Being a black Muslim, is already a struggle, especially while living in America. I personally feel that I am a mixture of oppression, though I also enjoy and blessed to live this struggle. I say that I am a mixture of oppression because I am a black West African, Muslim woman, in a land where they refer to my religion and the people who practice as a group of terrorist.
Growing up in the early 2000s, I really disliked being Muslim, didn’t really have a legit reason why though either, but it never got to the point where I planned on converting either. I think the main reason I disliked being Muslim was because I didn’t fully understand the religion, like why couldn’t I wear shorts like the rest of my friends? Why is my full name Arabic and so different from everyone else’s? Why am I being awakened at 5 in the morning just to pray? Why does everyone target us Muslims? These questions ran through my head as a curious child. Around the time of 9/11 terrorist attacks, I was going to a Muslim school in Maryland called Al-Huda. Though I didn’t fully understand what was going on, I could tell that something wasn’t right, in how people reacted to us Muslims. The older I got, the more I understood; due to the suicide bombers being Muslims and saying “In the name of Allah” (Allah meaning God in Arabic), everyone thought all Muslims were terrorist, which is so freaking ignorant. This made me slowly dislike wanting to wear my scarfs, nervous that not only would my life possibly be in danger, but my practice in the religion would be questioned.
Towards my last couple of years in high school, I started fully accepting being a Muslim in America, and being an unapologetically, black Muslim woman in America. I didn’t realize though, how ignorant people could be, even other Muslims, reminding myself that people are still human, with or without religion. Often when an Arab Muslim sees my full name, Nura Najmah Abdul-Mateen, I’m sure they recognize the fact that both my first and middle name are Surah’s in the Qur’an; yet they continue to question me, as if there is no way that I could have an Arabic name, as if I didn’t know the meaning of my name is “The light of the Star”, as if they’re trying to test my practice. “Where did you get your name from? How did you get that name? Are you Muslim? How are you muslim ?”, these were the questions frequently asked to me. This is where my frustration comes, where I’m beginning to feel disrespected; what makes some Arab Muslims think they’re the only one? what makes people think that ONLY people from the middle east could be muslim? There are over 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet, and yet for some reason people still choose to remain ignorant, and run with the ignorance.
This ignorance for some reason, has become a norm to me now, which I feel isn’t progress at all. I feel that people don’t want to even take the time out to actually learn about other religions, they just rather remain lazy and close minded. If people actually studied Islam, they would recognize the major differences between the actually religion and the stereotypes given. They would recognize that us women are NOT oppressed just because we want to wear our hijab, or head scarf; we are actually in control of our modesty and sexuality, and it is in fact our choice. They would realize that women aren’t forced to wear their hijab at all times, some families force it upon their children but that’s their cultural view. They would recognize that just because someone says “In the name of God”, doesn’t mean anything; it’s same way that the so called “founding fathers” of the United States would say “all men are created equal”, but still had slaves, or how the KKK is based off of “biblical verses”, though they partake in inhumane activities.
As a young Muslim woman, I just want people to learn, and understand that it’s okay to gain knowledge on things you don’t understand, or to think about how would they feel if these situations happened on an every other day bases? The fact that I have become immune to ignorant questions about my identity and spirituality is an issue, that I have adjusted to because I had to.