44 In Inspiration

Religious diversity

Religious diversity

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.

  • Joy
    September 22, 2011 at 10:48 am

    It’s great that you talked about Islam, Hajra, as I know how a lot of people still have prejudices about it and need to understand it more. And good for you, that you stood up to that racist at the airport and gave him a piece of your mind! Way to go girl!

    Another wonderful piece Janine!…Thanks again :-))

    • neanster77
      September 22, 2011 at 10:50 am

      Thanks for all your support Joy!

    • Hajra
      September 26, 2011 at 3:15 am

      Hey Joy,

      Thanks so much, Yes, I think I just got tired of staying quiet and being the victim. Maybe, he will go and learn more about how religion isn’t bad; some people just mis construct it.

      Thanks for stopping by Joy.

  • Dena Hamilton
    September 22, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    Thank you, Hajra! Beautifully put! Personally, I look at the world around me and think, “How wonderful that God has more than one Crayon in His box!” Keep up the good fight. You are indeed a beautiful soul!

    • Hajra
      September 26, 2011 at 3:16 am


      That is such a beautiful outlook. Thanks so much for the lovely quote and the beautiful comment.

  • Muriel
    September 23, 2011 at 1:39 am

    Fight back, Hajra, fight back! I just can’t stand judgmental people any more. We are all different, so what? Thanks again for another wonderful post!

    • Hajra
      September 26, 2011 at 3:17 am

      Hey Muriel,

      I am; but I rather people learn more before forming an opinion. I am kind of tired of fighting now… phewwww! Thanks so much Muriel.

  • Roberta Budvietas
    September 23, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    There is a wonderful song in called Melting Pot http://www.lyricsfreak.com/c/culture+club/melting+pot_20034666.html
    What we need is a great big melting pot
    Big enough enough enough to take
    The world and all it’s got
    And keep it stirring for
    A hundred years or more
    And turn out coffee coloured people by the score

    Coffee coloured people
    Coffee coloured people
    Coffee coloured people by the score
    Says it all about tolerance.
    And when I see a blond blue eyed Moari – I know this is so true

    • Hajra
      September 26, 2011 at 3:18 am

      Hey Roberta,

      Thanks so much for the uplifting song. It was so encouraging. Thanks so much! 🙂

  • Penelope J.
    September 24, 2011 at 1:25 am

    Janine, thanks for this series. Loved this post.

    Hajra, you are a motivating force for many of us bloggers who have come to know you.
    My blood boils when you mention discrimination based on skin color. Glad you fought back. When I wanted to marry a dark-skinned man, I fought back as well. You’re right, “Knowledge is the key to tolerance” but even with knowledge, many people prefer to remain intolerant. Probably material gain plays a big part in keeping darker-skinned people (the majority in this world) as underdogs or enemies. Inspiring words of wisdom from the Hadith.

    • Hajra
      September 26, 2011 at 3:23 am

      Hey Penelope,

      I am so lucky to have friends like you who make it worth all the effort. Thanks for being so appreciative of everything I do. You are just too kind.

      Yes, there have been so many incidents on the basis of skin color. And that is probably the saddest thing ever. Some people do remain intolerant; too bad for them, they miss out on the better things in life.

      Thanks so much for stopping by Penelope! You are the best!

  • The Beauty of Differences | Hajra Kvetches!
    September 24, 2011 at 3:37 am

    […] please head over to Janine’s blog and do check out my contribution there – of how and why I am different, but yet the same! […]

  • Barbara
    September 24, 2011 at 4:14 am

    Ah, Hajra, sad what happened to you at the airport, I can relate to you feeling dishonoured, but it was that other person who trespassed, good for you to vent your emotions.
    I have been following you these past months, I was attracted by your inner beauty, your storytelling and your frankness (I still remember that post about your nephews and nieces).
    Salam and may you have a wonderful weekend, Barbara

    • Hajra
      September 26, 2011 at 3:26 am

      Hey Barbara,

      Thanks for following me around! 😉 That makes me feel like such a star…lol!

      I don’t know what happened; I normally don’t vent like this in public… but then things got too much maybe.

      Thanks so much again! Hope your weekend was just as beautiful!

  • Bill Dorman
    September 24, 2011 at 5:17 am

    As much as the majority would like I don’t think we will ever be fully free of prejudices based on skin color, sexual preference, religion, etc. Which is a shame, because in the big scheme of things not one of those things should hold you back or make you feel less of a person.

    I do think we are getting better and I know in certain parts of the world (and maybe yours) women are treated differently and it’s a shame any religion or culture allows that as well.

    The biggest challenge I would have with your religion is Ramadan. Fat boy’s gotta eat and as soon as you tell me I can’t, I want it more…………:).

    Thanks for sharing, stand up when necessary and just go on being you; it serves you well.

    So Janine is your partner in crime, huh? Good to see you here.

    • Hajra
      September 26, 2011 at 3:29 am

      Hey Bill,

      All we can hope is for a better world. Like my mom says, evil will always be there, only then we realize the value of goodness. But what hurts to watch is that evil is increasing and it takes within its stride a lot of people.

      Lol… Ramadan isn’t as challenging. It is pretty easy once you get used to it Bill! Try it for a day and tell us how it went 😉

      Janine and me have been blogging buddies from a very long time. We somehow think on the same wavelength… always, kind of spooky at times!

      Thanks so much for stopping by Bill! Your comment is always such a pleasure to read!

  • Thom Brown
    September 24, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Thanks for sharing this post, and thanks for telling off that jerk in the airport, Hajra. If everyone did that, the ignorance wouldn’t be so fashionable.

    • Hajra
      September 26, 2011 at 3:30 am

      Hey Thom

      Yes, maybe we should do it more often…but being quieter and being the bigger person somehow seems easier.

  • cath
    September 25, 2011 at 2:00 am

    It is in human nature to judge, and only by consciously refusing to do it, and tolerating and celebrating our differences, can we grow.

    Hajra, I love the Hadith your parents taught, and have lived most of my life trying to achieve those wise words.

    And as for color, the artist in me loves color, and when I look at people, I see tapestries of color. The patterns in those tapestries are what we make of our lives. Your tapestry is truly rich Hajra.

    Thanks for an awesome post!
    ~cath xo

    • Hajra
      October 2, 2011 at 2:31 am

      Hey Cath,

      Thanks so much for the lovely comment. It is always wonderful having such beautiful people around! Thanks!

  • Tambre Leighn/coaching by tambre
    September 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Ignorance and fear instigate actions by some that are unfathomable. You write beautifully on this. Whatever it is people think is “normal” is of little interest to me. I prefer to meet, know and celebrate unique people from all kinds of backgrounds. The world is a profoundly interesting place with so many unique and gifted individuals if we can just open up and be curious and interested. I, too, am glad you stood up for yourself.

    • Hajra
      October 2, 2011 at 2:34 am

      Hey Tambre,

      I love the unique word you use. Every person is unique, definitely! And it is wonderful to understand and appreciate the uniqueness. Nothing more enriching than that! 🙂

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Tambre. You are beautiful!

  • Hajra
    September 26, 2011 at 3:13 am

    I am so sorry to drop by in late but thanks so much Janine! I have been through my share of “being difference” and have been victimized but not as much as what I hear happening around.

    I hope people realize that we are all the same – color, caste, religion, gender nothing makes a difference. All our hearts beat the same rhythm!

    Thanks so much Janine! You are just the best!

  • Janet @ The Natural Networker
    September 26, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Hajra, aloha. What a wonderful series this is. Thank you so much for letting me know about it and giving me the opportunity to learn more about you.

    No matter the society, the culture or part of the world, there will always be ignorant people who base, or perhaps more correctly I should use the word judge, their opinions upon preconceived prejudices for/against certain things.
    Unfortunately, that condition is likely to exist for a very long time.

    One of the beauties of the online world, Hajra, is that I don’t think people are as quick to form opinions based on the factors you reference. When we comment on blogs or tweets, for the most part I believe we are connecting with the person we perceive the blogger to be rather than “researching” to see where they live, the color of their skin or their religion. Do you feel that is true?

    One of the best things I heard quite some time ago is “what you think of me is none of my business.” Hajra, we really can’t do anything about what people think of us or believe about us. Rather than concern ourselves with them, I believe it is better to connect with others who share our values.

    Thank you for your generous sharing of yourself, Hajra.

    Wishing you a wonderful week ahead. Until next time, aloha. Janet

    • Hajra
      October 2, 2011 at 2:47 am

      Hey Janet,

      Thanks from the bottom of my heart for such a beautiful comment!

      The differences will be there for a long time, true; but hopefully we learn to become more appreciating of the differences we have and learn to value the uniqueness!

      I love the online world for this. They are so non judgmental and they welcome everyone with all the support they have to offer. And with wonderful people like yourself, it makes it all the more wonderful!

      Thanks so much Janet! You Matter! 🙂

  • Lynn Brown
    September 26, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Thanks Janine for sharing such an awesome interview of one of my favorite online ebiz friends, Hajra! I respect you Hajra for being yourself and it reflects the strong woman you are. Very inspiring!

    • neanster77
      September 26, 2011 at 6:23 pm

      Thanks for your support Lynn. Hajra truly is inspiring.

    • Hajra
      October 2, 2011 at 2:49 am

      Thanks Lynn! I am so honored to know wonderful people like you! 🙂

  • Bryce Christiansen
    September 27, 2011 at 5:41 am

    Hi Hajra and Janine,

    Thanks for putting together this series. I can understand where Hajra is coming from and am sorry she has to put up with so many misconceptions and ignorant folk.

    I’m a Mormon so we get a whole musical dedicated to those misconceptions. How many wives we can have, how big our families should be, how come we don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs?

    It’s amazing how much our misconceptions die away when we actually get to know the people in those religions and learn from them.

    You are a brave and talented woman. Keep it up.


    • Hajra
      October 2, 2011 at 2:54 am

      Hey Bryce,

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I love how I learn something new with so many of my readers and their blogs. Like, I had no idea what Mormon relates to. So I googled it before replying to your comment.

      Many people are surprised by the fact that I haven’t touched alcohol and they find it impossible to believe. However, there is much more to a person than their religion. Religion is beautiful, all of them teach peace and oneness, where did that message get lost I wonder.

      Thanks so much Bryce, it is wonderful to have you here! 🙂

  • Paula Lee Bright
    September 27, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Hajra, you did well to finally fight back. You had put up with so much, for so long. It had to come out sometime, or you would have become a bitter, angry person. And that will never happen, for you are the generous and giving Muslim friend of so many of us.

    Those who look down on another for their faith are ignoring the tenets of their own faith, especially Christians who hold anger toward the religion of Islam. I never felt that 9/11 was the fault of the religion. It was the fault of a group of peole who live in hatred and evil. That is unrelated to most people of your faith.

    Janine, you couldn’t have found a better subject than Hajra. I now feel I know so much more about her! I’m so glad I got to read this piece. 🙂

    • neanster77
      September 29, 2011 at 5:46 pm

      I’m so glad you liked it Paula – Hajra is an amazing woman.

      • Hajra
        October 2, 2011 at 3:00 am

        Hey Paula,

        I am honored to know you. 9/11 was definitely an act of hatred and evil and not a religious one in any form. It was a pity religion was dragged into the whole thing.

        I am so happy to have such beautiful readers like you. You make me feel so much more proud! Thank you ladies!

  • Deeone
    September 28, 2011 at 12:52 am

    Very well done ladies! Janine thank you for approaching the series! And Hajra thank you for your candid realness and openness to discuss your experiences.

    It still amazes me as well that in 2011 something as minute as a sixteenth of an inch thick covering of skin, that people have absolutely no control over whatsoever; still carries so much stock in this world today. When will this madness end?

    Those in this world that don’t need to really step back and embrace the uniqueness of one another, and accept that we all weren’t meant to be the same. Where would the fun be in that anyways?

    Kudos to you Hajra for speaking up! I think many of us need to speak up even more these days. And Kudos to you Janine for not being afraid to discuss an issue that needs desperately to be discussed. Very well done ladies! 🙂

    • neanster77
      September 29, 2011 at 5:45 pm

      Thank you Deanne for the support and kind words. The feedback from everyone has really blown me away, and this has far exceeded my expectations. I am so grateful and touched by people like Hajra who are sharing their souls.

      • Hajra
        October 2, 2011 at 3:02 am

        Hey Deanne,

        Thanks so much.

        Skin color, race, religion is so irrelevant. People miss out on the beauty that is inside. I can’t add anything more to the wonderful comment. Thanks so much 🙂

  • Stuart
    September 28, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    Oh Hajra, if only I was there at the airport, I would have applauded you heartily 😉

    I can empathise with you about fighting back, there’s been far too many times in the past when I should have, at the least, said ‘something’ against my antagonist. But for fear of causing a scene, or being beaten up, I kept my mouth shut.

    I don’t plan on doing this any longer – I’ll open my mouth and say something if I feel it needs to be said. I’ll stand up for myself, and for anyone else who’s suffering. And I’ll celebrate difference, but that’s what we all are – different 🙂

    • Hajra
      October 2, 2011 at 3:12 am

      Hey Stuart,

      I just had had enough. Really. But I am also tired of fighting. I mean I have actually been scared people will hit me so I have just kept quiet. But then, fighting isn’t a option always.

      People are missing out on the knowing the wonder that lies within a person! We are different, but like Janine says, that’s where the beauty is! 🙂

      Thanks so much Stuart. Haven’t been blog hopping for so long. Have to come by soon! 🙂

  • Anthony Smits
    September 30, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Hajira, you have expressed your frustration with a calm radiance that honors you.
    I have not faced the prejudice you have. I face others; yours however is hard to escape. The world is an intolerant place due to the human desire to group and attack those not within their group. Hopefully we can all have a small effect, leading to a large effect in time.

    • Hajra
      October 2, 2011 at 3:20 am


      Thanks so much. True, so many want to vent their anger and they find odd ways to do it!

      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  • Samantha Bangayan
    December 25, 2011 at 7:58 am

    Powerful words here, Hajra! “Knowledge is the key to tolerance.” Truthfully, I don’t know much about Islam myself and always appreciate the opportunity to learn more.

    And I can hardly believe that a person would outright comment about your skin near you! I’m almost glad you defended yourself! Sometimes, I feel that way too. Not so much in Peru, but in Canada.

  • Three times two times seven | Hajra Kvetches!
    March 13, 2012 at 3:16 am

    […] 1. Most beautiful post: The post I wrote for Janine’s Beauty of Difference is very close to my heart. Knowledge is the key to tolerance. […]

  • Blogging Highlights from 2011
    March 16, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    […] post for 2011 was a guest post (only just!!) from the awesomeness that is Hajra Khatoon!  ’Knowledge is the key to tolerance‘ was a post from Hajra, where she bared her heart and soul for The Beauty of Difference […]

  • Cat Alexandra @ Internet Marketing Success
    March 23, 2012 at 3:55 am

    Hello Hajra,

    I just followed your recent 7 links challenge back here to Janine’s blog to see this post of yours.

    This was a wonderful way to get to know you better! 🙂 Thanks for pointing me in this direction.

    I love the message you have shared here with us about bridging ourselves to tolerance via the pursuit of knowledge and applied understanding. Compassion is something we could use so much more of in this world, Hajra.

    I’m sad to see that there is still so much bias and ill treatment of others over our superficial differences. So much pettiness still exists and thrives in areas of the world. I think that the best cure for that is more people standing up and becoming vocal about messages such as what you have shared here.

    You are beautiful, my friend. Cheers to you for not letting the ignorance of others hold you back in life. Your message is important and I hope that it reaches many!

    Best regards,
    Cat Alexandra

  • %d bloggers like this: