Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) taught us to treat others with respect and approach people nicely, kindly and patiently. That’s our example and who we should follow. Unfortunately, some Muslims are drifting from this teaching and failing to realize that confronting teenagers rudely are the very reason we are drifting away from our community. If we treated others the way that Prophet Muhammad treated those around him, everyone would step up and help build this community into a better environment.
Recently, someone asked me why they’re seeing less and less of teenagers in the Muslim Centers. I decided to write this blog post hoping to give some insight on one of the small reasons that this problem may exist in our generation. Well, at least my reason.
Four years ago, I stepped into a mosque a week after I took my scarf off. I was attempting to stay surrounded by my Muslim community, because of how important religion was to me. I felt unwelcome and watched in my own mosque. I hurried to the bathroom, looking for an excuse to avoid the rude stares. Before I knew it, I found myself looking in the eyes of a mom as she interrogated me, calling me trashy and telling me that I was unwelcome here. I felt betrayed and humiliated in front of my friends watching me in the bathroom. Who was she to tell me that I’m a bad person, when she doesn’t even know what kind of person I am? How could this woman hate me simply for a decision that I had made as a 14 year old? It had seemed that no one wanted to understand the reason why I took it off and they were jumping to conclusions. Feeling overwhelmed, I left in tears.
The following week, I decided to try again. I went to a youth group that the mosque organized each Saturday evening. I was taken to the bathroom by girls, both hijabis and non-hijabis my age and interrogated once again and told I was unwelcome here and I was a bad influence. I was yelled at until I bursted into tears, again. That same day, by another elderly woman, I was told that I would be burning in hell for influencing other girls to take off their scarves too.
From then, two years had passed and I refused to associate myself with anyone from that community or with anyone who had hurt me. I found myself growing further from Islam, because I had no one to surround myself with who shared the same values as I did. I learned that I had to work on religion on my own and with the support of my family, because my community definitely did not show me an ounce of support or positive reinforcement.
The couple times that I’ve entered the mosque in the past year, I’ve continued to feel extremely victimized and mistreated. I decided that it must be me who should change and maybe these comments will encourage me to dress more modestly. I changed my wardrobe and bought clothes that covered myself more appropriately. The next time I went to the mosque, I wore them. I was stopped by a mother who made some absurdly rude comments about how I dressed and she grabbed my cardigan, attempting to cover me and tell me that, it’s not good enough until I wear a hijab”.
This opened my eyes. It opened my eyes to the fact that no matter what I do, there will always be something for someone to criticize. This realization helped me grow into someone whose confidence outshines the insecurities I once had. Through the hate and disrespect I’ve received over the years from my own community, I’ve learned to speak my mind and never let myself be disrespected, especially by someone who doesn’t know me. From my negative experiences, I’ve gained the strength to speak out against the judgment that so many of us have against others and how they go about their lifestyle.
By classifying girls as “hijabis” or “non-hijabis” it’s like classifying them as good and evil. What some fail to realize, is that we are all human and we all make mistakes in our own ways and with kindness, we can improve into better Muslims.
By telling me that I’m unwelcome here, I’m not going to feel welcome. By pulling my clothes to cover myself more, that’s not going to make me want to put the hijab on. By hushed whispers, cruel comments and uncomfortable confrontations, I will definitely not feel accepted and loved by this community.
So, people ask me why I don’t involve myself with my community? It’s not because I’m not strong enough to handle the rude comments I receive; It’s because I’m patiently waiting for the day that my community realizes that it’s comments like the ones said to me that push this generation away from this community. The first step to changing this, is to speak out and call attention to this serious problem.
Wa ma arsalnaka illa rahmatan lil-alamin” And We did not send you (Muhammad) except as a Mercy to the worlds