Three Christmas’s ago, I formed a friendship with a wonderful man who I eventually fell in love with. He helped me to become a better Muslim and helped me gain more confidence in myself as a person. We would talk for hours and hours about anything and everything and of course Islam would occasionally be our topic of conversation.
So Christmas came around, I put up my tree with my family and I sent him a picture saying how excited I was. We celebrated Christmas every year, regardless of the fact that we were Muslims because our mum didn’t want us to feel left out when we went back to school after the holidays. It was actually rather thoughtful of her to place herself in our shoes and know we would feel that way, even though it wasn’t something she had experienced as she grew up in Pakistan.
Later on that night I was speaking to the man and he told me that he didn’t think I should celebrate Christmas. He gave me his reasons and explained why in terms of our faith it didn’t make sense and for the most part I agreed. We even went as far as discussing whether or not our kids would celebrate it. It was a straight no from him. I knew I would have to stop celebrating as I couldn’t deny the validity of his points. That Christmas, I spoke to my family about it and they agreed that we should stop celebrating. We enjoyed what I thought was going to be our last family Christmas.
During the last couple of years, I have tried to increase and strengthen my faith because I would like to be with a man who has the same sort of ideals as myself when it comes to religion. Although I missed Christmas these past two years, I knew it was the right choice. Until now.
“Forget religion, next year we will celebrate Christmas again.” Those were my mother’s words. She was upset. We’ve been living in our neighbourhood (an extremely small village, with a majority white population – 94.19% to be exact) for 11 years now. If you’ve read a few of my previous posts you will know how tough I have found it living here. It took the neighbours a while to warm up our presence when we moved into our home all those years ago. But eventually they became good friends with my mum and she was set on the fact that this is where she wanted to grow old with dad.
But our neighbours had noticed that we weren’t celebrating Christmas anymore. They had noticed the absence of our Christmas tree which used to be so visible through our living room window. That, coupled with the fresh wave of Islamophobia that a lot of people seem to have been overcome by, meant our neighbours were acting a little more… how should I put this politely? Reserved, distant, abrupt, rude, not very nice to my mum – pick whichever word/term you would like as they all fit to some extent.
My mum started becoming a little upset and she fully believes that this is the reason why they are acting this way and to be fair to her, I see no other reason why they would be behaving in this manner. She’s decided she is going to be extra kind to them so that she can win them back again and she has told us all that next year we have no choice but to celebrate Christmas. She just wants to keep the peace.
Is this fair? We are being forced to celebrate Christmas so that we can live comfortably and without judgement from our neighbours? We have to prove we’re assimilated members of society so that we can have good relationships with them? It’s not as much of a big deal to me as it is to my mum because she is going to live here for the rest of her life so she wants the people around her to be nice of course. I completely understand her. It just seems odd that this is what it comes down to. We tried to stay true to our beliefs and ultimately it’s isolating us from the people who have known us for more than a decade. I honestly didn’t think our neighbours would have been affected by our personal decision because we still gave them Christmas cards and chocolates as per usual. It saddens me mostly because it’s my mum that’s feeling this way. I mean I’m not exactly her number one fan and nor is she mine but people are trying to make my mum feel as though she’s weird for not celebrating something that’s not even a part of her religion.
We live in a time now that as a Muslim, any decision you make that favours faith instead of culture will be scrutinised (and I’m not exclusively talking about Western culture when I say that). So maybe it’s important for us to just brace ourselves for it and not let it affect us. With my mum I can’t sit here and give her a pep talk about that because I know she believes this is best and I will go along with it for her sake. But it’s sad that this is how it is for those of us who follow Islam.
Without my wonderful man who I formed a friendship with and eventually fell in love with, I’m struggling to hang on to my faith as it is. He helped me to become a better Muslim and helped me gain more confidence in myself as a person. We would talk for hours and hours about anything and everything and of course Islam would occasionally be our topic of conversation. So Christmas came around, I put up my tree with my family and I sent him a picture saying how excited I was…
I think I’m just a little bit sad right now. You know when things just get a little too much and you aren’t even sure what you’re angry and upset about any more? I also think I’m going a little bit crazy right now. So, apologies if this post was a little weird.
As always, I’d like to hear your thoughts about this whole scenario. You can comment below, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @_HUMAIRAASLAM