“Is it because of your religion?”


On my never ending quest to become a journalist I’ve encountered some very “special” individuals along the way. Some good, some bad and some so terrible that they’ve been the inspiration for many blog posts. Tonight is no exception.

I’ve bumped into some of these individuals on my eventful commutes into my internship (as far my Twitter feed goes, my commutes tend to be quite dramatic!).

London is a mesh of beauty and ugliness; stunning architecture and sights flanked by ferocious pigeons. It’s a city often dubbed as a future “melting pot” of culture and has become the poster child for multiculturalism and diversity. Despite this, ignorance is alive and kicking in many parts of the capital. And with my luck, I’ve just happened to have encountered it quite a lot.

It’s the type of ignorance which I thought was long dead – actually I wish it were long dead – and is so often casually thrown about that many of us have turned a blind eye to it.

The phrase in question: “Is it because of your religion?” Whenever I’m asked this, usually by a white person, I’m very tempted to turn it back onto them just so that they can see how ridiculous it sounds. If I had 5p for every time someone has asked me that question, I could have retired early and gone to live on my own island. This question both infuriates me and makes me feel half sorry for the other person. In their mind, they are just being curious and it’s just out of innocence. But for the receiver, it’s a question that reeks of ignorance, judgement and stereotypes.

For example:

(a) “Oh sorry I don’t drink” – followed by “Is it because of your religion!?” Fair enough, in this case I’d understand where they are coming from, but it’s still annoying. Why are people so shocked to find other humans who don’t drink alcohol?

(b) “Oh sorry, I don’t eat red meat” – cue “Is it because of your religion!?” This I can also understand but it’s super awkward when I explain that I get physically sick if I eat red meat. Again: can people not have dietary requirements without their religion being brought into it?

Whilst my lifestyle choices make me look like an anti-social bug, I’d like to take this opportunity to say the following: “I do the latter out of choice. It’s my decision.” On the surface, it may seem like I’m overreacting to this. But honestly, if you have been asked this question regularly, it begins to wear thin. Regardless as to whether or not I am overreacting to this, it’s the implications of what this “innocent question” holds. It implies that South Asians live in the dark ages, ruled by a book, are submissive and do not have a mind of their own.  It also emphasises a divide of “them and us.” For example:

“Annabel can do this, but Jaya can’t do that because of her religion.”

It’s infuriating that South Asians and PoC are severely scrutinised and given a telling off for certain aspects of their culture that the majority of us do not practice. Do not tar us all with the same brush just because the media has decided to sensationalise the actions of a few. The implications of that dreaded question are the mouldy, decayed dregs of colonialism that have been flung from generation to generation without being explored or challenged.

I’ve had enough and I’ve decided to fling those tattered thoughts back into the past where it belongs.



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