Armaan Ali Khan

“Humna and Rumaisa Ikram, two high school students at the International School of Bangkok.” By Author, 2023

How Does it Feel Being a Muslim at ISB?

April 21, 2023



Yes, you read that correctly.

Humna and Rumaisa Ikram both wear a Hijab. They both do not consume pork. And they both observe the month of Ramadan once a year.

Humna and Rumaisa are two practicing Muslims at ISB. Does that make them different from the rest of the student body? Absolutely not.


“The Prasert Islam Mosque roughly a kilometer away from ISB on Samakhee Road.”

Almost a quarter of the inhabitants who roam our planet are practicing Muslims, more than any other single religion. But at ISB, it feels as if Islam is barely practiced. Now, imagine walking down the cafeteria aisle, knowing half the selection is inedible. Knowing that your religious beliefs may be preventing you from delving into the lavish food which lines the stalls. Then, a special month of the year arrives. Eating and drinking must cease until the sun sets. Getting through a day of school seems like an insurmountable mountain to climb, with the seven hours of classes weighing down on your shoulders. Naturally, inherent challenges arise which makes observing Islam an intriguing but challenging feat at this school. So, how does it feel to be a practicing Muslim at ISB?

“Pork, Pork and Pork: Lunch on a typical Friday in the Main Cafeteria.”

Being an international school, it can be expected that a thorough understanding of a multitude of cultures can be seen within the student body. However, a lack of understanding still exists. Rumaisa and Humna Ikram have been schooling here since early-elementary and both girls are deeply embedded into the High School experience, partaking in an array of extracurricular activities whilst attending to academic needs. They attend classes, they take electives of their choice, and they hangout with their friends on weekends. But to what extent does the observation of Islam impact their daily lives at ISB?

Both agree that the ISB administration does an accommodating job ensuring that religious observations are met. For example, dietary restrictions are acknowledged on school trips, and discrimination is not blatantly present. However, upon certain occasions, stories arise which portray the barricades which Muslims overcome on occasion at ISB.

The modest covering of the body is often observed by Muslims worldwide, including the wearing of Hijabs. Rumaisa and Humna were asked about their experience dealing with this observation at ISB: “We feel kind of alone,” expressed the girls. “Once we got dress-coded for our long pants,” the girls recounted.

Further instances additionally paint the picture:

“Marshmallows in s’mores,” Rumaisa explains, “Was something we were left out of during school camp visits.” Specifically, on ISB’s own excursion to the wilderness campus up north in Petchaburi. Gelatin, a key ingredient in marshmallows, contains traces of pig scraps, making it inedible for practicing Muslims. “It wasn’t such a big deal. We ate the biscuits with chocolate instead.”

“Grade 7 Students at the Environmental Wilderness Camp in Petchaburi Province, Thailand.” (International School of Bangkok)

Two non Muslim were interviewed regarding their perspective of Islam at ISB from the eyes of an outsider. Although both have substantial knowledge on the practices of Muslims, many specifics are still left out. For example, both were aware of the restrictions about eating pork, however, were unaware of how seriously it is taken, categorizing the restriction as more of a preference issue rather than a religious observation.

Building understanding throughout our community is crucial, as certain religious beliefs are often left unaccounted for. One step which could be taken, which was endorsed by the girls, was incorporating the history of Islam into the school curriculum. “We learn about the origins of Hinduism and Buddhism in social studies. It would be beneficial to include certain history about Islam too,” suggested Humna and Rumaisa. High School social studies teacher Mr Hansberry mentions how current syllabus focuses on modern topics, excluding historic events covering religious events. “It used to be covered [Islam], however, the curriculum does not include it anymore.”

Those outside the Muslim community concur, stating that they would be more knowledgeable about the Islamic observations if they were included in the school history class. “We aren’t very aware of the reasons behind some of the Islamic practices,” mentions Emily Wilis, a sophomore at ISB. “It makes understanding slightly more challenging.”

As an international school, gaining understanding of the multitude of cultures which surround us is crucial to remaining harmonious. And ensuring that minorities who encompass our community are comfortable is the first key to success.



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