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  • Mariam

Growing up Muslim in America

Updated: Mar 1, 2022

So we are just finishing up the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. What is Ramadan? Hold up first, what is a Muslim? They practice Islam. They are an abrahamic religion that believes in one God and believes in the prophets have you heard of Mohammad (peace be upon him). One of the largest religions in the world, along with Christianity and Judaism. Okay, so back to Ramadan. In Islam, it is the holy month of fasting. Fasting from food and water from sun up to sundown. Not only are we fasting physically, but you are fasting mentally and emotionally from thinking bad thoughts, gossiping, engaging in sexual activity, ect. A lot of muslims will wake up in the morning before the sun rises to eat (sahoor). At the end of the day when the sun goes down we eat (iftar). It is a time for Muslims to read the whole Quran (holy book of Islam), and pray, (they always pray but the prayers are longer and a lot of Muslims will go to the Mosque (Muslim Church). It is based on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and it changes annually. The Islamic calendar is based off of the lunar calendar (probably why I am such a moon child) instead of the solar calendar. The whole reason behind fasting is to help us learn and practice self-control (something we can all use practice), patience, gratitude, spiritual benefits, basically so we can just be better humans. Also Muslims are not terrorists. They are very peaceful people. That is what Islam preaches, we should be good to each other spreading love and peace. There are extremists in every religion, in every race, so it's sad that Muslims get labeled as terrorists because of the bullshit media feeds the uneducated. Don't even get me started. So if you fast the whole month your sins are basically erased, because you are doing good. It is a time of self reflection, and it brings you closer to Allah (God) through spirituality. So when Ramadan is over we have Eid-al-Fitr (meaning festival of breaking the fast). It's a three day holiday. We eat, spend time with family, the kids get money and presents, we dress up and just have fun we celebrate. A lot of times you go visit extended family, and you go visit the graves of people that have passed. It's beautiful and the kids have so much fun. This is also a time where you give zakat (give to the poor).

Okay so now that we got your mini Muslim lesson out of the way, lets talk about ME! I haven't fasted in about ten years. Since I was pregnant with Mazen. I am not a religious person at all. I have tattoos, I had a baby, I am basically a walking contradiction of what it is to be a good Muslim. I am very spiritual though. I am connected to energy, and the earth, and I do not eat meat, I don't drink, I meditate, I do yoga. I have made a lot of changes the past year I would say. This year I decided it was time to fast, ten years later. I could just feel it, I knew I had to do it. At the beginning of Ramadan my rationality and or explanation for fasting was because it's good for your body and your mind and spirit, and it would easy to do it while the rest of my family is fasting. At the end of Ramadan I realized why I actually fasted. Yes the spiritual, and physical benefits all day long. But it was also a way to remember my roots. Remember where I came from, and just because I am not "religious" or as religious as some Muslims, doesn't mean that it's not who I am, how I was raised, and what I believe. It's just a little different. The reason I don't believe in organized religion is because I think we all have our own personal religion. The big religions are all based off of someone else's journey. I think yes it's a great basis of where to start and figure out what makes sense to you and to learn about growth and spirituality. But I think religion should be personal for everyone. We are all snowflakes, not one person is alike, so I don't think religion can blanket every single person because we are all different. I respect everyone and their beliefs and I expect everyone to show that same respect to everyone else regardless of what they believe. Anyways, Yes I fasted this month and it was beautiful and I loved every moment of it. In fact I think throughout the year I will fast every Monday (my favorite day of the week). Just to start my week off right, get my head in the right headspace, and Inshallah (God willing) I will fast every Ramadan.

Alright so back to the title "Growing up Muslim in America," was pretty confusing at times. My grandfathers and my maternal grandmother moved here for better lives, for opportunity. My family is from Palestine, not Pakistan, Palestine. You know Israel? Well Israel and Palestine are the same country, it just depends on who you ask. There has been war there for years. Basically the British promised the Arabs the Palestinians their land back after they helped fight in war, but they also promised the Jews the Israelites the same land. So both sides hate each other. It's fucking sad it's so fucking sad. There has been so much war and violence and it never ends. So my family eventually made their way to the US and settled in Colorado. Technically on my mom's side I am the first to be born here. My Grandma was born overseas so was my mom, but I was born here in Virginia. Crazy right. So the American culture is way different than the way we grew up, the things that we are used to, and how my family was raised. A lot of the time when we were growing up we would see so many things and not understand. The cultures are like night and day. The biggest one is pork (pork is pig, beef is cow), I don't know how many times I have had to have that conversation with grown ass adults lmao. So no we didn't eat bacon no we didn't eat ribs (unless they were beef). I would hate when people would try to feed it to me because they thought it was a joke. Like I am not a fucking idiot, and growing up not eating something your body already is somewhat disgusted like the smell of it makes me sick. I remember my first slumber party (we weren't allowed to go to slumber parties) my mom never went to a slumber party her whole life. But I was lucky I got to go, all girls of course. They ordered pizza, and of course it was all pepperoni, I think that was my first big realization I am different. All of these girls can eat this, but I can't. Her mom was very sweet and made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I can still taste that sandwich in my memories, fucking crazy. But obviously we shopped at arabic stores, we had different foods, we would bring different food for lunch. On cultural days none of the other kids looked like me or brought the stuff I did, but it wasn't bad back then like I thought it was cool. I always asked my Grandma to make me Kanafa or Chanafa to take for cultural day. It was cool. I have always loved to be different. Maybe that's why I love it so much because I was so different growing up. But we ate different foods, my hair was different, we wore different clothes. We need to dress modestly, no booty shorts, no dating, no talking to boys (probably why I have always been so shy, just everything American's did was basically the opposite of what we did haha lets not even talk about television. Maybe that is where my anxiety started too, just being so different. So many mixed signals, emotions, values, beliefs, ways of living all came to surface in school. I loved my culture though, the beauty, the food, the language it's all so beautiful. Fast forward to middle school and 9/11. I feel like we were kind of always sheltered anyways. So I didn't understand. I didn't understand people were dying, I couldn't understand why everyone was so upset with something going on in NY, okay planes crash yeah but why were people crying. I remember not being able to watch the Simpsons after school because the TV was bombarded with news and reports and the president. Then the hate started. They said Muslims did it they said we were terrorists. What? What is a terrorist? Why would a Muslim do that? We don't kill people. After that I remember being scared, nervous, ashamed, to be me to be a Muslim in America, just like every other Muslim. I was always nervous when we went to the mall with my Grandma. People were fucking mean they treated us differently they looked at us differently. But my Grandma is a boss ass bitch. She isn't going to let hate and hateful people stop her from shopping lol. She lived her life, she wore her scarf proudly and that's fucking beautiful. I remember kids talking about it, talking shit, just being bullies. Did I mention I was bullied in school too haha? I remember trying to explain to other kids that's not what we believe that's not how my people are but it was useless. So what ended up happening is I embraced the ridicule, kind of made fun of myself as I grew up. Called myself a terrorist, my friends did too. It's horrible to think back at it. Like it's fucking sad. You have to stoop to that to feel welcomed to feel like you have friends, you have to put your people down and be part of the racism. Ugh it makes me sick to think about it. After highschool I started to drink, it helped me with my anxiety, it made me not shy, it made me cool. I could relate to everyone else. I drank, I got tattoos, I lost my virginity a week before my 19th birthday (I never ate pork though that shit was going to take me to Heaven my saving grace), I was in love and he wasn't Muslim. I got pregnant shortly after that. And it all comes full circle. The way I told my mom I was pregnant was via text message. It was Ramadan ten years ago, I was at work she texted me asking me if I was fasting. I told her no. She asked why? I said because I am pregnant. I know I am a fucking coward. I was 19, I was terrified, I wasn't brought up like that what do you expect?

With all of that being said I am grateful for everything I went through. I am grateful I grew up Muslim. I am grateful I am Muslim, maybe in not the traditional sense but I am. I have learned to never judge (it hurts to be judged, so I don't ever want to be apart of that pain to someone else), it has taught me that family is and will always be the most important thing in life. I lost sight of that but Alhamdulillah Ramadan has helped me remember it. Digging deep and putting the work in, finding myself, and realizing who and what is important in life has brought me back to my roots. So that's why I fasted this Ramadan. Because I am me and I will always be fucking Mariam unapologetically!

Thank you for listening,

<3 Mariam

Peace, Love, and Gratitude

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