Believe in Me

Hareem - Ellicott City, Maryland
Entered on January 23, 2009

That may seem unusual to state so forthrightly, especially since being a Muslim American isn’t exactly “cool” these days. But I believe it, I believe Islam to be true, I believe it to be pure, and I believe it to be misunderstood, thanks to 9/11.

Most people who take one glance at me can pretty much deduce the fact that I’m Muslim. I’m 16 years old and I cover my head with the veil, known as the hijab in Arabic, and I can tell you right now that it’s one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever stuck with in my life, but it’s also the most worthwhile. The respect I get is indescribable. When my teacher commends me, when I make a new friend, when a stranger smiles at me, I know it’s not because of how I look or what I wear, I know it’s because of who I am— one of the most fulfilling feelings of my life.

The post-9/11 reactions of people are probably the hardest part. I get the strangest questions: did my parents force me to wear it? Do I get beat at home? Do I have cancer? Do I have hair? Do I take a shower with it on? Can I ever take it off? The answer to these questions, like the answer to almost every question in Islam, is logical. But I think a lot of the time people approach me because they believe what I’m doing is completely illogical. Disregarding the norm in this society, which unfortunately includes women showing off as much skin and curvature as possible, I have accepted, is unacceptable. Why look different when I can look the same? Why stand out when I can fit in?

So when I walk down the street and people glare at me like I’m the mastermind who strategized the 9/11 techniques, or when kids at school tease my being different, my covering of my hair, or when a clerk talks to me really slowly so that I, with my hypothetical limited English, can understand her, it doesn’t surprise me. (For the record: I was in fifth grade when 9/11 happened, and I’m in English 11 AP) Sure, this is America, the land of the free, where everyone can practice their own religion and beliefs to the maximum extent, but then tell me why extra airport security measures were ensured for my own mother because of her religion and ethnicity post-9/11? Tell me why people didn’t vote for Barack Hussein Obama because of his supposed-Islamic background? Tell me why I can hardly go through one day of high school without at least one comment on my scarf or my ethnicity? Instead, let me tell you something—

I believe in America.

Can you believe it? Despite all of this, I believe in America. This is the country I was born raised and in, where I wake up every morning and tuck myself in every night, where I drag my textbooks across the diverse hallways of my school, where I can peacefully pray in the privacy and comfort of my own home. Yes, I believe in America. I believe in our new president and I believe in change. I believe in our future and I believe its success.

But for a change— can America believe in me?