Is it impossible?

Muslims in the west

Being a Muslim in a nonmuslim country obviously brings up issues that you don’t get in Egypt et el. Considering Islam is meant to be more than just a belief in a certain god, but a complete way of life, living in a country where that isn’t the way of life makes me imagine Muslims here are often faced with tricky situations and choices.
Praying for example. As far as I’m aware employers don’t legally have to give Muslim’s more time on their break to make sure they can pray, nor do they need to allow them to split their break and have it at the set times of prayer. Muslim men on Fridays have a much bigger problem as praying jumuah at the mosque is compulsory for them (women don’t need to go to mosque to pray), so unless you have a very lenient boss, it is either not going to happen, or you have to quit.
And it isn’t just that where problems rise up about work for Muslims in the west. I work in a cinema, the cinema has a bar, selling alcohol is haram (forbidden). I asked my managers if they could avoid putting me on it this month and they were fine with that. However, I am working kiosk, the main part of the job. There we sell popcorn, coke, nachos and, oh dear, hotdogs. Pork hotdogs. Like with alcohol, a Muslim cannot consume or sell pork. Those two things alone limit you greatly from what jobs you can go for, especially if you are unskilled or need something more flexible, such as supermarkets, restaurants, bars.
And what about when it comes to eating out? Unless you live in one of the high Muslim populated areas or want a kebab, you are stuck with vegetarian or fish as you are supposed to eat only “halal”. Now as it is Ramadan and we cannot eat until after nine, we haven’t eaten out so I haven’t had to deal with the limitation. I don’t really care for fish and kebabs should come with a three drink minimum.
Another thing I haven’t yet had to deal with is having a man (such as postman) knock on my door unexpectantly, so I haven’t had to deal with the rush and inconvenience of throwing something over my head and making sure my arms and legs are fully covered too.
And that leads me to clothes. Now this is only a problem if you are particularly conservative and just wear abayas as even the ones on eBay are double or more the price as those abroad. Other than that however I have found there are so many options in normal highstreet shops that can give you perfectly acceptable modest covering. Maxi dresses, waterfall cardigans, wide leg jeans, linen trousers, boat neck t shirts, etc etc. Mixing and matching such options mean no shop is off limits. I can’t even look at clothes now without thinking whether it is appropriate, and if not what can I add to it to make it so! I love looking at Muslim fashion blogs such as this one for inspiration: http://luffisallyouneed.blogspot.co.uk/p/about-me.html. Women such as her certainly don’t seem oppressed to me.
As for hijabs, once again you are not limited to specialist online stores or a trip to Edgware road, as pretty scarves can be found anywhere (in fact the newest member to my hijab collection comes from New Look).
I’ve personally not had to deal with discrimination going out and about in a hijab, but I’m sure for some it is a persistent issue they face. It is one of the things those in a minority will likely always have to deal with sadly. Reading about this subject online meant I came across both the extremes. Some islamaphobes telling Muslims to bugger off where they came from (a common misconception that Islam is a region not a religion), and some Muslims calling to force their beliefs on Christian countries. Sadly the first group believe all Muslims think like the second group, and the second group believe we all think like the first. The majority of people don’t think like either alhamduallah, both are hateful and, well, idiotic to be honest. I don’t believe England will erupt into a religious war like some OTT people on the sites have predicted, I have faith in my county and its people, be they Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist etc. I truly believe we are one of the more diverse and tolerant countries in the world and will continue to be so.
Sadly these negative attitudes cause be extremists and bigots means the normal Muslim has to deal with the backlash. Being in a minority means you might not have anyone/ or very few to turn to who can emphasise though, especially if you don’t have a local mosque where you can meet other members of your faith.
And that brings me to a problem I have faced. In a Muslim country there are mosques on every corner, and between those corners there are speakers doing the call to prayer (also known as the adhan). This lets people know, wherever they are, whatever they are doing, that it is time to perform wudu and pray, which also means you know exactly when to break and start the fast. Every day the time changes slightly so it is something you have to keep checking up on when you don’t have the announcement. Also, people differ sometimes greatly on what the actual times are, and when you are waiting to eat after a whole day of sustaining, every minute counts.

I know if I was being a Muslim for a month in Egypt, I’d have all the resources, I wouldn’t feel concerned about going out in hijab, hell even if I went out in a burka people wouldn’t care. My prayers would be on time, and I would have muslim sisters all around me to help and guide. I guess that is the true benefit of the Muslim for a Month holiday which started this whole idea, it is just so easy. But it is also unrealistic, why would a British person wanting to really know what it would be like to be Muslim, do it in a way that has little reflection on how he/she would actually live as a Muslim?
There is one benefit to being a Muslim in the west compared to the Middle East- you don’t have the issue of confusing Islam and culture. The two have become so mingled there that many Muslims are not quite sure where the line is. In fact whether here or there the only way to truly know what Islam is, is to read the Quran. That way you get the true message, you don’t get a bias (be it positive or negative) interpretation, you don’t get it mixed with the Arab culture, you get Islam.
You can be a Muslim anywhere in the world, after all the word simply means: “one who submits to God”. Yes there are parts of the finer details that can be more difficult, perhaps impossible to follow in a Christian country, but you don’t need to turn to some bearded fellow for the answer, as the Quran says God knows what is in your heart and knows your intention, that is what is important.

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