Freedoms we take for granted


Asia is a diverse place; “the Muslim World” is a diverse place. But despite our ability to sort places under one name as if they painlessly belong together, being in these places cannot help but make this diversity undeniable. A foreigner staying in two places in this case Malaysia and Bangladesh can certainly feel infinitely more at home in one than in the other.

I came to penang to give a paper at Universiti Sains Malaysia’s International Humanities Conference and to see my friends’ first grandchild. My bubbly, outgoing Chinese Malaysian friend is married to her more serene Indian Malaysian counterpart; the two have been my friends for many years, and I know I can stay with them and laugh easily together despite my awkwardly limited language (English), my peculiarly revealing clothing (American) and my horribly clumsy behaviour. This transcendence of race, language, attire and actions is what delights me about Malaysia, and the ease with which I can move among the vibrant colours of Muslim dress, Malaysian fruits and vegetables and the many faces that make up this population draws me back here again and again

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