Islam is a way of life and a very simple one at that. It teaches piety, humbleness, peace, war, chastity and more things about life that I can think of. With all the stereotypes that circulate, it’s hard for a Muslim to keep up with the who-said-what in this non Islamic country. Personally, I’ve heard my fair shares of “Is that a pillow case on your head?” to “Are you wearing a bomb strapped underneath your dress?” If anything can be said about Muslims, I should know the gist of the puns.
The ignorance of some non-Muslims is expected for the most part, that doesn’t mean it gets any easier each time they come at us. It is tough because we have interaction with them every single day: work, school, bus, shopping and airplanes. They look at our customs as very foreign and not American. When we look at ourselves and see nothing wrong with our customs. We look at their customs and see contradictions all the time.
Take American television for example. If you could describe popular American broadcasts in a few words it would be sex, money, youth and homosexuality. The most popular shows in the U.S. have one of these characteristics or all four. That’s not what the bible preaches and it’s definitely not what our book teaches. Yet it’s still here and popular to many Americans…including me. If this is what people are seeing and being fed since birth-no matter what religion or background- this is what they will end up engaging in as they grow older. How can you be a full blown Muslim if you have grown up here in America? It is not impossible but misleading. When I say misleading, there will definitely be many upon many obstacles, huge walls and tight barriers that you must get by to keep true to the Islamic customs. It is possible to adapt to the American ways while still engaging in Islamic tradition. Kind of like take the good and leave the bad.
Has anyone who lives in America ever wondered how we felt as non violent Muslims living on foreign territory? Has anyone ever asked themselves: how do Muslims in America who are not of the Middle Eastern descent feel about everything that’s going on?
You have been cordially invited to take a peek inside the life of an African-American Muslim female. One of which who struggles everyday with her identity between being a strong Muslim who puts all her efforts into living here only for the next life versus living the American dream of riches and glam.
You may think we live normal lives…you have no idea. Every day we strive to do a little more than we did the previous day. Pray a little more. Give a little more. Cuss a little less. We are constantly trying to please and live our lives for mankind’s creator. Unfortunately, we are still human and we have human urges just like everyone else. Do not think because we do what we do everyday doesn’t mean we are not like the rest. We probably have more in common with non-Muslims than you think.
Human characteristics: lying, cheating, stealing, fornication, adultery, envy, lust, love and hatred. All things that we have done and you have as well. Our conscious is probably on the blitz while we are doing these things because we know we are going to get paid back for it either here or in the afterlife but it was still done by our own freewill.
So here’s the big question: Why is it so hard to be a good Muslim when you happened to live in a non-Islamic country? There are a few reasons.
1. Born Into a Non-Muslim Society
I was born in Detroit, Michigan. My mother was not Muslim nor was she Christian. My father was a Mason and both never married. I don’t remember much of my life before I became Muslim but I got the feeling that it wasn’t what you would call a Muslim household. Around the age of six, my mother decided to convert to Islam with her three children. When I was growing up we had non-Muslim family member interaction, we had non-Muslim children coming to play with us, neighbors, grocery store clerks and the rest. Although, we did go to Jumah prayer every Friday, only one day out of the week we got interaction with other Muslims solely. The rest of the six days it was my siblings and I against the foreign world. My mom instilled certain Islamic traits throughout the day but after that we went and watched non-Muslims on TV. All these advertisements infiltrated our sponge like minds and shaped who many of us Muslims are today. We may not agree with it but it did have some effect on who we are in Islam.
2. Muslims Spend A lot of Time With Non-Muslims
I used to work a full time job. It was 44 hours per week. I was a manager at Walgreens Pharmacy. I spent anywhere from 8 to 10 hours per day there. I slept 8 hours per day and took an hour total to get to and from work. That left me about 5 to 7 hours of down time during those five days each week. The majority of my awake time had been spent at work, working and integrating with my non-Muslim colleagues. How does that make a person feel to spend the majority of their time working and fraternizing with people who have nothing in common with you? And because you’re the minority you try your hardest to be less like a Muslim and more like them due to the pressures of “fitting in”. They work and spend time with each other, why doesn’t a Muslim get that same feeling of unity in the workplace? Why can’t I pull another Muslim worker and say, “hey, let’s go pray on our lunch break?”
3. Wanting to Imitate to Fit In With the Rest
This coincides with the top example. We believe that if we fit in, it would be a lot
easier for us. But in reality we really just lose our identity. We are Muslim because we want to be. No one forced us to be this way. You don’t have to act like a Muslim. But if that is the case then why do you claim it? I see the little Muslim teens on their way to school and instead of them wearing the Islamic wrap they look just like the rest of the kids. And it hurts me because they do not dress this way at home or in front of their parents but feel the need to be accepted by the rest. Children do not know the implications of not practicing their religion at a young age. For them not to wear Islam like a proud badge of honor is a disgrace. The goal is not to separate Muslims completely from other people or religions but to reinforce the religion throughout the day by being around other Muslims. No one wants to feel like an outsider.
Being a Muslim is a great thing for me because I have access to so many resourceful people of many different backgrounds. They come from all walks of life and diversity excites me as it does others that strive to be a well rounded human being. Staying true to ones religion brings about pride and a sense of well being like no other. We all want to belong to someone; something and with Islam I can say that we all feel this way about our religion. No matter what situation we are in that maybe un-Islamic or how many death threats, weird looks or snickers we will stand strong because the only entity that we must please is God.