Back in the eighties, when leg warmers were hot and orange lipstick was cool, Abez was a wee little Muslim kid with a weird name that no one else had and dietary rules that none of her friends followed. She wished, above all things, that her name had been Diana, and that she could eat Skittles.
Skittles, you see, used to be made with that devious evil- Pork Gelatin, and no one but Infidels ate them. 😉
(Shout out to my favorite infidel- Hi Mom! :D)
It’s interesting to note that most Muslims, regardless of their level of practice, will not break the no-pork rule. I’ve met Muslims who drank at meals, danced till they dropped and ran amok on beaches in bikinis, but they still wouldn’t eat pork. But I digress. Skittles were forbidden fruit, and in my 9-year old eyes, they epitomized everything that being a Muslim unfairly held back from me. Couldn’t eat Oreos, couldn’t have McNuggets, Twinkies are still haraam… Life was unfair and I can very distinctly remember sitting in the park outside of our apartment in Chicago and staring dejectedly at an empty Skittles wrapper that some other, luckier kid left on the ground.
Then we moved to Pakistan for a few years and I had other things to worry about. Skittles were forgotten, for a while at least. Fast forward to 1994, and a 14 year old Abez in MCC, the Muslim Community Center, staring in shock at another kid eating Skittles. In the masjid. Man, it’s one thing to eat pork, but to eat it in the masjid? That was a double whammy. I asked what the heck was up. Didn’t you know Skittles have pork in them? No they don’t said another 14 year old. We read the wrapper. I was blown away. The ingredients in Skittles had been changed while we were out of the country. I tasted Skittles, finally.
Fast forward to this post, and a 26 year old Abez with feet up in the computer chair and a pack of Skittles on the desk. Believe it or not, I have only eaten Skittles a handful of times in my life. As I finish this bag I remember why- they taste fake and they get stuck in your teeth.
Not that that stops me from finishing the bag. Oh no. The mental association that I have of Skittles with All Things Wonderful That Muslims Can’t Have from when I was a child pushes me to finish the bag, to make up for past, lost opportunities. It’s bizarre, really, and sad that being raised as a dietarily practicing Muslim (if little else) in the US left me with emotional baggage that I wasn’t able to understand until I was much, much older.
As an adult I can say things like, “Of course I wouldn’t let my child go around eating pork. As Muslims, we should do our best to live by the rules that Allah has given us, and children may not understand why, but until they’re older, they can at least understand that they must.”
Yep, that’s the kind of thing that adult Abez sez. And then the kid inside (who insists that the Skittles were wonderful) says that no one should have to live in a world where they’re wrongly denied simple pleasures. And the adult in me rolls her eyes and sez see, this is why kids are not in charge.
Life is not about pleasures, simple or complex, and to say that no one should be denied their pleasure is the basis for a completely amoral society. As uptight as it sounds, this is the truth. As a child, it was Skittles. As a teenager, it was boyfriends. As a young adult, it was the sex and drugs that everyone else seemed to be having a great time with. There are pleasures, unfortunately, that have more detriment than benefit for society, and they are haraam for that reason- not because Islam has something against fun or enjoyment. You’re allowed to eat sweets, but pork isn’t clean. You’re allowed to have friends, but never let the people you hang out with push you towards wrong. You’re allowed to love, but do so cleanly, and with commitment, and within a marital contract that protects both parties and helps to ensure their rights.
This is what grown-up Abez sez, but the little kid in Abez nods, pretends to understand and then whispers thank God they made Oreos halal.
I wonder whether I will be able to explain this concept to Bebeface when he is older. Will he understand why, if he goes to a non-Muslim friend’s house, he won’t be able to eat the pork pies? The bacon bits? The ham sammiches? Will he be ok with that, or will he too resent his parents for imposing rules he doesn’t understand in the name of a religion that he is too young to make sense of yet? Every child must be taught that they can’t have everything they want. That’s life, that’s restraint, that’s normal. But will my children negatively connect that to Islam? Will Khalid wish his name was Diana too?
I hope not. I suppose that’s one reason why I always want to live in a Muslim country. Note: I don’t say Islamic country for a very big reason;
No community is “Islamic,” per se. People are people, human beings are all a mix of good and bad practices, and no one is completely virtuous or completely evil. A man who prays five times a day may still be a jerk to his friends and a complete jerk may pray five times a day, you know what I’m saying? (Think about it) If you go into a Muslim community expecting it to be completely moral and perfect, you will become disappointed and bitter. Boys will still sneak girly mags to school and smoke in the bathroom. Girls will still sneak out and maybe take their hijabs off when they get to the mall.
So now you say, “If there’s no difference between an “Islamic” community and everywhere else, then why bother? Well, the difference between a Muslim community (a community that is predominantly Muslim) and everywhere else is that morality is, a least, the expected norm. Of course, there will be people who drink and people who have sex but they will be people who do so in secret or do so to the disappointment of the community. Compare this to 16 year olds who do this with their parents’ consent and make a big huge deal of it, so much so that the Muslim kids get jealous and wonder why they couldn’t go to Prom, too.
I lost my train of thought. Believe it or not, I was thinking about Oreos. Then I was wondering whether it would be proper to make a reference to pedophilia or homosexuality or drug abuse or any other ‘pleasures’ that certain pedophiles, homosexuals, or drug abusers feel they are wrongly denied by society. I’m not sure yet. I was going to draw a parallel, but it seemed wrong to taint Skittles with an association to marijuana.
New Paragraph: Bebeface is still young, and fortunately, still asleep. Without his dedicated snoozing, this blog would not be possible. I suppose I will have to cross the bridge of forbidden fruit when we get there, and I pray I can do so without making my son feel deprived and resentful of the religion that sets him apart and the funny name that prevents him from being just like everyone else.
May it set him apart as a good man.
May he never, ever be just like everyone else.