When people ask about my religion and follow it up with questions like “Why aren’t you praying? Why aren’t you fasting?”, how do I reply to them in a smart way that tells them they are being too personal and inappropriate?
Our society more often than not has no respect for boundaries, and our curiosity is often misplaced. Instead of being curious about, say, science, innovation, or the source of our civil servant uncle’s questionable wealth, we poke our nose into other people’s personal lives to find out how they conduct their religious affairs.
Oh, the banality of such questions is the reason why I dread going to the family’s Idul Fitri gathering every year. But years of practice and observation have taught me that being defensive and brusque never did me any good. It made me even more pissed off, and there’s really no good reason to have my mood and appetite ruined when there’s so much delicious treats during religious holidays.
You have to choose your battles. With general nosy people, just humor them and give them vague answers. For example, if they ask why you aren’t praying, tell them you’re menstruating (one of the perks of being a woman, eh?). If they push you, just smile and say in the sweetest tone possible, that it is a personal thing between you and God. Usually, it can silence them.
Sometimes there are a few people who are genuinely curious, as they have never met anyone who is an agnostic, freethinker, or the likes. For these people, I’d spare some time to explain to them concisely why I don’t adhere to any religion.
The one person with whom I have bothered to spend a lot of time addressing this issue, is my nephew; a bright and curious boy. I discussed it with him as if he was an adult, without pretension, condescension and patronizing him, because I want to teach him tolerance. And it seems to work, as he has never asked again. I later overheard him telling his younger sisters that people have different faiths and have to be respected. I hope he stays that way.
But sometimes you may have to just grin and bear it. Hope that helps!
*Illustration by Brett Jordan
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