Father Sez

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My advice to my children on traveling in the post 9/11 world

Sunday March 2nd, 2008 by fathersez

The world was quite different before 9/11. 

Travel was a lot easier and I dare say, the world was a lot more trusting place. Now there appears to be a lot more apprehension amongst Muslims when they travel to/in some non Muslim countries. And I believe this feeling could be reciprocated by non Muslims traveling in many a Muslim country. 

In all my travels I have never had any problems as far as my religion was concerned. 

What advice can I give my children as they prepare to leave the family nest and may want to travel? 

My earlier suggestion on “how to deal with people” is relevant. Here I want to address the issue of religion in particular. 

1. Never ever judge anyone by their religion, their religious rites or beliefs 

I have earlier stated my stand that we should never judge anyone by our standards. This is re emphasized. Faith is a tremendously powerful force, sometimes seemingly completely disconnected with logic or science.  Whatever the religious beliefs or rites of the people of the country or locality that we are visiting, we should just respect them.

We do not have to show that we believe or show that we don’t believe.  Just show our respect and show it sincerely!  Exactly as we would want others to respect our beliefs, equally sincerely.  

If we must remove our shoes before entering a particular place, then we must do so. No question. If we have to cover our heads, then we cover our heads, no question. If we feel strongly about removing our shoes or covering our heads, then we just don’t enter the place.  I am sure, our option not to enter the place will be equally respected. 

This is exactly what happened when I visited a particular part of one of the ancient palaces of the Kings of Benin, West Africa. It was their belief that everyone should take off their shoes if they wanted to enter the place. I did not want to, so I did not enter. No problem. 

Many tourists of all nationalities visit our National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur. They respect our rules that we should cover our heads and take off our shoes.  I have visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, the holiest temple for people of the Sikh faith. I was made to feel most welcome.  

2. We do not have to be ashamed that we do not know much or anything of other religions 

This is pretty self explanatory. However learning about and understanding other religions are always very good. During my working stint in India, I have visited a number of Hindu temples with my colleagues when they went to pray. I’ll wait for them and after their prayers we’ll leave together. They’ll do the same for me.  

I have had many talks with my colleagues on their religious beliefs and rites and the talks have always been very educational. And they have not made me less a Muslim in any way. 

3. If we meet someone seeking to debate with us on religion, or to justify our beliefs, just smile, say that we are not experts and change the subject or excuse ourselves. And, of course, we should never do the same.   

This seldom fails.  Just keep on smiling and remember our family’s rule number 2 and 3 on dealing with people. 

I have only very pleasant memories of traveling in non Muslim countries.  In Hanover, Germany a lady taxi driver took me to a mosque and waited for me till I finished my prayers. In Kobe, Japan it was also a taxi driver who took me to a mosque.  Restaurants have also been very accommodating when I ask about “kosher” or “halal” food. 

Again, in Benin, a member of a Christian Missionary group went through a lot of time and trouble to configure my laptop when I had some problems.  

Hence to my children I’ll say, travel as much as you want and as you can afford. The world may be a little less trusting now, but people are still people.  

Treat everyone well, politely and as you want to be treated and you should have no problems. No problems at all.  

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4 Comments for “My advice to my children on traveling in the post 9/11 world”

On March 3, 2008
At 11:43 am

Beautiful post, FatherSez. When I was studying Islam, the very nice local imam’s wife helped me and my friends come sit in the back of the masjid during Friday prayers. She gave us instructions on appropriate things to wear, helped us perform wudu, and even explained each part of the service before it happened.

Then afterwards she told us a bit of her story, how she came from Pakistan, why she started wearing the hijab after 9-11, how proud she was of her daughter for starting a Muslim students alliance at her college.

I think we followed your rules and it was great. :)

On March 3, 2008
At 2:35 pm

Wah! Mrs. M, this is a very nice and touching comment.

I do believe that if we, human beings, were left to our own devices, there would be a lot more trust and tolerance in this world.

I have long ago formed a mental image of you. I see you as a “nice, kind and compassionate person”, and I will always have this image of you.

Thanks again, Mrs. M.

by Fara
On March 4, 2008
At 11:12 pm

I was still working in the US when 9/11 happened. Although I was on the other side of the country, being a foreigner and a muslim, in a country that was “under attack” at the time had very big impact.

These are the things I learned during the time:

1. Always know the address of the Embassy & contact number/person.

2. If you’re traveling, have someone pick you up at the airport or have someone expecting you at a certain time or place.

3. Always carry your contact information, in case of an emergency.

These are the things I took for granted before 9/11. Hope it helps.

by JHS
On March 9, 2008
At 3:05 pm

Beautiful. Thanks for contributing this post to this week’s Carnival of Family Life, hosted at This Full House. Be sure to stop by on Monday, March 10, 2008, and support your fellow participants by checking out all of their wonderful contributions.

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