I never fit in anywhere. I always felt like I was in a state of limbo. I’m too American for Pakistan and too foreign for America. Pakistan never understood me and America never liked me. My whole life, for as long as I can remember I felt like I have to fight for my place everywhere I go. You will never understand how much being a Muslim in America dictates my life; until you experience it for yourself.
Growing up in the United States I felt like I have to work extra hard to hold onto heritage and religion. Being brown and Muslim has always been frowned upon. I was in the 4th grade when 9/11 happened and since then it’s been a struggle to fit in. I can feel all eyes on me and speculations of my intentions every time I enter the room. You know when you walk into a room and you can just tell that they were talking about you? That’s how I feel a majority of the time. Despite all of this, I learned my religion and I grew to love it more than anything. I chose to wear hijab even though I knew that it would make me an even more obvious Muslim and prone to more hate and ugly looks.
When the recent election was going on people began to make jokes about how the minorities living in America would quickly return to the countries their grandparents/parents migrated from. To you, those jokes may seem harmless but it makes us feel like we don’t belong here and that we are less American. I suppose people back home think that we can get up and start all over and it’ll be like “coming home.” But for most of us who were raised abroad, we have always felt like visitors in a place that is supposed to feel like home.
It hasn’t been all bad though, growing up in America brought me closer to my religion because unlike people who grow up in majority Muslim countries I had to work hard and learn my religion. I grew up going to the masjid every day after school to learn the Quran and opening my fasts with the Muslims in my community and spent nights praying Taraweeh all during Ramadan. I spent my summers and Sunday’s learning about Islamic history. I’m not saying that I’m an Islamic scholar because of these things but compared to how people “back home” were raised this is a complete 180.
My parents would tell me that they barely went to the masjid and didn’t have that sense of tight-knit community because pretty much everyone was Muslim. My mother never went to the masjid growing up in Pakistan and my dad would go every Friday and during Ramadan. They told me that when they moved to the states they felt as though they have to work twice as hard to stay in touch with their religion and culture. Because here, we represent ALL Muslims even though that is a ridiculous expectation but that’s the truth.
We should all aim to learn our religion, not to just inherit it.