Archive | November, 2013

My journey with religion…

16 Nov

I wasn’t intending to share my experiences with religion on my blog, it can be quite a controversial topic and it can skew peoples views. However after a short discussion on the comments on one of my posts I thought I would reconsider sharing some of my experiences.
So here I go…

I was baptised Catholic as a child, my mothers family from a catholic background and my Father was a typical cultural Asian Muslim. I had a bit of both religions from my grandmothers on both sides, mosque on a Friday, church on a Sunday, I perceived it all to be the same. My parents never really put emphasis on religion, it didn’t really matter. I wasn’t in contact with my Father’s side of the family for a large majority of growing up till my late teens, so I considered myself as a Christian. I lived with my uncle for a while during my teens and though not religious in the way they conducted themselves, we went church every Sunday. My mum never felt the need for me to have my communion and all the rest. I left Christianity in my early teens, and thought of myself as without religion but I still believed in God, Christianity didn’t make sense to me, it was just a cross around my neck. I didn’t believe the priest could bless me or that he had a higher status than me. I didn’t understand the three in one concept, the need for intermediaries, praying to Jesus to pray to God, or talking to dead family members to get them to talk to God, saints, priests etc. It just didn’t make sense to me. I considered myself as agnostic for most of my teens but wore a crucifix or St Christopher  as a good luck charm.

In my late teens I began dating a Muslim and he was more culturally Muslim than religious,  so he didn’t know much about his religion, but he knew that when he was older he wanted to take his religion more seriously. So I used to research things on his behalf and tell him what was and was not permissible. I didn’t believe in what he did, but I respected it and all religions, and perceived it as a good thing to be close to God in whatever form.

I was a religious agnostic if that makes sense, I would pray every night, to what I perceived as the creator, and for Him to guide me if there was a path to follow. In the meantime anything I found from different religions that I liked, I thought was beneficial or that made sense to me I would adopt. For example I really wanted a tattoo, so I checked what the major religions said and concluded that the majority don’t exactly agree with it, so I didn’t get one. In this multi-religious time, I also stopped eating pork because of it being mentioned in Judaism, Christianity and Islam in addition to some personal views, I began fasting in Ramadan, trying to abstain from intimacy, and I just generally had never been too fond of alcohol therefore eventually that stopped as well, as I have control issues and would never let myself get drunk anyway. So my partner decided that he could no longer be with me, due to his new found knowledge of his religion, he recognised that our relationship could not be long term as I was not Muslim. I was back in contact with my Father who still had no affiliation with religion. I was in my final year at university, I had several friends who were Muslim. One of which was the most unreligious person, so it was a shock when he came back from a trip abroad volunteering for a charity with a fully grown beard and trying to refrain from impermissible things, although he hadn’t started practising segregation as of yet, so we were still friends. Around the same time, some of my other friends were going through a similar stage were they started to take religion seriously. My friends had never directly preached to me, but I was curious so we’d discuss it sometimes. I was in slight awe of my friend who had gone through his transition, because I hadn’t known anyone that willingly put themselves in danger to help people and the crazy things he would do to fundraise.

On one occasion he mentioned that people always ask for signs in out of the ordinary miracles, waiting for writing in the sky and miss the signs they are being given everyday. He made reference to a spiritual story:
While out to sea, a large boat became shipwrecked and there was only a single survivor. This man prayed and asked God to save his life. Soon thereafter, another boat came by and offered the man some help. “No thanks,” he said. “I’m waiting for God to save me.” The men on the boat shrugged their shoulders and continued. As the man became more deeply concerned, another boat came by. Again, the people aboard offered this man some help, and again he politely decline. “I’m waiting for God to save me,” he said again. After some time, the man began to lose his faith, and soon after that he died. Upon reaching Heaven, he had a chance to speak with God briefly. “Why did you let me die? Why didn’t you answer my prayers?”
” I sent you two boats! You chose to refuse them both”

So I started to think were there signs? A couple of friends I knew had started practising Islam, a female friend of my friend had converted and I heard of one other, no other religion was being shown to me, a lot of the religious practises and rules I had cherry picked were from Islam, so I thought it was the sign to look into it deeper. So I started with things I thought would nullify it straight away such as being permitted to have four wives and beating your wife, and it wasn’t what I thought it was, I could understand their explanations for it. I then became obsessed with watching lectures, it was all I would do in the breaks I had whilst writing my dissertation, I adopted more things from Islam such as halal meat, getting involved with the political side of things. I loved the character of the Prophet and how Muslims were meant to be in their character, not long after, I converted to Islam.

I enjoyed the rules, I needed it as a safety net. I knew what people were allowed or not allowed to do to me. If I had a husband there were rules he had to follow and it was less scary than being with a man that could do anything, because I knew what to expect, I could prepare myself for anything. So for me there was many reasons to convert, I felt God was guiding me, trying to find an identity that I had lost from not being in contact with my fathers side of the family, though they were not religious. Seeing lots of people turning to it, and it just made sense to me at the time, it didn’t have the hierarchy that other religions have, on a surface level you could make sense of it. I was in awe of the good aspects, it was a structured way of life and on a surface level didn’t seem to require faith in as many illogical things that I felt other religions proposed.

My experiences taught me a lot and helped me develop a more empathetic understanding of those with different faiths. Since then I have had many ups and downs with religion for various reasons, at the moment I’m in quite a neutral state of mind, although religion can still be a sensitive topic for me. Perhaps I will write a part 2 at a later stage. I apologise if any of my comments have caused offense to anyone, I was simply expressing my own experiences.

Financial exclusion, unfair or a life lesson?

10 Nov

I was having a discussion with some friends, one of which is a teacher and one of which is a tutor, about a child’s experience at a primary school. The school was developing children’s entrepreneurial skills, by encouraging the older children to raise money for a charity through a cake sale.  A letter was given home and the parents throughout the school were reminded about bringing in money for a cake sale. The parent of this particular child was furious that she hadn’t known to give her child money, as someone else had picked him up and dropped him off. She stated that her child was deeply distressed by not being able to have a cake and could not sleep. The parent didn’t understand why all children couldn’t all be given a 30p cake even if they didn’t have money as it is not fair on them.

This brought on a discussion with my friends in regards to financial exclusion. One friend perceived it as extremely unfair thing for a school to do and to teach children that they can’t have things because of money, money that they are not in control of and cannot earn. However the other thought it depended on the context, her reasons why I shall expand on later. I can understand both perspectives but agree with my friend that thought it depended on the context.

I do think it is important to consider the differences in the parents’ financial status’, and not to purposely make children feel left out due to finances. However in this particular circumstance the parent with the issue was a more financially stable parent within the class. Her son was not the only child to not buy a cake, however his emotional response to this was very different from the others. This led us to discuss if it was unfair or a relevant life lesson. This particular child is well behaved but is not accustomed to not being able to have what he wants. The intention of the child’s parents is to give their child the best and for him to never feel deprived. As a result when he doesn’t get what he wants it is extremely disturbing to him. Which is obviously not a result that a parent or any person working with children would want.

However the observation made was that other children who were from less stable financial backgrounds were not phased by not being able to have the cake, this may be due to them understanding that it isn’t always possible to have what they want due to the life experiences they have had. Therefore I thought about the importance of a life lesson that you can’t have everything you want in life, whether it is related to finances you are not in control of or not.

Children who are used to having everything they want can also struggle understanding the concept of earning something, for example other children earning a sticker for good behaviour, can distress children who have not earned it, if they are accustomed to always having their desires met.

In this particular circumstance, though the distress of the child was not desirable I believe it was part of an important life lesson, that he may not experience in his home environment, and hopefully in the long run he could develop an understanding and as a result be less distressed if he came across a similar situation. Children are being prepared for adult life, yes there should be some sugar coating because thy are young and lack understanding, but without being taught they lack skills to deal with situations as an adult. In this particular instance, the cake sale was part of other children’s learning and handing out cakes to everyone because its not fair is not a realistic lesson for the older children.

The friend that was so apposed to it, had this view because he had an unprivileged background. He thought that I had, had a privileged upbringing as a “daddy’s girl” because of my views and what I have achieved now. It frustrates me when people make that assumption because I myself had a difficult childhood in regards to finances and not just not being able to have the new trainers like the other children. Having to share the same bath water with my mother and brother boiled on the stove, because the heating had gone and we didn’t own a kettle or microwave for example.  Throughout I had always remembered that there are people worse off than me. I honestly believe that these experiences taught me a lot, to have the motivation to work hard and appreciate the things I do have. I don’t ever wish to impose what I experienced on children, but I think small lessons that teach children, that in life you cannot always have what you want are important in order to prevent the severe distress that comes with the inexperience of it.