Unfounded worries: freedom of religion

A page of the Quran from the Athan mobile app. Photo by Lalla-Aicha Adouim

Before coming to cherubs, I worried that someone was going to call me a terrorist because of my Arab name and my Muslim heritage. While I was born in Queens, my Moroccan-born father was raised with the Islamic faith, and my Thai-Chinese mother was raised Buddhist but later converted. I don’t wear a hijab on the street, but I wear one during prayer, along with a long black dress. As such, I was concerned about what a roommate would think.

In the past, random people have insulted my religion and me. They would say that it’s oppressing me or that it encourages violence. As Islamophobia grew, I’ve seen my sister get called a terrorist by her friend in seventh grade, and friends threatened in the middle of an ice skating rink for wearing a hijab.

On the plane to Northwestern, I decided I had two options. I don’t wear the hijab or look North African, so at first glance, it isn’t obvious that I’m Muslim. It could hide my religion, just to escape any chance of prejudice. In the end, I decided against it, I didn’t want to start the summer on a lie.

I ended up having a single room, so I didn’t worry about what my roommate would think of my praying five times a day.

The topic of my religion first came up when I expressed my sadness about not being able to eat the meat during meals. When asked why, I said that it was because I was Muslim, so I only ate halal meat, which was butchered according to the Quran. At their response of “oh, OK,” all the stress that I had about my religion faded away. After that, the rest of the summer I was open about my religion. I continued to mention it in the numerous times I wished that the meat was halal. While I wish that the program was longer, I am sick of eating potatoes, rice, and tofu every day. I need lamb chops.

There is always the possibility of being discriminated against because I’m Muslim. But at cherubs, I found a community that holds no judgment based on my identity.