Looking deeper into the religions of a melting pot

-Marina Budd, staff

Canada is known for its acceptance of different cultures. There are many different ethical groups that have different beliefs and celebrate different holidays. However, there are faiths that are seen as wrong or some people may even fear its followers. Islam is an example of a misunderstood religion.

After the 9/11 attack in New York City, individuals’ views of the Muslim faith changed drastically. Not necessarily fear, but some felt apprehension, and even hatred towards Muslims.

Assel Yousif was born and raised in Iraq, but moved to Canada only a few years ago. Yousif has been happily married for two years to her husband Charlie, and explained some of the traditions involved in her engagement and wedding day.

“Well, we don’t wear engagement rings,” she explained. “We wear wedding bands.”

Yousif noted that in order to become engaged, the potential husband needs to ask her family’s permission to marry their daughter.

“If agreed,” she said. “There is a small celebration held in the bride’s home usually and we pray, dance and eat.”

Yousif clarifies a tradition that some misunderstand or see as appalling. She explains that arranged marriages are not as common anymore.

“Sure, there are some places that still practice this, but if they are practiced normally the two that are being set up would meet one another before making the agreement.”

She also noted that the women are allowed to wear the traditional white wedding gown as many Westerners chose to do on their big day. Yousif also commented on how now that she is living in Canada, she has become familiar with this nation and has picked up on some of our traditions. However, she still celebrates Ramadan which starts July 20 and lasts until August 18. Yousif picked up on Western traditions, such as Christmas, because her husband is a Christian.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and it lasts for 29 or 30 days. Muslim participants are to refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and sex to teach people about patience and spirituality to God. Muslims fast when the sun is up and when the sun is down they are allowed to eat, drink and do things they abstain from during the day.

Following Ramadan is Eid, which is celebrated on the final day of Ramadan. This year, Eid falls on August 18. Those who celebrated Ramadan celebrate Eid with sweet foods, prayers, gifts and more.

Aydin Uzunöz is half Turkish and for the past 19 years he’s heard countless stories from his father who was born and raised in Turkey. Ali Uzunöz, Aydin’s father, came to the United States as a young adult to study psychology at the University of Michigan. “Eid is kind of like Halloween,” Aydin Uzunöz claims. “Kids would go around door-to-door and wish everyone a happy Bayram (Eid in the Turkish culture). They even got traditional treats such as baklava and Turkish Delight or small amounts of money. The adults would kiss the right hand of their elders and touching one’s forehead.”

He noted that when he greets his dad he always kisses his right hand. It’s a sign of respect for the elders in the Turkish culture.

Uzunöz does not practice this Islamic faith anymore because he has been living in Canada for so long. However, he visits his family every summer in Turkey at their summer home. There, he joins his family in the prayer that they do every day.

Middle Eastern cultures are seen by some individuals as immoral, a misconception based on the actions of a small group of extremists. However, there are many misunderstandings about this beautiful ancient religion. Hollywood has created several movies about the war in Iraq and 9/11 which has helped people change their feelings towards Muslims.

Just like in our own culture, there are extremists. Christianity is one of the most practiced religions in the world. Some people believe that they need to partake in specific actions in order to please God. Same goes for other religions; different religions have different beliefs, some we just don’t understand. Yousif’s wedding demonstrates that not all Muslims are strict and force their daughters into marrying someone they have never met, a common misconception of many Westerners. Uzunöz shows that there are similar aspects between the Eastern and Western cultures. Both people have shared their experiences to educate people about the Islamic faith in hopes that perhaps these traditions can be embraced in North America.

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