“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
I identify as a Muslim American woman; the very fact that I have to state this is problematic. We don’t ask people of other backgrounds to identify as “Christian American,” or “Buddhist American.” It’s not that I mind identifying as a Muslim American woman; in fact, it is an honor to do so. This dual identity does not indicate, in the least, that one designation is exclusive of the other; I can be a Muslim and an American to the core, and I never have to choose one or the other.
However, the fact of the matter is that it is unfair to have to constantly profess my humanity and goodness to other humans; it’s essentially an insult, perfectly wrapped and hidden within a bow.
I live in the most diverse country on the planet; I am a minority within a majority and that is not unusual considering the fact that the very base this country was built on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – all of which entails freedom of speech, freedom to practice my religion, freedom to live in harmony with people from every other background, equality, respect, love, and tolerance. My experience being a Muslim American woman in the United States of America has been nothing short of an enlightening and beautiful path that I and millions of other resilient Muslim American women have been treading upon. Being a Muslim American woman is the very core of my essence; it means that I do my absolute best to uphold the teachings of my beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him:
teachings of love, peace, tolerance of all religions, equality for all, empathy, compassion, and overall goodness.
My religion has taught me to be resilient in the face of injustice and discrimination; during a time where my faith is put under a ridiculous amount of scrutiny and it being represented in such a negative way, it has ultimately made me now more so than ever clench on to my religious values, beliefs, practices, and identity. I have never wanted to visibly identify myself to everyone around me as a Muslim than I do now; I leave my house everyday with my head covered in a hijab, a scarf that represents how proud and happy I am to have the honor to represent my religion and its teachings, my hope is that the principles and teachings of my religion permeate through my character as a person.
I’m a flawed human being and my religion accepts that and guides me through life to be the best that I can be.
In a nutshell, I’m trying to live my life in a steadfast and in a divinely guided manner just like billions of other people around the world, no matter what their religion is. My hope is that thousands and millions of other Muslim girls around the globe will not be discouraged and fear for their lives when they choose to follow their religion and very obviously identify as Muslims when leaving their house.
This is not just about hijab;
hijab is something that I choose to wear because it draws me closer to my Creator and contrary to popular belief, it is not in any way an impediment on my daily life like it has unfortunately been portrayed. It is about my autonomy and my right as a proud Muslim American woman to live my life without being discriminated against subliminally, implicitly, or blatantly. I want myself and other Muslim American women to be recognized for their character, their strength, their humanity, and their resilience in the face of arrogance, ignorance, and hate.
I have experienced compassion, respect, and love from complete strangers giving me compliments ranging from the color of my scarves to words of support regarding the current anti-Muslim climate, and letting me know that I and other Muslims are loved and respected. I could tell you about my negative experiences and the clear instances where I was discriminated against, but I do not want to focus on the negative; I choose to actively steer away from that, as I know that there is always more good than evil and I know for a fact that the majority of humans are not ill-willed, malicious, or spiteful. Humanity is alive and well, and there is so much goodness to look forward to.
Najwa Mardini has recieved her B.A. in Health Education.