On Religious Diversity
I’m from the state of Bihar, India. I lived in Mumbai until I was three when my family and I moved to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where I finished my schooling and then moved to India for my higher studies where I majored in Psychology.
I’ve been treated as ‘different’ many times due to my religion, and misconceptions to do with my religion. I’m sorry to burst the bubble but there are still people who also have a problem with the colour of ones skin.
I was hurt the most when I was at the airport and a fellow traveller made a derogatory remark about the colour of my skin colour. I felt dishonored when it happened, somehow like it was my ‘fault’. That was the moment I realised it was time to fight back.
I screamed out loud. I was so tired of listening to people being treated like that, and felt it was time for someone to stand up. To be judged on the basis of something so immaterial. I fought back and gave the person a piece of my mind. It was embarrassing for him but I felt that they really deserved it. Some people just don’t realise that people have an inner beauty, and that skin color is totally irrelevant.
It has made an impact on my life, and to a certain point I live in fear – the fear of being judged on the basis on my skin colour. But then, there are good people out there, and life really isn’t worth living in fear.
People discriminate because they are unaware of what beliefs and values others hold. That is the way to overcome ignorance and prejudice. Just because Muslim women cover themselves, it doesn’t mean they are any less knowledgeable. Just because we cover our body, it doesn’t mean we cover our minds.
This Hadith was told to me often by my parents [‘Hadith‘ are sayings of our Prophet]:
What actions are most excellent? To gladden the heart of human beings, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the sufferings of the injured. (A Hadith)
This Hadith holds so much importance for me, because my parents held it important and always told me that in this Hadith lies the essence of the worlds being.
The one thing that is important to me is regarding my religion and how it is highly misunderstood. Just because some unholy men decided to indulge in horrible inhuman violence in the false name of religion does not mean that the religion propagates the idea. Islam talks about peace, and the word itself is derived from the Arabic word ‘Salema’ that stands for ‘peace, purity, submission and obedience’. THAT is what we are taught.
Skin color, religion, ethnicity, background, culture – if you go searching for differences you will find them. But if you go searching for similarities within the differences, there is so much more beauty.
Knowing each others differences not only teaches us respect but also provides us with immense joy in being able to connect with people from across the world.
Hajra Khatoon is a writer and blogger residing in Abu Dhabi.