When I was seven years old, one of my classmates asked me if I knew Osama Bin Laden and if he was my uncle because I am Muslim. That moment shocked me, because how could you ask that? Looking back at it now, I wish I had said something to shut him up.
If you are not from America originally, then you know that coming to America and trying to fit in is hard. There are a lot of people who actually believe that being from a country other than America or having another religion other than Christianity is bad and weird. I am a Muslim girl who wears the hijab, and being in America trynna fit in and make friends seemed impossible because no one wanted anything to do with me. I came to America when I was turning six, so I was very young. People often say that being young means being pure. I was fine making friends in elementary school, but middle school was a nightmare. I didn’t grow up watching “SpongeBob Squarepants” or “K.C. Undercover,” so I could not relate to the conversations at all. Before you say, “well there are other things to talk about,” I know, but I was terrified to talk.
No, I was not terrified to talk because I was going to get hurt. I was terrified because I thought that I was going to embarrass myself. School was easy when it came to math and English, but I’ve always had and still do have trouble with science. I also always fall asleep in history class because it is BORING, but it’s easy for me to do. I grew up watching “Tom and Jerry” only because I didn’t really have time to watch cartoons when the grown-ups wanted to watch sports like soccer. I actually believed that when people looked at me, all they saw was someone who had a bomb just because I wore a hijab. They got ideas from seeing on the news things about 9/11 and their parents saying things about Muslims.
When you plant something in a kid’s head, intentionally or unintentionally, it grows with them as they grow up. They pass it to their kids, and the cycle continues. Now, you may say, “well, it’s a joke,” but it is actually not a joke. There is a difference between joking around and bullying someone. That “joke” is verbal bullying. I never really thought that if I was not Muslim people would stop bullying me. I just thought that they did not like me.
Bullying can actually cause someone to hurt themselves, so don’t bully people. Looking back at it now, I wonder why I did not respond to my bullies. Was it because I was scared, or because I was taught not to say anything mean to others? Not saying anything and responding to them really hurt because it made me think that I did not have a voice.To this day, it is hard for me to use my voice and speak up because I am not used to it.
Being a Muslim is not all bad. I am from East Africa and I am Somali. We have a fun culture. I used to make Somali foods and bring them to school; kids would eat them and they would say they LOVED them. Muslims also celebrate a holiday called Eid. On Eid first, we go pray around 7:30-8 AM. Afterwards, some people go to sleep or go get breakfast. Then we visit family and do fun things. It is after Ramadan, 30 days of fasting from sunrise to sunset. We celebrate it two times, one big one and a small one, which is actually coming up on July 17, 2021. I can not wait. If I could go back and change my childhood, I would not because It was fun aside from all the negatives. Fun fact, I actually rode a camel when I was five and a half — it was terrifying.
I’m in high school now as an upcoming Junior, and I have learned how to speak up for myself and not let people put me down. I am more proud of my religion and my culture because I know that out there some people don’t believe in stereotypes and are willing to get to know someone before assuming things about them. If you see someone different from you, ask about their culture. You never know how fun it might be.