Much to my surprise, and perhaps to your surprise, apparently there is an implicit and silent prefix of ‘devout’ before the word Muslim. At least that’s the impression I get from people when I tell them that my husband is of Muslim faith. The typical follow-on questions I usually receive are “Does he drink?” and “Does he eat pork?” I don’t really know if this is intolerant or not and the answer to that depends greatly on context.
If my husband and I are invited to someone’s house for a meal asking such questions may be considered on par with asking about someone’s dietary requirements e.g. ascertaining whether or not someone is vegetarian, has allergies or intolerances. However, outside of this context I find these questions if not at least a little intolerant then definitely strange. The reason I feel this way is because I highly-highly doubt that if I had told someone that my husband is of Christian denomination they would have go ahead and ask “Does he go to Church every Sunday?” or “Did you both abstain from having sex before marriage?”
The other reason why I think it’s intolerant is because when I apply the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” tactic, the person I speak to gets confused at best or offended at worst. Upon being asked whether or not my husband drinks alcohol or eats pork, sometimes I respond by asking my interlocutor whether or not they adhere to everything that their religion prescribes. Apparently, while its okay to ask a Muslim if they drink or eat pork, it’s not okay to ask a person of Christian denomination if they abstain from sex before marriage. Personally, I don’t see the difference, but the person I was speaking to sure could.
Furthermore, if I am to answer “yes” to the questions, people then question how my husband is Muslim in the first place. Does that make it okay for me to question someone’s Christianity if I know for a fact that they practice sex before marriage? Obviously, people hold various degrees of religiosity. So why is that common sense when it applies to Christian denomination, but not so much when it comes to Islam?
People follow religion to various degrees and at times pick and choose which elements of that religion suit their individual needs. One Muslim woman chooses to wear a headscarf while another doesn’t; and each woman feels just as Muslim as the other. One Jew chooses to observe the Sabbath while the other Jew doesn’t and that doesn’t make him or her any less Jewish. One Christian practices sex before marriage, while the other Christian abstains, yet both occasionally go to Church on Sundays and consider themselves to be religious. When someone says that they are of religion X, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they follow each and every element that religion X prescribes. Moreover, just because you are born into a particular religion, doesn’t automatically mean that you are devoted to it. Religion can be an individual experience and an individual expression.
So, to answer the questions of whether or not my husband drinks alcohol and eats pork…He married a Russian-Orthodox Jew, for crying out loud! What difference does it make if he eats pork or drinks alcohol? He’s definitely more open-minded than some of the people who ask about his drinking and eating habits.
Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.