“Why is it that when a Muslim abstains from pork and alcohol, two things essential to many, the seemingly acceptable norm to socially fit in is either that the person has to cave in or to accept becoming the butt of a joke?”

Why is it that when a Muslim abstains from pork and alcohol, two things essential to many, the seemingly acceptable norm to socially fit in is either that the person has to cave in or to accept becoming the butt of a joke? The idea that temptation has never appeared in a scenario where a Muslim is sitting at a table or with a crowd consuming exactly those two items – why does this too sound so unthinkable, far-reaching?

“Why would a Muslim want to travel to Taiwan? Why would any Chinese [when non-Muslim] would travel with Muslim friends to places that are pork-heaven? How can they never introduce pork to those friends? It’s sooo good.”

Maybe it’s all me, my fault for being so uptight that I can’t take a joke – but there is a friend here who, just about every single time we meet, goes on this “Why won’t you eat pork you’re really missing out you know that” joke – ‘joke’.

I’ve absolutely no issue and judgment with what anyone chooses to consume and the last thing I ever want to do is to impose my diets and restrictions onto others. It is my struggle and choice – I take full responsibility. I personally don’t find it a problem and if anyone finds me troublesome for it – we can easily stop hanging out over food or altogether. I’m tired of having to accept the halal (lit. permissible) and haram (lit. forbidden) aspects of my life as a joke in order to be socially accepted (‘cool’). Why am I made to feel that my life is lessened because of my constraints? It is not. Why am I made to feel that my life is lessened because of the boundaries present in my life when in truth, I’ve struggled all my life to not only avoid drawing these lines onto someone else’s life, but to also accept their significance in mine?

I could be non-headscarf wearing like I was for many years before 2016 and live my life acknowledging these boundaries. The headscarf is a physical reminder of my boundaries, but it does not invalidate them in its absence. In fact, I could be Buddhist abstaining from beef, or a Christian who chooses to stay celibate – all these things, likewise pork and alcohol, could indeed be true to be “it’s sooo good.” I’m not invalidating his claim but I want him to understand that I could look just like him – Chinese – but have a different way of life and thus, we can agree to respect what is essential in our respective lives.

“Why can’t I? There are other things to see and do – it’s the food there yeah, but it’s not all about the food. It’s only difficult if you make it difficult. And you,” I made sure to look him directly in the eyes, “Obviously haven’t met enough people. I travel with Chinese friends often and those I’m close with have never been anything but respectful.”

I hate to make this sound like a big deal because it shouldn’t and isn’t – but frankly, I’m fuckin’ tired of constantly being made to feel that being a person of religion means my life is full of ‘missing out.’ It is not. So tonight I’m going out on a limb to say a sincere thank you to all you (non-Muslim) friends who’ve only ever been accommodating and respectful. I know of too many instances in too many locations in which we’ve had to forego certain restaurants and places because of me – I always feel secretly guilty for being the cause, but always – always – thankful for your kindness and understanding.

Really – it means a lot to me.

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