Alone. Scared. Worried. Frightened…
What will they think of me? Why can’t I fit in like the others? These are the questions racing through the minds of young American Muslims trying to fit into society.
But why? Why do I care what others think about me? Why should I anyway, right, because as people always say as long as you have faith in Allah then you will succeed in life? But even after taking it all in, there still is a desire to be like the others. To celebrate and talk the same. To dress the same. To look the same. To forget your Muslim identity.
My Life as a Muslim Girl in America
Asalamu Alaikum everybody, My name is Miriam Awwad. Today I want to touch upon a topic that many Muslims have to endure, and that is, Should I broadcast my Muslim identity or keep my religiosity private?
At 12 years old, living in Jersey, I began wearing the Hijab (the headscarf). As I left my house on the first day of 7th Grade, wearing Hijab. Standing by the bus stop, different scenarios were running through my mind, how I would be treated, how I would be looked at, how I would be talked to differently.
Entering school with all the stares aimed toward me, I didn’t know what to say or react. Wearing the Hijab from a young age, in a public school with a majority of Non-Muslim children, I always felt different. Having this interaction in Public with making and losing friends was tough. Ingrid Mattson herself once said, “The reality for Muslim students in public schools is very difficult. It’s highly stressful.”
A good friend from the previous year passed me, in the hallway, excited to meet her. I greeted her with Hello, sarcastically she responded, “Nice hair.” It was as if I had been slapped in the face. And at that moment I knew she didn’t see me the same as before. We used to be so close. Is it not me that used to play with her? Laugh and make jokes together? Held her crutches when she broke her leg? Was it not the same me? Why was I being treated like this all because of a piece of cloth on my head?
Growing up in America, I always heard the saying, Never judge a book by its cover. When my friend answered me I began to take it seriously. I began concentrating on my academics and schoolwork, helping others. Alhamdulillah, I graduated with straight A’s and high honors, to prove that just because I am wearing something that is different I can still be a hard-working and dedicated person. I participated in fundraisers and all the clubs to show that I am capable of doing what every other person does. In 2019, I raised over 3,500 dollars to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Everybody knew who the girl in the headscarf was. Sure I lost one friend, but I did gain much more confidence and respect. I encourage every single one of you to love who you are, and do not change it based on what others want you to be. That is why, I began my Islamic YouTube channel, to show that it doesn’t matter who you are. But with hard work and confidence, you can accomplish and do anything. Let your smile change the world. Don’t let the world change your smile.
Fitting into society is important but we should know that all of our color, races, religions, culture, ethnicities, make us who we are. We are all different in our own way. Whether wearing a scarf on our head, or wearing a turban, or walking around barefoot, or having tattoos, or nose piercings, if I had different colored skin, If I wanted to shave my head, if I had a disability. That shouldn’t be the case to be treated differently or poorly just because we look different. Being treated equally is a human right and should never be changed because of how I look.
Being a Muslim is such a blessing and I am extremely proud to wear the Hijab and broadcast my Muslim identity and tell the world who I am. Standing up for who I am and believing in who I am, is what matters most. Wearing the Hijab in public and allowing myself to stand out amongst the crowd, is what’s most important to me, as I discussed in my earlier post on Why I Wear Hijab As An American Muslim.
Don’t judge a book by its cover until you’ve read the book. Because you might miss out on an amazing story.
Jazak Allah Khairan, Wasalamu Alaikum!