my beard + bald = muslim?

November 5, 2010

People’s perception of other people and the world are too easily influenced by everything that doesn’t have truth in it. The looks, treatment and comments I get these days really got me thinking how we as human beings are so quick to throw everything and everyone into a category to be readily identified and scrutinized.

My Beard + Bald = Muslim?

Words Faraji Toure’

That’s me and my beard

Since cutting my locks and afterward began shaving my head bald, I began to grow out a beard. Seems harmless right? Especially for me because in my 36 years on this earth I’ve never so much as had anything more than a goatee or a soul patch on my chin. But times being what they are with the focus being on people from the middle east and their religious practices, this beard of mine takes on a entirely new meaning to some people, including me.

Do I look like this?

No time in my life have I ever been asked am I Muslim more than in the past 2 months. I get comments like, “why are you growing your Sunni that way” or “when did you convert?” At that point I normally give a slight grin and explain that I am not a Muslim and that I do not subscribe to religion at all, but I am a strong believer in the most high God and the rules he set in place to govern the universe. That explanation is usually followed by an awkward silence and a faint “oh ok, well as long as you believe.” And as usual situations like that get me to thinking. “is there no one allowed to grow a beard strictly for style or personal purposes now? Does a baldhead on a Caucasian make him a skinhead? Does a man wearing pink make him a homosexual? Does a tongue ring make a woman promiscuous?

Why are we so quick to make snap judgments on the physical appearance. Example, I overheard a lady in mall say she won’t allow her daughter to date anyone Spanish because the terrorist have been grooming the middle eastern culture to mimic and speak Spanish to blend in as sleeper cells, and she cant tell them apart now. She went on to say how she was fooled going into a mobile phone store and thought she was being helped by someone from Latin decent, but when he spoke to another employee he spoke “the terrorist talk” (pause for laughter). That’s just crazy. Even though her observation may have some truth to it (I cant tell sometimes either) that just wrong on so many levels. Did she ever stop to think that not all middle eastern people are terrorist? I interjected in her conversation (I was bored) and explained that he may have assumed that she was a racist because she was Caucasian. And the irony in that situation is, the woman became highly upset that someone may have thought she was a racist. I explained that her comment was boldly racist whether knew it, cared or liked it or not.

We are all guilty of thinking this way, more times than not while in traffic. (you know I’m right!!) but it may give most of use a quick laugh, or feel good to say it to blow off some steam, but its still not right.

More recently as I’ve been traveling a lot more and notice I get the slight head nod of approval or standard (assalaamu ’alaikum ) greeting and I give the response ( walaikum as salaam) as I always have. As well as gotten some negative feedback, mostly from people who don’t know me but see me frequently some of them stopped speaking all together, like my beard makes me militant or hostile, LOL. Simply people are nuts on one level or another and we just have to educate each other when the opportunity arises.

My resolve is to use my beard as a teaching tool. I began to answer peoples questions with a question. Now when im asked “are you Muslim?” my response will be either “why do you ask?” or “what about me makes you think im a Muslim?” and start the lesson from there.