Appreciating (or at least beginning to) My Sisters in Faith [Posted: 6/7/16]

A brief reflection as we begin this blessed month of Ramadan.

Although our American Muslim community has collectively become the target of bigoted statements and violent hate crimes, our individual experiences have varied greatly.

Through conversations with friends and family, I have started becoming more aware of the disparity that undoubtedly exists between the American Muslim male and female experience, especially with regards to women who choose to wear the headscarf. As a 21-year-old male studying in New York City, I have rarely experienced any form of animosity as a result of my beliefs. The reality is that when I exit the safety and security of my home, I step into a world where I do not ‘look’ visibly Muslim and therefore am not immediately associated with the faith that people too often see on their news feeds in a negative light. On a NYC subway, a Muslim woman, as a result of either her appearance and/or her gender, is undeniably more susceptible to a hateful remark or attack than a Muslim man like me.

However, beyond the significant external pressures that Muslim women may face, there is also an internal struggle that I am only beginning to understand.

As one courageous Muslim friend told me, her headscarf is something that she chose to wear on her own, but times exist where her connection with God or her faith is not fully representative of how she appears to the real world. There are days where she does not feel the same spiritual motivation to cover her hair that she felt when first deciding to change her attire. There are moments where she is not ready to enter into the larger society and inevitably be viewed as a representative for Muslims around the world. There are points in time where her faith will waver, as it does for all of us, and she becomes uncertain about whether or not she is ready to wear the headscarf again.

When God says in 2:286 that He places upon no soul a burden greater than it can bear, I have started to think about how Muslim women in the U.S. and around the world have become tasked with being the face of a faith of 1.6 billion people, often without choosing to be. I am inclined to think that God, in His Divine Wisdom, knew that having women serve as the immovable pillars of support within our society to uphold our religious identity to the rest of humanity, especially at times where men are not willing to step up, was a responsibility that only their souls were capable of undertaking.
Unfortunately, I will never be able to relate to the difficulties experienced by any of my sisters in faith. However, this Ramadan is a great opportunity for me to recognize and appreciate who my Lord chose to uphold this religion during these trying times.