Between Two Worlds

If you are like me, you live in between two worlds. On the one hand, there are the old beliefs and customs that we learn from our parents, on the other hand, there are all these modern values that might oppose what they have taught us.  Apart from that, some of us have also decided to leave the country of our births.  It can get confusing sometimes.  There are the things that we learn in childhood, there are some things we pick up as we grow up, and there are some things that we pick up from the friends we choose.  I think, I have been lucky because the friends I’ve had growing up have been from very diverse backgrounds, and have all had very diverse personalities.

I think, I am also lucky because my parents have not been traditional Malays, especially my mother who raised me.  There was of course some talk of Malay superstition, “don’t sing in the kitchen or you’ll get an old husband” sort of stuff.  Of course, I was always singing in the kitchen, and as of yet, have never had a relationship with anyone older than me. Maybe they meant I would get married when I was old, and therefore have an old husband? Mixed with that, there were Western superstitions. My mother would actually turn around if a black cat passed in front of her. This went on until I got my cat Zorro who was really probably the devil incarnate, but after he walked past my mother a few times a day and no evil luck befell her, she gave up that particular superstition.  It was an interesting way to grow up, at the very least.

Being a Muslim just added more into the mix.  See, Malays were originally pagans, and then we were Hindus, so the traditions we practiced mixed all of it up.  They find ways to mix things up to sit with the local beliefs, I guess. However, when I was in University, it was the uprising of the Islamic movement, and to be honest, I think I accepted it better than some of my aunts did.  After all, where they had balls and dances, and my father pretty much spent his university days drunk (I don’t think he did very well, but he’s a master at bullshit so he got by), while I was in uni, we had prayer sessions, and girls who didn’t wear the head cover were looked at with disgust.  In fact, in pre-university, I was made very popular when my name was put up in a poster that advertised the girls who were going to go to hell for not covering our hair.

There’s a lot to take in for sure, and a lot of people will say a lot of things. People who know me know how stubborn I am, and Religion was one of the choices I had to make myself. Yes, it’s difficult, but all religions have their set of rules, and I believe we can follow different paths and end up in the same heaven. The One God most probably sent down a few different religions because it’s not a one size fits all thing, and you have to find a practice that your heart is comfortable with.  Being a Muslim is difficult in this day and age.  The number of times I’ve had to listen to jokes made at the expense of Islam, especially in this country have been ridiculous.  I’d say “Alhamdulillah” which means, “thanks be to God” and some Western baffoon would ask me if I was getting ready to bomb a building.

The head cover is another thing that’s much discussed here. I know it looks really scary and not very warm to the Western eye, but there is another side to it.  OK, so we know the Hajj is the the last pillar of Islam, and here’s some news, when on Hajj, women are forbidden to cover their faces and hands, so the practice of covering face and hands is a desert practice, due to sand storms.  I also know that a lot of people see the head cover as a sign of oppression.  Lets be honest, I thought the same growing up, but then I realised that some women did it by choice, and after reading and talking to them about it, I actually see their point.  Today, if I go out and meet a guy in my normal clothes, what would he be looking at? That’s right, ass, boobs and in some cases, feet, and lets be honest, most guys initially have one thing on their minds, especially after a few drinks, and it’s not talking.  In Malaysia it’s all about covering the head, but the bigger deal is to cover the chest area and not to show curves.  Some people are thinking that if all girls do that we might all need to get our parents to find us partners, but the other side of the coin is, how long does physical attraction last? I know, I know, I am guilty. I doubt that many people know I have the brain capacity to actually observe and write something like this. Lets be honest, people are more comfortable when you don’t talk about anything with any meaning, although, undergrads in general seem to really like big profound discussions, and feel the need to comment on everything.  I think the point is that the more words they use and the more their voices ring out, the more intelligent they are.

This is just what the world is now. We don’t live in small villages surrounded by our families and other families who practice the same beliefs and cultures anymore. Well most of us don’t. I do know some Malaysians who only hangout with people of the same race.  I guess it’s very safe and comfortable, doing stuff your parents taught you and having good friends who follow the same set of beliefs, but that is up to the individual.  I know that I don’t do safe or comfortable very well, and although it can be tiring, and confusing, and sometimes just frustrating being pulled in two and sometimes five different directions, taking this path has been amazing. I’m not pro or against anything. I’m just saying that if you tilt your head just a bit, things might look different, and less negative.  The things I’ve seen, the colourful people in my life, the different opinions I’ve heard, it has so far been a wonderful journey and I think because we grew up the way we did, things are not black and white anymore, there is a rainbow of colours in between, and this is where I live, between different cultures, each beautiful in their own way.


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