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The author of the following article preferred not to be named, as such we are publishing it anonymously.

Being a third culture kid (TCK) can be complicated. A TCK is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside his/her parents’ culture. Adding the religious component brings an extra dimension to it. None can deny that being a practising Muslim in this day and age is different from even our parents’ generation, especially when one is exposed to multicultural and diverse environments. So as a thirty-something year old Muslim with a rather international experience, allow me to give you a glimpse of my views and some advice.

In my case, the exposure to the Western world and multiculturalism began from a young age. The children in my family were educated in an international school starting from kindergarden. Every kid came from another background, religion, and value system, which meant that we quickly learnt that we were all different. But it also meant having to work a bit harder at knowing what we were supposed to accept and how we were supposed to fit in while still upholding the values we learnt at home: especially the religious ones.Now it didn’t always work out but not on purpose. I remember when my best friend and I, at the tender age of six, started sharing our lunches (very Islamic you will say) only to discover, when telling my elders what kind of sandwiches we ate, that she actually had pork (that is also when I discovered that ham came from a pig and was not some kind of animal on its own).

In those tricky teenage years came the moments when I had to start explaining what Ramadan is (the whole no food and water concept really baffles people and from my experience, you had better be prepared to research the health aspects of it) and why I was supposed to pray five times a day. It also was allright that my friends’ cultural customs did not match my own, that didn’t stop us from being besties.

Then also comes the dress-code issue. To me, dressing in an Islamic manner simply means dressing up conservatively with my hair covered and my body clothed in non-form fitting outfits. If you choose to wear, for example, a hijab, society will have certain behavioral expectations of you whether you want it or not. It takes strength to openly convey your faith through clothing choices when it makes you a noticeable minority and it’s important to be mindful of those expectations.

The bottom line is, if you choose to be tolerant of all types of people then know your faith, your limits, and be respectful of others’ beliefs (you can and should disagree if needed, but never let it get to insults). You also have to be prepared to make some compromises. No, your food will not always be halal, but if you explain things to your friends, trust me, they will always ensure the meals remain pork-free. And yes, most countries have mixed academic environments so you will have to work in mixed groups and with people who have opposite views and interests

I have worked in a different country nearly every year, and each time I meet different people. Since I usually have no say in my accommodation choices (I am using my experiences working for charity organizations as a reference), I have had to accept sharing a house with another man/woman, even if we had absolutely no relation and were of different faiths. I know that when I go out for group meals, many will drink alcohol, but in my case, I refuse to pay for the alcoholic beverages when the time comes to split the bill, and that’s a decision I have made because of the limits I have set for myself. That said, you will have to compromise even in the professional world

And throughout all this, I get confused stares from people who will be surprised to find out that I actually pray, fast, and read the Qur’an in Arabic (even though I don’t understand the language). I have found that some Muslims will be pleased to see me go to the mosque on Friday and others who do not understand how I call myself a Muslim when I’m not rigid in my views. Chances are if you go my route you will face the same issues depending on your own religious practices. Again, tolerance and understanding yourself are key.

Finally, be true to yourself and especially to your faith while keeping an inquisitive and critical mind. You will find that it will attract the right kind of people who will ultimately help you progress. Overall, I am extremely grateful to God and my parents for giving me guidance while being raised as a TCK in this multicultural world.

Photo by RubyGoes CC

Comments

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Samaaqsa

April 2, 2015

Well said , very insightful !!!

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Aaish

April 27, 2015

Beautiful<3 it takes a whole lot of streghth to hold on to your values when everyone around you holds different ones.may Allah always love you and protect you<3

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