As-salaam alaykum and Western Social Conventions

‘I’ve become comfortable greeting other Muslims with a casual ‘hi’ instead of ‘as-salaam alaykum’ (‘peace be upon you’). I need to fix this.’

That was one of my tweets this morning and I felt the need to elaborate a little further. So, recently, I’ve started to notice that I’m really comfortable greeting other Muslims with a casual and somewhat comfortable ‘hello’ or ‘hi’. It probably isn’t all that comfortable for me though considering that 1. I’m taking the time to write this blog post and 2. Every time I do, a little part of me wishes the greeting should have been an Islamic one to a fellow Muslim which Islamically it should be.

It’s interesting to note though, that when it comes to greeting family members, whether older, the same age or even younger than myself I do always greet them with salaam so the question becomes why do I need greet other Muslims in the same way? I’m gonna have to break it down a little into social circles in order to explain my thought process. So with close friends, I do greet them with salaam and people whom I meet at religious events I also greet them in the same way too. However, with colleagues at work, I don’t. I think apart of it is the fear of being judged as perhaps being too ‘fresh’ (a derogatory for people who have just come over from South Asian and are typically what the user of such words deems as the stereotype. Suffice to say I do challenge their use of such words). This is a critique on the persons culture (which of course isn’t okay) but I wonder why I feel this critique from my peers would translate to religious if I was to salaam to them too.

While born in the UK I certainly don’t consider myself an expert in Western social conventions but in the UK particularly, we seem to have a more reserved attitude in general but also when it comes to greeting one another. I mean, could you imagine if I started saying ‘God be with you’ or ‘peace be with you’ instead of ‘hello’ or ‘hi’ to non-Muslims? The looks I’d get… And maybe the receiver could feel a little awkward or uncomfortable about it? That said, if I know it’s a religious person whom I’m talking to whether Muslim or not I do sometimes say ‘God be with you’ or the like as a way to say goodbye but with me more meaning. But ‘peace be with you’ that’s a universal thing, we all want that and it’s such a lovely way to greet people don’t you think? It actually has meaning and substance to it rather than the usual greeting shortly following with asking how you are but they don’t really care for the answer as it’s just something that rolls of the tongue. I don’t like that we’ve seemingly got to that stage in interactions with one another.

If I compare the greetings from my Muslim friends born in the UK to those born in Arab countries or South Asia, I feel like the latter greetings are more embracing with hugs and air kisses and the like. Do you know what I mean? Maybe this whole post is a critique of our reserved attitudes in the UK/the West and that permeating into my own Islamic (or lack thereof) practice of greeting.

As part of one of my new year resolutions to involve myself more within my deen (religion) I’m gonna start saying salaam to all of the Muslims I interact with as standard. I expect it may be a little awkward for me at first considering the differentiation of social circles and the small desire of social/peer approval I have in my head but if I make a conscious effort to start inshallah (God, willing) I’ll be able to do it the same way I do with my family and close friends.

So now I’m left with a few questions for you:

Do you ever feel like you have to tone down your culture and/or religion in certain spaces?

If you do feel the pressure to dial it down, how often do you feel the need to do so?

 

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