Part of understanding what it’s like to be a Muslim woman in America, is just to ask them. So this is the first of hopefully many interviews with Muslim women.
These questions were answered by a young Muslim woman who attends university here in Peoria.
Were you born in the States and where is your family from?
Yes, in North Carolina. Both my parents are from Palestine. My dad is from a small town outside Ramallah and my mom is from Hebron.
Why do you wear (or choose not to wear) hijab?
I decided to wear hijab when I was nine. Part of the reason my family moved from North Carolina to Peoria was because we wanted to be closer to Muslims and our religion. So when I learned why women in Islam wear the hijab it was something that I found made so much sense, even if I was so young. So I wore it because the one thing I value the most is modesty.
What does your Islamic faith mean to you?
To me it means growing up with a certain set of morals and values. This comes from not only being raised as a Muslim, but also just the way my parents raised me. My faith is something very dear to me that makes me feel complete (as cheesy as that sounds). Just being a down to earth person and living everyday to my utmost potential, I feel like Islam has taught me that from learning by what the Prophet PBUH use to do and just reading the Quran.
What is the most important thing in all of life? Why?
The most important thing in life, I feel, is just being true to yourself. Growing up as a Muslim in America I have been peer pressured in my life to do things that I know as a Muslim I shouldn’t, and I never minded to say no. I know being true to myself shows who my real friends are. I have always tried to please other people and put everyone before myself, which I continue to do at times, but at the end of the day I know who I am and what I value in life…I will always put first no matter what, God, my faith and my family.
What has your experience as a Muslim woman in America been like?
To say it has been a breeze would be a lie. I never accepted who I was until I moved to Peoria and got closer to my religion. One reason we moved from North Carolina was because my siblings and I were verbally harassed at school when 9/11 happened. I saw my siblings have to get escorted out of school because of the threats they were receiving. It just showed all of us that nothing in life is easy and just builds character. In the sixth grade I did have someone intentionally take my headscarf off my head during lunch, and I simply got up put it back on and walked out of the cafeteria. My parents were worried how that would affect me, however I believe it just built confidence in me and that I wouldn’t be as outspoken and outgoing as I am now if it weren’t for that incident.
Share your thoughts on ISIS, terrorism, and war.
Like everyone, it breaks my heart listening to the news and hearing things going on overseas and what is happening. When people always ask me I tell them there are good and bad in all types of people, and hopefully one day all this will cease because I love going overseas. It’s absolutely breathtaking and always feels like home so I don’t want that taken away from me, because slowly it seems to be.
What are your hopes for your children?
Seeing how my parents moved to America for their kids to have a successful education is all that I want for my future children. We have been given many blessings in this life, thankfully. Some of them are because my parents decided to come to America, but they always taught us to be humble so that’s what I would hope for my children. To just do right not only in this world, but right to themselves and everyone else around them, and everything else will fall into place.
If you could say anything to American Christians, what would you say?
Just not to be afraid to ask questions, whether it’s stopping a Muslim in the middle of Walmart or sending them a message on Facebook. I’ve had countless encounters where after finishing talking to someone, they always tell me they never knew how outgoing and expressive Muslims are.
I hope you truly hear here story, and take her advice 🙂
Let us continue to strive in loving neighbors, strangers, and enemies.
Grace & Peace.