I was reminded today of the atmosphere of being a Muslim back in Sydney. The Muslim minority experience is definitely different from the Muslim majority one, and both come with their sets of pros and cons, but I’m going to rehash one of the good things I remember about my experience trying to stay true to my chosen religion in a foreign country.
I liked how all the Muslims there were very generous with their salaam-giving every time we met another Muslim brother. Upon making eye-contact with a fellow Muslim brother, especially when in the musolla, a smile would flash across their faces and a salaam was given almost immediately. At first, this weirded me out, since back in Malaysia, to even get a smile from a fellow Muslim at the masjid was uncommon, what more a full-blown “assalamualaikum brother!” from a complete stranger. I guess I never really got used to it, being the introvert that I am, but I did come to expect it more readily whenever I went to the musolla.
One supposes that they take the concept of Muslim brotherhood to heart, and no matter who you are or where you’re from, salaam is always given, and “how are you?” is always asked. If there’s time, small-talk was had, and maybe it’s just me, but it didn’t feel like small talk. It felt like they were genuinely interested in what we studied and where we came from. The concept of Muslim brotherhood, mixed with the warm Australian personality makes for a very friendly group of people.
Being a minority also helps foster this “togetherness” that they had over there. Since we were a relatively small group of people, we had to look out for each other and make sure that we had each others’ backs, which made us want to bond more tightly together as a group. It’s not that we were paranoid that the “enemies of Islam” were “out to get us”, but I guess we subconsciously told ourselves that we needed to be each others’ support systems so that when one of us falls, as we humans tend to do, we won’t get hurt too badly, since we would have people around us to give us support and help in times of need, as we would also want that same help and support if we were ever to find ourselves in times of trouble.
I couldn’t help but wish that that generosity with their salaams would take place in Malaysia too, since I found that it only worked to foster love between people, and provide for the givers and takers of the salaam a brief sense of connecting to one another. I think that if we could feel that connection with each other more often, across political and ideological understandings, there would be more peace around. Or maybe that’s just me and my crazy-talk.