I believe the world is too cluttered with extremes, both big and small. Claustrophobia, I found, is no less a neurological disorder than a spiritual one.
I am Caucasian, average, unexciting maybe. I am everything you wouldn’t read about muslims and Islam in a newspaper, or on television, but I am one.
I am who I am because I have catered little to conventions, fallible conventions born from extremes. Parents are often our extremes as children, and even as adults.
My father has always cared little for experiences beyond his own life. He seems content in everything familiar. My mother enjoys new things, and never seems satisfied in asking why. But she has come to know a great deal about Islam, though not from me, and we talk about it now as we would a book. My father never asks or wonders, and he probably never will.
I came to Islam in a way where I carried both my mother and my father with me. I carried my father’s fear because it became so easy to find my own uncomfortability, and ignite more reasons that I might stand out in a crowd of muslims praying. And I carried my mother, who as an artist, always painted the world with a similar color, though that color has often changed.
Regardless, I struggled, not just with the extremes of my parents but also with extremes of my own. I could see myself here, but not there, without this, but not without that. It was my own image I often failed to recognize.
I made the decision to quit playing baseball when I was 11, and though my mother had felt an 11-year-old could make that decision on his own, my father felt the right choice was better left to him. On an issue my mother felt was slight, my father ranted about for months.
As I converted, my older brother wondered deeply about my experiences, while his wife pined away for the days when I ate pork and cursed, though I still curse.
Somewhere beneath the differences and extremes, was me. The same different me. The way I have always been, but different.
I have, unavoidably, become the center of extremes in my own life. People might never know I am a muslim, unless I tell them. Yet, everyone I know already knows.
Based on the extremes of my parents, I developed my own. Based on those, I chose a path. A path that forges a centerline between people, relationships, and families.
I found myself a Caucasian muslim, though baptized a Catholic, because I was too afraid to enter a mosque, yet not afraid enough, not to.
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