My trip to Turkey was one of the most eye-opening experiences I had, especially as a new Muslim. Here are just a few of the many:
1) The azan (call to prayer) can be heard through the whole town. The most beautiful one I heard was at the Sultan Ahmet mosque. In Singapore, the azan has not been allowed to be sounded out of the mosque except at Masjid Sultan.
2) Ders, or lessons, are held everywhere. It was here that I realised that I had lots to learn, and I think I would have really enjoyed the sharings if not for the absolute language barrier. Because everyone has their own input, and so much knowledge, I'd have wanted to sit there forever just to listen to what they had to say.
3) Daily praying and quran reading IS a way of life.
3) How could anyone term the Turkish people as 'extremists'? Have we entered a world whereby if one were to be religiously worshipping God, covering themselves up for God, living as a peaceful example... one would be termed an extremist? Unfortunately because of a few, almost all Muslims now are 'extremists' and 'women oppressors' at first impression. It is sad.
I have faced my fair share of criticisms over here in Singapore as a Muslim convert, where people think that Islam = Malay, and somehow I have magically transformed into a Malay after my conversion, and my name would become Siti bte Muhammed. Or, I have become supremely oppressed and lost all my rights when I eventually cover up. Or that I would be taught how to become a suicide bomber. Or that I converted because I didn't understand my own Catholic religion well enough. Just being in a place where people actually understand and know so much more past the superficial assumptions.. it was really very refreshing. Not having to face disapproving looks, being in a culture that actually supports the Muslim way of living, I felt more like I could actually start learning more and more here.
And the foood.....