“I only realized that I am an American Muslim when I traveled abroad to other Muslim lands.” (Dr. Sherman Jackson)
When I reflected upon these words, I realized that the statement is true for me too. I have been in Canada for almost 4 years now, and I am constantly reminded of how Malaysian I am while I’m here.
In Malaysia, I didn’t notice my Malaysian-ness because I am surrounded by Malaysians and the Malaysian culture. It is only when I was taken out of that place when I realized that I am, in fact, Malaysian.
Plus, my Canadian friends remind me of that fact all the time.
I was born and raised in Malaysia. The Malaysian culture has shaped a lot of who I am today. Though I am still flexible to change, that culture remained a huge part of my identity.
One of the many beauties of Islam is that it doesn’t wipe out our identity clean. In fact, Islam acknowledges the culture we were born in, and Islam purifies the culture to make it better.
It is like purifying gold after it has been extracted from the earth.
To strip one completely from one’s culture in order to adopt a so-called “Islam culture” is unjust to the person and to Islam.
It is unjust to the person because a huge chunk of his/her identity is being unnecessarily uprooted. It is unjust to Islam because Islam doesn’t teach us to deny the culture in which we were born in.
Islam doesn’t teach uniformity. It teaches diversity.
Islam is relevant anywhere and anytime. Part of the reason for that is that Islam, in and of itself, is not a culture. It is more of a guide than a culture, and we use that guide (Islam) to shape our individual culture properly – to be harmonious with the Will of God.