I had a realization a long time ago – that I could be the first Muslim that a person may come across. Maybe even the last. People may see the hijab and automatically figure out that I’m Muslim.Therefore, a person’s entire perception of Islam and Muslims could be influenced by me.
That scares me. I’m nowhere near being a perfect Muslim. What if I do or say something wrong? One of my fears is that I’ll flip out at the supermarket if the cashier messes something up and then everyone will look at me and think that all Muslims are as inclined to exhibit that kind of behavior. Because of these irrational fears, I always try to be on my best behavior when I’m out and about. Not that I have to suppress urges to yell at anybody or anything (I’d like to think that I’m a pretty easygoing person) but I’m only human and I wouldn’t want my actions to transfer onto someone else just by association.
I have always been really open about talking about religion when asked and I have never minded talking about Islam, whether it be with a stranger or someone I know. In class the other day in the minutes before instruction was to begin, one of my fellow classmates that I’ve become friends with had a thoughtful look on her face before she said to me “I have about 47 questions and I was wondering if I could ask you a few,” she said.
“Ask me anything,” I replied. I then inserted my usual caveat that I don’t actually know everything. The reason I don’t mind talking about religion at all is that I feel that it is much better to go ahead and ask something and clear up any misconceptions than to not ask at all. If I am the only Muslim that someone comes across, then being approachable can maybe allow someone to attach a more human face to Islam that isn’t quite so negative. It may be a small thing but I’m constantly aware of that prospect.
However, I’ll just go ahead and apologize in advance if I ever mess up in the future :)