Different

Saba - Chattanooga, Tennessee
Entered on January 20, 2009
Age Group: Under 18
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The following statement is short and simple, yet I try to live by it every day: I believe in God and my religion.

Ever since elementary school, I knew that I was different from the other kids in my class. It wasn’t just because I was the only girl who wore pants every day – there were other differences. I found myself with limited permission when going to friends’ houses. I had food restrictions, and I had to be careful about how I dressed. On the weekends I went to the mosque while my friends went to church. Even though I knew they were there learning about their own religion, I was pretty sure that they weren’t sitting and memorizing passages in Arabic that they weren’t even sure the meaning of.

As I grew older, the differences between my peers and I were starting to blend, until I moved on to middle school at GPS and had to deal with a whole new group of people. The first day, I came in wearing white stockings under my pink uniform, knowing that they looked hideous and that I was going to be bombarded with questions about why I was wearing them. For a while, teachers came to me, threatening to give me demerits because tights were not a part of the “school’s uniform,” but as I explained to them that I wasn’t allowed to wear shorts because my religion prohibits it, they became more understanding and flexible with me. However, answering the question “why” wasn’t too difficult to me. Explaining why I couldn’t wear shorts was more of a challenge, because honestly, I was never sure how to quite explain it. I know that I am supposed to cover myself for modesty purposes and because I’m asked to in my religion, but I always felt that it was hard for other people to understand this concept because it was foreign to them.

Today, as a sophomore in high school, I know more about Islam and reasons that I have to do certain things. I try to comprehend what the Quran says so that reading it can be easier. And most importantly, I try as hard as I can not to be a hypocrite, to live by the guidelines that I have been given through my religion. I don’t want to be known as a ‘Muslim by name’; I want to be known as a Muslim by my actions. Small tasks such as talking about my religion and beliefs don’t seem as hard for me anymore. In fact, I have spoken in both middle and upper school assemblies about who I am as an individual and what I do. I have also learned to gain trust from my parents so that they will let me go and hang out with my friends every once in a while. And, for the uniform situation, I started wearing black tights under my dresses – it makes them look a little better.