Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MuslimGirl.com.
Coming to the United States was…challenging, to say the least. Having parents that grew up in the Middle East, being Muslim, being a girl who looked so different from those around me, and the fact that I couldn’t speak English very well all added up, and resulted in one big problem: I always felt like I was caught between two cultures, and this created a massive roadblock from me finding who I truly was. All of these things represented the divides between two diverse cultures and acted as a barrier from realizing my uniquely authentic identity.
I remember, during an AP English class in my senior year of high school, my teacher was telling the story of an African author who was unable to choose whether he should write in English — the language of the colonizers — so that more people know his story, or in his mother tongue, which only the people of his town knew.
Honestly, while this wasn’t the point of that conversation, I resonated with this dilemma. This author’s situation felt so similar to the deep division, and the torn feeling I was experiencing in my mind as a result of being caught between these two, very different, cultures.
Now, let me make something very clear. I never questioned the fact that I am a Muslim.
Coming to this country of opportunities, which happens to be the same country that I believe destroyed my home, thus forcing me to move away, was a very strange feeling. There is no right way to acknowledge or answer to that feeling, and I always understood this. Not only that, but moving to a place where there weren’t many Muslims around, and Islam wasn’t viewed in a particularly positive way, had me torn about my religion as well.
Now, let me make something very clear. I never questioned the fact that I am a Muslim. But I questioned my clothes, my views, along with each and every decision that I made, and how I wanted to be known, or acknowledged.
I had a whole phase of putting on, and taking off, my headscarf. It was a constant on-and-off cycle. I also had a whole close-minded phase, which is not something I’m proud of! It was a disadvantage to learn the importance of being open-minded as late as I did, because the truth is, I then had to work really hard to ensure that the way I was interacting with the world was inclusive and welcoming. Thankfully, at this point, I’ve understood that everyone has to work on becoming more open-minded. It is important and necessary for a kinder and more inclusive society.
During the time that I was struggling with my identity because the two cultures I was exposed to were so very different, I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull through it. Things felt so hard, and it was a lot to take in, all at once.
…I knew that finding my own personal balance between these two cultures was so important. It was the only way to ensure that I might find some peace!
Things did change, however. After some time passed, and I thought I knew myself a bit better, I joined the debate club and became more politically active. While that stirred up a whole other level of being torn, because from time to time, my family felt that I was deviating from the girl they knew, I knew that finding my own personal balance between these two cultures was so important. It was the only way to ensure that I might find some peace!
I slowly became this rebellious Muslim girl who dresses however she feels like. I learned to stand up to anyone who is unfair, and I learned to help people open their minds the way I once needed to. And one day, I began writing for MuslimGirl.com. That girl, who was so torn between these two cultures, and these two distinct identities could not have imagined in her wildest dreams that she would write — and get published — on the one and only MuslimGirl.com!
I guess what I’m trying to say is that you’ll figure it out. Just keep searching. If I had to offer one piece of advice, it would be to go with what feels right to you. Remember the values that were instilled in you, and don’t be afraid to explore. You may always be torn between two cultures, but once you find a balance that is uniquely “you,” and you learn to stand up for that version of yourself, then everything will be just fine.