment because I have always gotten questioned about it. When people who don't know me, see a white girl, they automatically assume I'm not Muslim. They are suprised to know that I am half Pakistani and half American. I will say that I look more American, but I do have some Pakistani qualities. This isn't the first time that it has happened. About two years ago, I went to my good friend's engagement party. She and her soon-to-be husband are Bengali. I got dressed up in my Pakistani outfit, and we had a great time at the party. After the engagement, a group of us went out to Nonnah's for dessert and coffee. It was so much fun. I learned later from my friend that her friends were wondering about me. They were asking who the white girl was wearing the indian outfit. My friend just started laughing, and I joined in..

Last night I was at Nonnah's again, and I was hanging out with my friends and she brought a friend along as well. He was a little suprised that I was half Pakistani as well.. He said that you don't look "brown." (Indian or pakistan meaning Brown) I was like yeah.. I hang out with my "brown" people all the time, and I am sure people are wondering why I am hanging out with them.. I find it compelete amusing! Growing up in the South has been a great experience, but I know that I haven't had that bad of one becuase I don't look "brown" or muslim. What do Muslims really look like? Are we white, black, brown or somewhere in between? Most people assume that Muslims are only those with long beards or covering from head to toe. However, Muslims are all different in the way they look or dress because there are so many different cultures. Indonesia is the largest population of Muslims in the world with 90 percent of their population is Islam. Majority of Muslims are actually southeast asian.

The conversation last week was started about captial punishment and the dealth penalty. I brought up my experience in Saudi Arabia where they have the eye for eye law, and there is very little crime. I was amazed at 9 years old that they left the 24 karat jewerly unlocked and covered while people went for prayers. I questioned my dad about it. He told me that in Saudi they don't steal because those that do will get their hands cut off. Government provides everyone with the basic nessecities. If the person who steals doesn't have these basics, then they wouldn't get their hand cut off. If you lost your wallet somewhere, you can go to the police station to retrive it. Everything will be in there as you left it. It was an amazing concept for me at 9 to believe that people could actually be that noble in not steal. If only we could have that mentality here in the US..

Stereotypes will always remain for Muslims, but the question remains how to reduce those stereotypes? I am hoping that Muslims will educate others about our religion and influence people to understand that people committing horrible acts are not true believers. I am trying to educate my friends and people I meet one day at a time. I hope to educate people by doing good works, and showing people how Muslims are good people rather than what they read or see on tv.


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