I grew up as a non practising Muslim. But I always looked forward to Hari Raya.
I am a mixed-religion child where my Chinese father practiced Buddhism and my Malay mother practiced Islam. My father converted from a non-Muslim to Islam so that he could marry my mother, but he’s not practicing. As for me, I was born a Muslim. So growing up, Hari Raya was always somewhat confusing for me. My dad barely participated in the traditions and he’d often not show up for visits. My mum would say he was busy with work. On the other hand, my mum was always extremely fervent. I used to enjoy Hari Raya as a celebration. It was a moment where I could spend time with my relatives and in my own ways attempt to connect with my faith, even though I wasn’t the model Muslim.
I got engaged to my non-Muslim partner despite my mum’s disapproval.
My family found out I got engaged to my non-Muslim fiancé. We got engaged last year in April and we were together for 8 amazing years prior to that. I always kept him a secret because my Mum never wanted our relatives to find out. I also did not want to deal with the pressure of them asking me if he was going to convert or not. She thought it was embarrassing for people to even know my boyfriend was not of the same race. However, she put up with him coming over to my place because a small part of her hoped that he would eventually convert.
We both showed up in traditional costumes to prepare for Hari Raya visiting. She treated him like he was invisible and cancelled all plans.
And then we eventually got engaged right before Hari Raya and I shared the news on my social media platform. So everyone knew and I felt like it was the right time to introduce him to my relatives. I mean I wanted him to be part of the family since we were already going to get married. On the actual day of Hari Raya, I told him to come over to my place first. It was our annual tradition to meet together as a family first and then travel together to our relatives’ houses. My fiance even dressed up in traditional clothes and I was genuinely excited though nervous.
However, when we showed up, my mom suddenly said that she didn’t want to go visiting this year. I was shocked because she never missed a single Hari Raya visiting before. I kept asking her why and she came up with an excuse saying that my dad had injured his leg and it would be too troublesome to carry him around. In reality, I knew she refused to partake in it because of my engagement. Prior to this, she had already threatened to kick me out of the house if I went ahead with a civil engagement. So for the first time, we ended up staying at home. It was super awkward because she pretended like my fiancé was completely invisible. It hurt me a lot because he is the love of my life and she was ruining a day of celebration just because of ‘faith’.
She acted so embarrassed about my marriage and drove us over the edge. So we ended up spending Hari Raya binge drinking at a bar.
I remember one of her best friends came over to visit us on that day instead. She introduced all of us and me as her youngest daughter. But she looked passed my fiancé and refused to acknowledge him. My fiancé is soft-spoken and over the years he always was so kind to my mum. So I could sense the hurt in his eyes. He was heartbroken. Most parents would have excitedly introduced their daughter’s husband-to-be. But she acted so embarrassed and grossed out by him. Her best friend wasn’t even Muslim or Malay. She was Chinese. And it just showed the extent of her disapproval of my marriage.
I was angry and upset and my fiancé was just really hurt. We did not want to stay longer and be the subject of emotional abuse especially when it was supposed to be a celebratory occasion. So we decided to f***k it and ended up at a bar. It was ironic because who the hell celebrates Hari Raya in a bar? I wanted to spend it so badly with my family by my mum just drove us over the edge and we just couldn’t take it anymore.
I hope to spend this Hari Raya with my family. Deep down I still yearn for her approval.
This year I am not going to be able to even step into my house anymore. Earlier this year, my Mum finally kicked me out because I refused to force my fiancé to convert. It’s been three months of us fending for ourselves and I’m still reeling from the fact that she used Islam as a reason to ostracise me. I grew up seeing and learning about Islam as this loving and forgiving religion, even though I never really practiced much. Everything that is done now makes me question the community. How can you do this to someone in the name of God?
Thinking about all of this filled me with hate and rebellion. So I told my partner last week, that we should just go overseas for a short trip. But then I just never followed through with it. I guess deep down, I yearn to fix my relationship with my mom. I know I lover her even though she’s been so unkind to both of us. My friends tell me I’m still in denial and that I’m too hopeful.
Blood should always be thicker than faith.
But I don’t want to believe that my mom would actually choose religion over blood. I hope my Mum understands that blood is thicker than religion or race or sexuality. I feel like people don’t feel the same way. But to me, family is bigger than anything. I want her to see where I’m coming from but I also know that it’s very hard because this was the belief system she was brought up in. Even though I’ve been kicked out, I am thinking of dropping her a text soon to ask if I come and see her this Hari Raya. It’s sad that I even have to ask for permission but I want to try my best still.
From what I studied in Islam, I remember that the Prophet Muhammad also had relatives who were non-Muslim. And I ever asked my mum, “Why? Why can a prophet Prophet have relatives who are non-Muslim and you can’t?” She could not answer me. I just don’t believe that this is what Islam teaches. I feel like this whole idea of selective acceptance and ostracisation is more of a community thing.
All that being said, I just hope I get to see her this Hari Raya.
Have you ever been banned from joining your own family celebration? How did you deal with it?