Guest Author - Linda Heywood
I don’t know what people see or think when they look at me, but the last thing they expect me to say is, “I am a Muslim.” Everyone without exception will then say, “But you don’t look like a Muslim!” To which I reply, “And what does a Muslim look like?” Most people point to their head and tell me that I do not wear a headscarf. I nod my head in agreement. Then they point out that my clothes are not ‘Islamic’, I look myself up and down and say, “But I disagree.” They generally raise their eyebrows and think, ‘She is not a real Muslim.’ Or they outright tell me that I am not a Muslim.
I have no concern about what people think I should look like to be a Muslim. I know what God says, about the way we should dress ourselves, by reading the Quran. I do not need other people to tell me what I should wear to be a Muslim. It is no bodies business but my own which religion I chose to follow and how I chose to follow it. How I interpret my faith should be the least concern to anyone else. They should be worrying about their own soul not mine.
Sometimes people try to make me feel bad for being religious. I am never sure if it is because they are jealous that I have so much faith in God, or because I make them feel uncomfortable about their own beliefs. They ask me how I can be so sure that God exists and sometimes ask for proof of God’s existence. I do not feel I need to offer proof because if they chose not to believe in God that is their choice. But because I do, does not mean I have to prove anything to anyone. They tell me I cannot possibly understand the Quran without the help of another human being.
I have never forced anyone to agree with me in what I believe, but for some reason, other people insist I believe the way they do. If I refuse they become hostile and abusive. They pick up on all the bad press that Islam gets and ask me how I can follow a religion that allows ‘murder, child abuse, suicide bombers, shariah law’ etc. etc. etc. Or the fact that I do not dress a particular way, or speak Arabic, and do not listen to the opinions of others when it comes to my faith. I never have why would I start now?
I write about Islam because they say, “Write about what you know.” I know about Islam. I have been reading the Quran for thirty two years (I had read the Bible by the time I was nine years old and continued to read it until I was twenty one years old). I have never found any difficulty in understanding the scriptures. I have never found anything within the pages of the Quran that I disagree with. I have never needed anyone to interpret it for me. God is the Teacher.
People will always find something to disagree with me about, such as polygamy. Islam is not the only religion to practise this form of marriage, and I have no disagreement with it when it is applied for the reason it is allowed. Not eating pork is another issue that some people cannot fathom. Tapeworm is all I am going to say on this matter as pork is not the topic here. Fasting during Ramadan causes a lot of problems, not for me, but for those around me who do not fast. Praying, no one has ever told me I cannot pray in their house, but I was asked by one person if I was going to pray to the devil and invite him into their house!
I never imagined, as a small child, that believing in God would cause me so many problems in my life. Nothing else brings with it so many disagreements and objections. The shame of it is that I get it from believers and non-believers. I cannot just be myself, believing in God the way I do, without someone complaining about what I write or say because they disagree or are of a different opinion. Why should they care what I believe? I am not asking them to believe anything I write or say, I am just passing on information as humans do. You can agree or disagree with what I believe, I do not care, but hostility is not acceptable.
Islam is a religion that protects women, treats men and women with equality and brings hope for a better future in Paradise. The fact that the public face of all of the religions practised today is corrupted beyond recognition is not a problem I worry about, because my religion is not for public display but between my soul and its creator – God.