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If you were to see me casually walking down the street, here’s what you might notice: One, I’m a girl. Two, I’m African American. But what you may never guess in a million years is that I am Muslim.
Don’t be alarmed. People are always shocked when I tell them.
I don’t have an accent, but rather possess the voice of a 12 year old girl with Oakland swang type talk. You know — slang with swag. I rarely wear a hijab. That scarf thing that Muslim women wear on their heads. You definitely will never catch me in an abaya, those long plain black dresses that look hella big. I wear jeans, skirts, and rock braids.
Yes, I am a typical, ordinary American girl.
What makes me Muslim? My faith. I follow the five pillars of Islam, I read the Quran, and go to the mosque. Since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, I keep seeing videos on YouTube of classmates beating up Muslim girls, trying to take off their hijabs.
These days, when I tell my mom I’m going to the mosque, she goes into complete worried, black mom mode. “OOhh Laawd! all this stuff with people walking up and hurting Muslims, I’m not sure if I want you to go. I’m going to have to pray on this.” She’s not Muslim, but she supported my conversion to Islam in college. Now, it’s just gotten complicated.
I can’t tell you how many people say things to me like “I don’t understand Muslim women,” or “I don’t understand Islam.” I’m constantly having to correct their assumptions, down to the basics — Muslims are people, Islam is the religion.
I just hope by knowing me they might better understand the complex identities of Muslims.