Although Muslims may appear to largely Arabic or Asian to many people, Muslims have lived for centuries in the different continents of the world. So much so that within their lifestyle, dress, foods and cultural norms, the culture of an established Muslim population is a reflection of the regional culture of where many generations have lived. So, Chinese Muslims have a Chinese culture, Persian Muslims have theirs, Balkan Muslims theirs, and so on. The same thing is happening with Britain’s Muslims, although it is a slow process and we may not be able to see its emergence as clearly. This reflection of local culture and customs indicates how strongly Muslims are taught to respect the culture, customs and values of places, and its people. Historically, when Muslims settled in new places, they respected local customs and cultures, and eventually adopted them. This remained the case when new settlements happened as a result of wars in which Muslims were powerful victors.
In theological terms, Muslims are taught in the Qur’an that humanity is one family, with Adam (a Prophet) and Eve (named Huwwa in the Qur’an) as common parents. Muslims also learn that it was God’s ‘plan’ to allow different nations and tribes to develop over time, so that we get to know one another across our diversities. Muslims learn that visible forms of difference and status are not important, but who we are as people is. Religious practices that are performed together, such as praying together by standing in line, are there to remind us that we are essentially all human and equal, and that our behaviour, morals and ethics are what truly matter. These teachings underline the central importance of being respectful and tolerant towards others.
Islamic teachings lay great emphasis on respecting differences and being patient or tolerant with people. These teachings apply to simple everyday matters like being patient with elderly parents, through to issues of difficult negotiations and the honouring of contractual obligations. Islamic scholars are clear that Muslims must obey the laws of the land where one lives, as an extension of righteous Islamic conduct. Also, when people convert to Islam, they still retain their culture, heritage and family connections, and they are encouraged to remain a part of their family’s heritage and traditions. Each person’s situation is different, but there should certainly be no pressure to break away from one’s own ties and heritage.