Islam just means: be a good person, doing good things, help others, that’s all

I am Muslim. I was born in a Muslim family, in a Muslim environment, so automatically, it just came like that. I believe in the Quran, and the Prophet Muhammad. But actually, I don’t really practice what the Quran recommends. There’s not really any reason that I don’t practice.

By the way, my wife is a Christian. She does practice. But that has never created any conflict; and my family doesn’t mind. My children, when they were young, they were following me, because at that time I was practicing a little bit. And whenever there was a Muslim holiday they used to come with me. But for me, because they were just children, I thought “they cannot decide now which faith to follow, when they are older, maybe age 18, they can choose their own”. Now they go to church; they are more or less on the Christian side. Maybe because they were always with their mother, going with their mother to Church, or doing other Christian things. Maybe that’s why.

We celebrate Christian holidays at home. Like Easter. It doesn’t mean anything to me, but we just do it with the family, for my wife. I also celebrate Id, the end of Ramadan at home, and then my wife celebrates with me.

Maybe I was just very liberal, just giving each and every one his or her choice, for whatever he or she believes. I cannot really tell where I got those liberal values from, because I left the family when I was 23. And maybe that’s why – that may have influenced me.

Actually, even before the age of 23 I used to have friends – Muslim, Christian – from many beliefs. That was in my country of origin, Senegal. There I already had multicultural, multi-religious exposure. Senegal is more than 85% Muslim. But the town where I was born and brought up, there were Muslims and Christians. The whole neighborhood where we were living was Muslim, but the primary school was a mixed school with both Christians and Muslims. It was a particular town: you know Senegal was colonized by the French, and our town was one of the four towns where all the people who were born there were automatically French citizens. That’s why there are Christians: because French people used to live there, many foreigners, because of the economic call of Senegal. My mother and my father were born French citizens, but at independence they chose to be Senegalese.

The town where I was born, we never have any problems with stereotypes or judgements about people’s religion. Nor in any of the countries where I went; the countries themselves didn’t have such problems.  At 23 I went to Ethiopia; my wife is Ethiopian. There are Christians and Muslims, and they’re all together. And then I went to Italy; it was the same. From 23 we always mixed with the international community; my children also. Wherever we have lived, we have neighbors from different countries, with different beliefs: Asian, American, European, whatever. So everyone minds their own business. If you have friends who are Muslim, they will not ask whether you practice, or object if you don’t practice. If you have Christian friends, the same. Because we don’t discuss religion. For me, it’s better not to talk about religion because everyone has his own beliefs, and if you want to practice, you just go, by yourself, alone, do what you believe and then that’s it. And then you come out, and you are with people with different beliefs, and you respect each other’s beliefs.

Now, for me Islam just means doing good things. Because I know what Islam teaches: just be a good person, doing good things, help others, that’s all. For me that’s enough. But also, I cannot forget the way I was brought up, so maybe sometimes when I have some problems, I might pray. Otherwise I am okay the way I am.

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