Growing up in the suburbs, I was never a skinny girl. I played in my backyard and was active, but my mom cooked delicious food and I began to gain weight. I didn’t realized how I was becoming until one day I was with all my friends and we were talking about how skinny they were. I felt strange for a while because I didn’t really have a story to share, and then I realized that I was feeling something, something not unknown to me when I was there: The feeling of not belonging.
The community I grew up in (not neighborhood, but centering around religious centers) was primarily South Asian immigrants and their kids. They weren’t really religious and frankly only liked to talk about others. They discussed marriage day in and day out and felt that it was more important than being happy with yourself. I wasn’t happy with their beliefs. They made marriage seem like the defining factor to be considered as a viable adult or complete in life. It wasn’t fair for a man to define your life. I was angry, and I felt alone, and then I realized what I was feeling. I didn’t belong.
This feeling has come to me throughout my young life, as I was excluded from the cool groups in the second grade to being one of very few who wasn’t flexible in the fifth grade. Now the reason I’m addressing it is because, I feel at times that I live in an unknown world, and sometimes feel like I don’t belong because people don’t realize who I am. You see, I’m a Muslim, and I’m proud to practice the beautiful religion, but when I’m linked to horrible actions and discriminated because of someone who’s practicing my religion wrong, I can’t help but wonder. I don’t belong in this characterization. I didn’t do anything wrong. It sickens me to think about how people have labeled me as dangerous and flick me off when I merely appear. The world used to be such an accepting place for me, people used to be there for me. But now, I’m scared of what will happen to me. I’m scared of how in the next few years, people will see me because of these lunatics killing innocent people in the name of my religion. They’re completely wrong and I would call them out any day, but it’s not fair for some people to say I am the same. I am nothing like them, I will never be like them, therefore I don’t belong with them.
I hate them as much as the next person. They have taken the lives of innocent people (someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, family), ruined the lives of those sharing the same religion (all 1.2 million of us), and made me lose faith in the inner human goodness. They don’t have hearts, and for that reason, I don’t want to be labeled with them. I want people to know that every Muslim they meet isn’t dangerous, honestly we’re all (the good ones) just here for the American Dream and to make a positive difference for society (like cure cancer, on my bucket list). I’m tired of living in an unknown world where I hide because of the labels I’m given and the way I’m spoken of (in the media, on Buzzfeed comments, in interviews).
At the end of the day, I just want people to go talk to a Muslim at their college MSA or at a local center and see how angered they are by these people’s mistakes and horrific acts. We’re living in an unknown world now as we are all being judged for the actions of the terrible, terrible few and feel like there is no where to belong.
Comment below if you feel the same way or share a story about a time you felt you didn’t belong. I can’t wait to hear them.
Until next time,
Mother of Peace