I often find it challenging to be labeled “Muslim”, “brown”, and “female”. Identifying with Islam is already a loaded idea; on top of that, to also be a girl with progressive ideas of how things should be makes me an outlier in most communities. This isn’t to say that these labels do not empower me. I am extremely blessed to have been given my unique point of view and to have been exposed to a variety of beliefs. I live in Vancouver, an extremely diverse city. Still, I have to say that I am definitely a minority within my family, friend groups, school, and in my city, which can be exhausting. As I mature, I am becoming increasingly aware of the abundance of prejudices, assumptions, stereotypes, and blatant racism that envelops myself and the people around me. Knowing that because of my appearance, the connotations that come with my name, and the religion I follow, I may not be given opportunities that I aspire to experience, is an odd feeling.
Being raised in a more conservative Muslim environment shaped my beliefs in many different ways. I often reflect on the beliefs I grew up with, and the ideas I had previously stood for. As soon as I started attending school, on the other hand, the beliefs that had been modelled for me began to be challenged by others, and through this, I grew more self-aware, curious, and independent. I vividly remember a girl in my kindergarten class talking about how she was an atheist. I also remember arguing with her, pitting my values against hers. This is what I was taught to do: fight for my beliefs, and prove to everyone that my religion was the right religion. I see my younger cousins being taught similarly, and I can’t help but see my past self in them. I know that their upbringing in British Columbia will soon start to shape their individuality more and more, as it did mine. That’s the thing about minorities who are brought up differently from the mainstream culture; you do miss out on fitting in and being a part of “everyone else”, and your experiences may be different from everybody else’s, but you also go through a unique personal journey of growth and exploration.
I am who I am. I cannot, nor would I want to, change my skin colour, culture, or religious background. I understand that the aspects of my life, although beautiful and unique, make life more difficult for me and I will continue to fight for equality for all races, cultures, religions and genders. However, for now, I accept that some people will miss out on getting to appreciate me for who I truly am as a person, as a result of defining me by my culture or by my religion. It’s unfortunate that the world works like this, but if we all continue to take pride in our own backgrounds and in others’ backgrounds, we can connect and create a society of appreciative, educated and empowered human beings.
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We keep in our thoughts the terrorist attacks which are happening throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan, but are not being shown by the media, as well as those still fleeing from Myanmar and those affected by the recent train crash in Seattle. We hope that the leaders and citizens of countries affected will think, act and react with kindness, empathy and a sense of justice. We pledge to do the same when we are affected by events like these. We pledge to be mindful of events occurring, to be grateful for our safety, to share the stories of our fellow humans, and take action wherever we can to prevent further crises from occurring.