Why will I never be scared of a Muslim just because they’re muslim?

When I landed in Indonesia in the beginning of May, I had absolutely no clue about what to expect of this country of thousand islands. I had no plan, I had no contacts, the only thing I knew was that I was gonna teach English for a bit and also that it has the largest Muslim population in the world. So why did I go for it just like that, wasn’t scared at all and actually were looking forward to it?

Just like a lot of people, I had visited a „muslim“ country before. Unlike them though, I didn’t choose to travel to such a country just because it is cheap, it’s always hot in there and because „the neighbours went there last summer so why shouldn’t I as well?“. I’m not one of those people who give zero fucks about the country’s culture and life in general, nope. I’m not such a hypocrite who would pay for a five star hotel to be served by the people who, the minute they cross Europe’s border, become „our enemies“.

Even though I visited Egypt more than a year before the whole I’MON da road idea, I didn’t want to get to know this country that way. And I didn’t. Thanks to my best friend who is Egyptian. Yes, he is a Muslim, yes, I even have his name proudly tattoeed on my leg and yes, he knows everything about me, including the fact I’m a lesbian. And guess what, he’s never, not even once, killed me. I spent two amazing weeks with him, somewhere in the middle of pretty much nowhere, totally surrounded by muslims and only muslims and I’m really glad for this experience because even back then, I could make my own opinion about all this.

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Now, this may be hard to take for some people but I think, they really are one of the kindest and most-hospitable people on Earth. And that was one of the reasons I was so happy to cross another muslim-country border and once again, I was proven right. I lived in a muslim family (that I didn’t know until I got there) for just over a week and then completely spontaneously, without any plan and company, decided to hitchhike all over the island of Java which took me about two weeks of my life and added another 1200 km or so on top of my hitch-score.

I didn’t see a white person for three weeks, almost no one spoke any English, communication was very exhausting on both sides, I very often didn’t know where I was gonna stay at night but guess what! Thanks to them, their hospitability and will to help, I got through all this by myself, as a solo girl with her super heavy backpack.

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It happened to me many times that I was just wandering around an unknown town after the sunset, a bit lost and very desperate to find a place to crash yet very dirty, smelly, easy to kidnap/rape but never did I have any experience in which a person wearing a hijab would want to blow themself and the ones around them up. Surprisingly, it was the complete opposite. They nearly killed each other when they were arguing about who’s gonna accommodate me. I know this sounds a bit weird but they kinda all wanted me to stay with them, to feed me, to play with their kids and on the other hand, they never wanted to let me go and stick my thumb up the next day because they were worried something could happen to me. Those are the true Muslims. Those are the Muslims who follow the Quran and are not affected by any stupid political situation caused by a third party. I have visited a few more so-called muslim countries including Malaysia, Borneo, Turkey and some Balkan countries and even though I was in really deep shit a few times, the thought of blaming Islam for it never even crossed my mind, no I always put myself into these shituations and I can only blame myself for my stupidity.

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I wish people started to use their own brains and finally realised that what happened for example in Paris, didn’t happen because someone was a Muslim but simply because there was something seriously wrong in their heads. Of course it is absolutely horrifying and unacceptable but look at the reaction of the world. We should all realise that we can’t fight violence with more violence. It’s like fucking for virginity.

Yes, I realise that those terrorists were Islamists but I know that a real Muslim could not do such an act as their belief wouldn’t allow them to do so. Not everyone who wears „muslim clothes“ is a killer and vice versa. I feel really sad about the fact that many people are so manipulated by all the media bullshit. The other day, I read an interview in my home-town newspaper with a local girl who decided to do a little research. She put on muslim clothes and a hijab and decided to walk around Czech towns to see people’s reactions. As predicted, they were priceless (add a bit more sarcasm into it and there you go). I was so ashamed to even read about the results. Do you really think that someone wearing a „scarf“ around their head is some sort of a threat to all of us?

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The worst thing about all this though is the fact that the most critical and negative people are those who only leave the comfort of their house once a year to go on summer vacation and spend the rest of the year in front of their telly getting more and more brainwashed. Do you know the little phrase – don’t judge a book by its cover? People, please wake up and start to respect and treat each other how every one of us deserves to be respected and treated and stop judging people by their religion, clothes, sexuality, etc. I don’t see a reason why we should treat someone bad without any particular reason, just because they’re „different“. I was very different to everyone many times and no one has ever turned their back at me…

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10 LESSONS I LEARNT WHILE BACKPACKING AROUND SE ASIA

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Unfortunately, my days in SE Asia have come to an end but I bet there are many of you, fellow backpackers, who are about to hit the road towards this amazing part of the world. To enjoy your time spent over there a bit more, read about the lessons I learnt during my three month stay and don’t make the same mistakes as me 🙂

1) If a local says: „Be careful, it’s spicy“, immediately leave everything behind and get the hell outta there. Seriously, I’m a chef so I always wanna taste everything and I hardly ever listen to any advice so many times I put myself in a very hot and spicy situation that I ended up regreting for a few hours afterwards. Especially don’t enter a 10m radius around a chilli pepper smaller than 1 cm. Unless you’re into masochism, then it’s fine.

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2) Always carry some toilet paper or tissues with you. Even though you are in a nice city and that toilet you’re heading to doesn’t look bad at all, you will be guaranteed not to find a piece of anything to wipe the most precious parts of your body with.

3) Don’t think too much about all the „drive safely“ videos you watched back home while you‘re on a bus in SE Asia. Just make yourself comfortable, close your eyes and imagine the driver has some magical powers that will always prevent him from crashing. Yes, sometimes it is really and I mean REALLY bad. I caught myself thinking about getting off the bus in a few situations too. But nah, I had to overcome that fear and in the end it just felt like a very cheap ride on one of the craziest attractions in Thorpe Park. See, I’m still alive!

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4) You’re used to eating in nice restaurants with beautiful looking food and good service? Yeah, so was I. It was really difficult for me to watch the cooks follow not a single hygienic regulation. Yup, that raw chicken has been casually chilling there on straight sunshine for the whole day. But trust me, go for it. I don’t know how they do it but the cheaper the food is, the better it tastes. Just make sure you follow number 2.

5) You can talk to anyone about anything and no one judges you.  This was a tough one for me as I came to SE Asia completely fucked in my head with many secrets that I could only talk about to like 2 people back in London. Even though you only just met that cool guy in the hostel 20 minutes ago, the casual conversation about which countries you’ve visited will soon become boring and people crave hearing different stories as well as they want to talk about their problems to a complete stranger. People will give you various opinions that’ll help you get through difficult times. In the end, the chance you will ever see them again is very small.

6) Everyone has a shit story. And I don’t mean a very bad story, I mean it literally. Everytime I drank with fellow travellers, our conversation led to shit stories. A backpacker I met in Thailand told me: „You ain’t a proper traveller until you have your own shit story.“ This is also very often connected with point 2 and 4 but some people have the craziest stories ever. Once I met a girl that had just hiked Mt. Bromo in Indonesia and badly needed to take a dump while having breakfast at a local’s place. There was no toilet in the „bathroom“ and she didn’t know what to do with the product once she relieved herself to the bathroom floor (which the locals normally do) so she ended up wrapping it in a ton of TP, put it in her pocket and carried it away with her. I know, disgusting right? But imagine yourself completely drunk and listening to the whole story. Unforgettable. Luckily, she followed rule number 2 🙂

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7) Oh, you lost a T-Shirt or a pair of boxers while it was being washed in the laundry? I’ll be honest with you, you will never see it again. But wait, the good karma comes around and soon you’ll end up having someone else’s underwear in your surprise-bag of clothes you pick up from the laundry.

8) Be patient. I used to be probably one of the most impatient people on the planet until I travelled around Indonesia and found out that time doesn’t matter. Did uncle Google tell you that that 100km long journey should take about 1 and a half hour? Always multiply it by three. The bus driver will need to stop a few times to have a cigarette (if he doesn’t smoke on the bus), use the toilet (hope he doesn’t do that on the bus too), get something to eat, get more fuel, talk to his fellow bus drivers, etc. You will get to your destination eventually. Just be patient. And when he hits the road, make sure you follow number 3 🙂

9) Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten track. That’s where the true tresure is, that’s why you travel. People are normally very willing to help you, sometimes even invite you for lunch or let you stay at their place overnight, especially if you travel solo. When I was in Indonesia, I didn’t see a white person for 18 days and I can honestly say that it was my best backpacking experience so far. Even though three times I saw a guy masturbating when I walked past them in a random town (I know, can’t really blame them, hard to resist haha), it never put me off. Weirdos are everywhere in the world, just make sure you don’t make an eye contact with them.

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10) You will master the art of improvising. This especially applies, if you follow number 9. Once I nearly got raped (yeah, still didn’t convince me to act like a tourist though, yuck) and ended up walking in the middle of nowhere for 7 km with no water, no food and no cigarettes until it got better and made plan A. I know, people normally make B plans in such situations but since I normally have no plan at all, a very simple plan was needed. You will become very creative if you’re about to miss your flight or don’t have any clean clothes left too. Just do not panic. Everything has a solution. Unless you didn’t follow number 2.

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