By Sudduf Wyne @salamsudduf
As someone who attended public school all my life, I experienced my fair share of questions surrounding my faith. Fellow students and teachers would inquire about various restrictions, actions, and differences around holiday times, but also with the changing seasons (ie: clothing related questions).
It’s been a few years since I’ve been out of the school system (maybe a decade), but inevitably a lot of the questions remain the same. This blog explores some of those questions, and how to be ready for them. At the end of the day, you don’t have to address any of the questions you get, but our deen teaches us to share the love and beauty of Islam, so I recommend you do answer their questions in a positive way.
Question: “Why can’t you eat pepperoni”
Answer: I don’t eat pepperoni because it comes from pigs and I don’t eat any kind of pork. That includes bacon – although I eat chicken bacon! Actually we have a kind of pepperoni that’s made out of beef that we put on our pizza sometimes, or we buy Zabiha Halal pre-made pepperoni pizzas. You should try it and you can tell me if it tastes the same as regular pepperoni!
Question: “Why don’t you wear shorts in gym class?”
Answer: I used to wear shorts in gym class when I was younger, but now that I’m older, I’m dressing more modestly and covering up my body more. In my religion, women cover their arms, legs, and hair after puberty. In my religion, some women choose to dress modestly – that means we cover our arms, legs and hair after puberty.
Question: “I think Sasha likes you. Why don’t you ask him out?”
This is a tough one to navigate as a teenager.
Answer: “I don’t like him like that, I just like him as a friend”. There are different thoughts about letting Muslims date, and it all depends on how their parents feel.
Question: “Why don’t you celebrate Christmas?”
Answer: I don’t celebrate Christmas because I’m a Muslim, and our holidays are called Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. Our calendar is based on the phases of the moon, so our holidays are at a different time each year. We also get presents and have big family gatherings. You should come to my house for Eid and see what it’s all about!
Question: “What’s that thing on your head?”
Answer: It’s called a hijab and it’s to cover my hair. Muslim women can cover their hair after they’ve reached puberty to protect their modesty. It’s kind of similar to how a nun wears a habit and how Jewish women wear wigs to cover their hair. My hijab can be different colors and fabrics, and I like to match it with my outfit.
Question: “Why aren’t you eating (in Ramadan)?”
Answer: I’m fasting because it’s the month of fasting for Muslims called Ramadan. We wake up early before the sun rises and have a big breakfast and pray. We can eat once the sun goes down, and we usually go to prayers at night at the mosque. During this month, we don’t eat or drink water during day time hours, and we also don’t do anything God wouldn’t like, such as gossiping or lying. We try to do a lot of good things like volunteer and give money to charity.
Question: “Why aren’t you coming to the school dance?”
Answer: I don’t go to parties where girls and boys are dancing together. I do listen to music and dance but not at school dances.
The diversity in our schools has come a long way since I was in grade school. The leaders of school boards are well versed in Islamic teachings, and make an effort to include all students in the curriculum. I have personally attended a Christmas concert that included participation from all faiths, even if they didn’t celebrate. It also included an Islamic song of peace (I cried), and I am always seeing local moms preparing Ramadan and Eid activities for their child’s classrooms.
I wrote this blog with the intention of education and also humour. Education for those parents wanting to prepare their children with non-confrontational answers for questions they may be asked, and humor for those of us who have been asked 1, 2, 3, or all of the questions above in our time as students. I would love to hear how you responded to these questions back in your time at school.
Have you received a question that I haven’t listed here? Share it with me in the comments.
Happy back to school to everyone!