To My Non-Muslim Friends

June 27th, 2011

Every once in a while you invite us, the Muslims, to your weddings, birthdays, parties and Christmas celebrations.
Every now and then we can’t make it. Every now and then we don’t want to make it. It’s not personal, not at all. In fact, the mere gesture is what we appreciate more than you can imagine. Among us Muslims and Afghans it’s all about intention, respect and politeness and such invitations are considered as all three of them, especially because we live in a western society and you show that you care about us.

It might sound awkward to you but the reason why many of us try not to attend your events is because of you, not us, drinking alcohol. You might be wondering why we care about you drinking it as long as we, the Muslims, don’t. After all we’re not doing anything that goes against our religion, right?

Almost.

The problem is that we’re supposed to stay away from things that are clearly forbidden, “Haram”, to us. We’re supposed to stay away from temptation and anything else that is considered going against the teachings of Islam. Even as kids we’ve been taught that those things are not good to do so those memories and thoughts are deep inside us.
Secondly there’s the cultural aspect. As Afghans we’re overly protective of our spouses and children and we don’t want them to be around people that are drinking or acting in any other way that goes against our religion or culture. Even if we do attend your events, as sometimes it’s inevitable or it would be absolutely impolite not to attend them, you will often times see us coming over by ourselves, without our spouse, and leaving after a short while.
So it’s nothing personal. It’s not about not wanting to be in your company or not wanting to “hang around” but about us feeling uncomfortable in an environment that, since childhood, we’re taught is considered “Haram”.

Living in a western society this leads to a bunch of problems to some of us. I don’t attend some of the industry get-togethers because during those events people drink beer. I have skipped every Christmas party my employers have invited me to. And I skip the yearly joyride-boat-trip-thing that a former colleague keeps inviting me to since… years.
Simply put, they’re all not compliant with my upbringing and I feel uncomfortable being there. Still I feel bad about turning down your invitations as I know you mean it in a good way.

Before all of this sounds like a bad excuse let me stress again that we do appreciate the fact that you do invite us and that you do want us to be around you. We have been trained to keep those little pleasantries in our memory and in our hearts and to not forget them.

The least we can do is tell you honestly why we can’t attend. I think in the past I’ve been pretty honest about that to my non-Muslim friends. Good explanations, how awkward they may sound, are always better than a bad and obvious excuse.

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