Living in the United States very clearly has its ups and downs. Most people not being used to Islam’s culture and requirements is one of the negatives, but from a different perspective, can be considered humorous. Many of my friends or acquaintances at school or work have similar questions to ask. As a Muslim living in the U.S, here is a list of my favorite and most frequently asked questions from those around me.
1. “Why can’t you eat or drink?” This question is a Ramadan special. Every year, Muslims fast all day for an entire month until Eid al-Fitr. Usually, Ramadan falls under summer break and sometimes during school, so when my other friends are eating they ask me why I can’t eat or why fasting is a full day. After explaining Ramadan to them, I get asked, “you can’t even drink water?!”
2. “Wait. You’ve never celebrated Christmas?!” This might be my favorite question solely because you would think since Christmas is a Christian holiday, I wouldn’t get asked this so frequently. However, I get asked this question whenever I tell people that I don’t know the words to some traditional Christmas song, or that I’ve never decorated a Christmas tree before. Since Christmas is the most widely celebrated in the U.S, the fact that I don't celebrate the holiday doesn't immediately register in others' heads.
3. “How do you say your name?” This one may not pertain to all Muslims, but my name seemingly isn’t too easy to pronounce. There are some Muslim names, such as Sara and Ahmed, that are easier to pronounce; however, I don’t think there has been a time when someone has pronounced my name completely correct on the first try. Even if you say it phonetically, I always end up using an easier nickname, like Nora, if I know I won’t see the person ever again.
4. “If you believe in “Allah,” then what is “God” in Islam?” I don’t know if it’s just me, but I usually have to explain that “Allah” is the same as “God” to most non-Muslims a couple of times before they understand it fully.
5. “If “Allah” is in Arabic, why don’t you speak Arabic?” I wasn’t born into an Arab family, so whenever I explain to people that “Allah” is just “God” in Arabic, they get even more confused and ask if I can speak Arabic. After I tell them I can’t, I have to deal with a worse look of confusion on their face than before.
There are many more questions that I get asked by non-Muslims on a daily basis, but these might be my favorite ones. It may seem like I’m judging the questions I get asked, but I definitely believe that strangers, acquaintances, and even new friends asking me questions about Islam and my culture is exponentially better than staying quiet. Though a few may come off as ridiculous, having asked these questions makes me more comfortable with talking to others. Therefore, if you are someone who has a Muslim friend and are curious about their culture or religion, it isn’t rude to ask. As long as you inquire with good intentions, you should feel free to ask, as educating yourself is one step closer to clarity.