What it means to be a Muslim

Posted on March 1, 2016

By Chenelle Herrera

“Are you involved with ISIS? Do you know any terrorists? Aren’t all Muslims terrorists?”
Muslims today face questions like these on a daily basis. Even if some may not ask them out loud, these questions are almost always present in their minds.
Ayesha Mosaddeq (’17) is often on the other side of this conversation.
“Muslim” is an Arabic word which defines a person as one who acquires peace by believing in only one God and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the final messenger.
“Being a Muslim means that one is kind and fair to others, has good character, and follows the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah,” said Mosaddeq.
As a Muslim, Mosaddeq wears a hijab (he-jab), a head cover worn in public by Muslim women. To them, hijabs are a symbol of modesty and dignity.
Women who wear the veil are identified as a follower of Islam which is the religion of Muslims.
However, there have been times where Mosaddeq has been judged for her choice of clothing.
Despite her classmates’ verdict, she has learned to overcome it through acceptance. She also tries to put herself in their position and not view people negatively.
“I want to leave a good impression on them,” Mosaddeq said. “Just because they don’t understand it doesn’t mean I have to hate them for how they look at me.”
For Mosaddeq, wearing a hijab makes her feel empowered.
“To me, it’s like my throne and I don’t ever see myself giving up on it,” Mosaddeq said.
She likes how it differentiates herself from everyone else. Because of her appearance, everyone knows her.
One of Mosaddeq’s close friends, Tiffany Oh (’17), understands that being Muslim is a “big part of [Mosaddeq’s] life, but it doesn’t change the fact that she is human and has the right to her own thoughts and beliefs.”
One of the difficulties of being a Muslim today is having to deal with the stereotype that Muslims are terrorists.
Going to school as a Muslim was not always easy for Mosaddeq.
With the news regarding terror attacks, some people would mention it to her just to see her reaction.
She soon became ashamed of her religion.
“I was quite embarrassed to acknowledge myself as one in an American society, and I believed that Islam could never answer my questions nor fix my problems,” Mosaddeq said. “I began dragging on a meaningless life for too long.”
To overcome her issues, she rediscovered the writings of the Qur’an.
According to Mosaddeq, her fate was written by who she believes is the greatest writer of all time: Muhammad Abdullāh.
Due to his strong belief, Mosaddeq found Islam. She began to put aside the problems around the world and started to find answers to fix her own troubles.
“When I rediscovered the Qur’an, it invited me to ask questions and bring in all the criticisms I have about the world,” Mosaddeq said.
Despite the Islamophobia, or fear of Islam and Muslims, that is present throughout the world, especially in this nation, Mosaddeq always tries to be optimistic.
She believes that her faith must be greater than her fear.
Instead of letting hateful comments affect her, she tries hard to keep in mind that matters can be much worse. She is reminded of how there are Muslim students around the world who have been bullied, beat up and sometimes even murdered because of their religion.
According to a 2014 statewide survey released by the Council of American Islamic Relations, about 55% of Muslim American students surveyed said they have been bullied or faced discrimination, which is twice the number of students nationally who reported being tormented.
“She’s very mature,” said Mosaddeq’s former English teacher Homa Javidan. “Because of her nature, who she is, and how friendly she is… she closes her ears to the nonsense said by others.”
Mosaddeq often advises students who face racist and stereotypical comments to not “believe everything the media says.”
In the media, Muslims are often considered to be violent and bigoted extremists or terrorists.
After the 9/11 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, Islamophobia rapidly intensified.
However, as most Muslims believe, followers of Islam are people who seek peace.
When people talk about the terrorism they hear of on the news, Mosaddeq agrees that what is happening around the world is not right. In her religion, murdering one person is like murdering all of humanity.
Iffat Alam (’19), also Muslim-American, has to integrate her religion into everyday school life.
“It gets difficult because I look very different compared to everyone; but the fact that I’m so accepted by the people around me makes it easier,” Alam said.
For those who do not understand people who are followers of Islam, Mosaddeq suggests that they “don’t study the Muslims” due to the belief that “Islamism is perfect, but Muslims are not.”
Instead, she hopes that people will study the religion of Islam and attempt to understand their beliefs and views.
As one of the few Muslim students at this school, Mosaddeq finds herself to be very lucky.
“I am very blessed to be in a school where I don’t have to worry about my education being polluted with prejudice,” she said, grateful for her friends and teachers at school who support her throughout her journey.

 

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