South Asian Culture vs. Religion vs. the Western Lifestyle.

Trying to balance the South Asian culture, my Islamic religion and my life in the West can be difficult to say the least, particularly being a woman. I believe there is more pressure on women in our communities to excel. These expectations of women show that there is a high regard for women in our community and also a level of respect. Obviously, these aren’t expectations are not a bad thing however, when women feel suffocated due to all the pressure and the restrictions on freedom, this can be difficult to deal with. In my community men are given more freedom and women less so. Obviously because if a woman is out and about she is probably getting up to no good and men are just hanging out with their friends, right?

This is not at all synonymous for the whole community. I think it just certain people who are perhaps old-fashioned and are accustomed to the patriarchal dominance that they have experienced and been a part of their whole lives. If it is the way of living one has ever been exposed to it can be difficult to suggest alternative ways of life.

My time so far at university has really opened my eyes to a whole myriad of different lifestyles, beliefs, religions and cultures in practice, including the balance of indigenous cultures, religion and the Western world. It really is something beautiful seeing the way that people live their lives and how their background has shaped that they have become.

A few years ago I read an article in Asiana magazine entitled “Hybrid or Hypocrite.” The author was a Muslim woman who wrote about how she found the balance and rounded off the article by saying that all we can ever do is our best. The article is in my university city and I’ll try and post it on the blog when I’m back.
In the meantime I’ll post this link…

I am a member of Productive Muslim and I think they came up with the “Qur’an for Busy People” group/site. Anyhow, I get sent emails quite often from Qur’an for Busy People about various articles and religious sessions that they have going on. Today, I came across one on regrets. Basically, the article is a culmination of 5 main regrets that people had on their death bed:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

It was the first one that struck a chord with me the most. The ability to be able to live a life that is true to ourselves is certainly not easy due to various barriers and it is a journey which requires a lot of courage. It may be difficult to say the least but it is not impossible. On Facebook yesterday one of my friends posted a picture of a man in Tiananmen Square who stood directly in front of a tank. (You know the one I mean.) On the picture was written:

“Stand up for what you believe in, even if you stand alone.”

These words inspire me and really do lift me up when I am not feeling so great. It’s funny how the little things that people do can be so heart-warming and inspirational to others even when they think it was just a minor “share” on Facebook.

I believe that there are only two things in this world that we are answerable to. The first being our conscience and the second beling Allah (swt). If at anytime we are doing something and either one of those parts feels uneasy about it, then to be honest we probably should think twice about doing it. It is also important to remember that human beings can’t judge one another; we have no right to. We are not God. Only He has the right to judge. For that reason and that reason alone we should be less worried about what other people think of us and more about what Allah (swt) thinks.

I am very much aware that every does not agree with who I am, what I believe in and the activism of which I am involved in however, I feel it is imperative to carry on for the sake of those people who have their human rights violated and are living in communities, cities or countries that do not allow them to extend their human rights. I have not only a moral duty or obligation to play my part in the futherance of humanity and the protection of people (not the whole world, yet, but for now the people immediately around me) but also an Islamic duty. After all we are all either brothers and sisters in humanity or borthers and sisters in faith. Islam gives me the voice and right for my activism.

“O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” [Quran, 4:35]


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