The only Muslim in the room

Last week, Google invited me and 23 other influencers from South East Asia for a Google Cook Off competition in Singapore. We had to solve problems using Google apps such as Google Lens and Google Assistant.

Oh, and we had to cook.

When I received the invitation, I felt honoured. It didn’t take long for me to accept the invitation. I didn’t know who else were invited, save for a few names I got for my own team. So, the full reveal was only at Google HQ in Singapore.

It wasn’t long before I realized that I was the only Muslim in the gathering. From the very first day that they invited everyone for a Friday night drinking session until the cook off event where I had to ask for the halal option (only to see that I was the only one with a different dish than everyone else).

Understandably, it was quite an interesting experience being the only representative of your faith. The temptation to blend in was definitely there. So, I had to force myself to be more conscious of my actions and always remember who I am.

I didn’t mind my peers. I didn’t see them as lesser than me or worse than me. For the most part, I was comfortable being around them. There were many activities that I could be a part of, so it wasn’t a problem at all.

As for the moments where I can’t get involved e.g. the drinking and the non-halal meat, I had to hold my ground and explain my position. They were very understanding. Of course, one might think that I can just avoid from being in that situation altogether.

But then again, I thought to myself that they might not hang around Muslims all that much, the same way that we don’t hang around them. I imagine that to be a terrible loss for both parties, because we miss the opportunity to know one another.

We shouldn’t be insecure with ourselves to the point where we don’t feel confident interacting with people who don’t share our beliefs. I could look around the room and say to myself, “Oh my God, I’m the only Muslim. I don’t want to be a part of this.”

To be honest, that thought did enter my mind.

But, I managed to catch myself in the act and changed my thought to, “Oh my God, I’m the only Muslim. This is awesome!” It was awesome because I get to represent my faith. It felt like being the only Malaysian in the Olympics. I should be proud, and I did feel proud.

Whether I am the only Muslim or I am in a room full of Muslims, I should always be proud to be a Muslim.