During lunch with a colleague, I was asked an insensitive question. It started out innocently enough. Our conversation slid into personal territory among sizzling bites of kabob and potatoes.
“When did you convert?”
“2009. My last year of undergrad.”
“Wow, so that’s been like a long time. So, this is something that you actually like, not something you were forced into or just got used to since you’ve been in Saudi?”
Let that sink in for a moment. This is a coworker I actually liked. Someone that I respected enough to take the time out of my busy schedule to enjoy a lunch outside the office. Until that sentence, I couldn’t have imagined his heart harbored a shred of ignorance.
I answered, “Of course” because I was just in such damn shock. I tried to brush off the comment. As an American Muslim living in Saudi, I’m no stranger to insensitive or probing questions. In fact, they’ve become a badge of honor, my cross to bear, and my contribution to humanity at large – I’d resigned myself to being a “dare to be different” poster girl long ago.
Somehow this felt different. Closer. Knowingly or unknowingly, he’d insulted my intelligence, integrity, and decision making capabilities. And he did so in spite of a year’s worth of professional team work – writing/editing, photo shoots, campaign launches, and presentations.
Normally, I give people excuses for their insensitivity. However, since I’d spent the last year in the publication trenches with this person, excuses like “Maybe they’ve never met a Muslim convert” or “They don’t know you. Don’t take it personal” no longer had validity.
I am nearly certain his intentions were pure. His experience with Muslims, hijabis, and particularly white Western converts has probably been quite limited as a recent Canadian/ South African transplant to the Middle East. I’d like to think his comment was merely a cathartic outburst of sorts, a statement of truth he needed to vocalize.
Questions like these evoke raw insecurity. How could someone think I’m feeble-minded enough to change my religion, and consequently my life in its entirety, for something other than core-rooted conviction? I soothe myself with the words of a literary genius, Paulo Coelho.
“Life is too short to be wasted in finding answers. Enjoy the questions.”
Sad thing is- his comment was truly probably innocent indeed- such ignorance beliefs are quite prevalent among many.
Wow that is such a shame… I’m so surprised when people ask questions like that still to this day. I feel like there’s enough information/campaigns/people out there educating on the empowerment and individualisation of Islam that those who want to know should know better by now.
Inshallah, that day will come!
I would agree there was probably no intention to insult you. I also can see how it would be hurtful to you. I feel the same when people ask about being forced to wear hijab or my marriage. I once had a Muslim woman (my friend’s mother) ask me if my dad or husband forced me to wear hijab. I was shocked!
Keep being you! Thanks for sharing this!
I can relate to what you are saying here… Having worked in the corporate sector for close to a decade and being really very ambitious I am often faced with very insensitive questions and remarks about leaving that life and career to be at home with my kids in their early years.
Wow, it’s sad that you’re still asked questioned like this almost a decade on. The only advice I can give is to take each question as an opportunity to give da’wah. May Allah guide them through you and may He give you the strength to carry on being the positive impact you sure have the power to be, Ameen xx
Sigh we live in such an ignorant time, it’s weird because we are surrounded to such an easy access to knowledge yet so many times we have no idea what we say or how we say. I too don’t think that was his intention, however it still hurts and it’s no excuse. We have to be so aware nowadays of what we say and how we say things to anyone. (www.spicyfusionkitchen.com and http://www.beautywithzainy.com)
I respect your positive attitude and patience. You are truly wonderful…not everyone can handle things such wisely….I can understand how you felt when a close friend asks you such question….
People tend to get really insensitive sometimes. Ignore and find solace that Allah SWT knows you inside and out and knows your intentions too. Someone once said that if somebody says something negative to you, just know in your heart that that at the end of the day is just their opinion and it can’t really hurt you in anyway unless you let it. All the best! 🙂
Oh wow. 🙁 It is sad to say that you are probably right and the comment was out of pure ignorance, with no ill intent. Shocking that someone could think that you would be swayed to change your faith, your beliefs, your entire way of life even just like that! Unfortunately people remain very ignorant.
I Don’t think he meant it as an insult but people should be careful with what they say. It’s okay challenges come but that’s what we do face the challenges and move on stronger and better than before.