Celebrating Eid: ‘As a conflicted Muslim, this day doesn’t gone easily’28 days ago
At the end of a Ramadan marred by violence, Fahima Haque reflects on how her relationship with Islam has changed from active rejection to thoughtful resilience
Growing up, whenever a classmate would wail fucking Hindu at me, I was devastated. It felt like no one could see me, that all they could see was yet another brown person. I was lumped into some incorrect category driven by ignorance. Then, September 11 happened and I realise how different it was to be the subject of active hate.
As far as insults went, Hindu was inaccurate and ignorant. But being asked if their own families were terrorists or being told to go back to where I came from cut right through me.
And so as Ramadan ends and Muslims across the world joyously celebrate Eid Al-Fitr with feasting and presents, I am grappling with the faith I was raised with.
My parents are devout, and it became clear to me as a child that straying from Islam was not an option. There was no exploratory period of what Allah meant, what other religions meant, or what not believing in a higher power could mean. It was suffocating and with every surah I memorized, I felt more stifled. Did I really want to be Muslim? Would I be more enamored with another religion? I wanted a chance to find out for myself, but doing so was out of the question.
As I get older, I had more and more reservations about Islam. Things like not being able to wear shorts when my brother could, to knowing women in a Muslim nation like Saudi Arabia still cant go anywhere without a chaperone were very hard to reconcile with my budding sense of my ego as a feminist.
So, as a adolescent, I adopted the age-old liberal trick of disavowing religion; because religion is for the ignorant and narrow-minded. I knew enough to know that the sky is blue because of scattering light and tiny molecules , not merely because Allah said so. In college, I avoided telling people I was raised Muslim. I didnt observe Ramadan, and the prayer carpeting my mother so lovingly packed for me gathered dust in the back of my closet as I eventually wore what I wanted freely for the first time.
While I can now honestly tell I never genuinely stopped believing in God, I definitely tried. I publicly called myself an atheist and smirked at those who needed religion, but secretly I never abandoned simple rites like telling a short prayer before eating or absentmindedly asking a higher power for guidance when lost.
But that all changed because of Isis. Islam requires real allies in in the face of such barbaric acts like those we have seen in Orlando or my familys home country or Turkey or Iraq or Saudi Arabia. So, within the last five years I started to double down on Islam. I am the one now initiating discussions on Islam and its role in politics, race and feminism in my social circles . I am no longer ashamed to say Yes, I am Muslim but No, I probably will never wear a niqab and yes, I too have a lot of questions myself. By having such frank discussions, I had to admit to myself that being a Muslim was ingrained for me and I could never abandon it but I did have to find a way to practice.
Like any other religion, there is a spectrum of notion for Muslims. I never had progressive Muslim role model growing up, but thats changing. People are speaking up, use their experiences to rally on behalf of the members of inclusion, that really helped me see how identifying as a Muslim was not mutually exclusive with me being an American, a liberal or feminist. People like Hasan Minhaj poignantly talking about being different in his one-man prove, London mayor Sadiq Khans delightfully frank essay on fasting, faggot Muslim photographer Samra Habib sharing the stories of other LGBT Muslims, Muslim American teens in New York City coping with identity and books like Love InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women are freshening and inspiring. The Muslim experience is no longer a monolith.
When youve spend the majority of members of their own lives as a confused Muslim, days like Eid dont arrived easily. I dont have many Muslim friends, despite grown up in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood in Queens, and their own families never truly expend it as a cohesive division principally because get the day off from run or school wasnt a guarantee.
So for me celebrating Eid has become a sort of political act. My attitude towards celebrating has changed now that my six nieces and nephews are older. Their version of Islam can be full of merriment and adoption. In fact, this Eid I will be at my brothers home with his white, American wife and their newborn son, and I cant think of a more all-inclusive route to celebrate.
With every scaring terrorist attack that is being wrongfully blamed on Islam, Muslims across the world understand Aziz Ansaris fearing for his familys safety or comedian Dean Obeidallahs feeling of immediate, internal commotion that happens whenever theres a terrorist attack. And I cant do much to stop any of that.
But what I can do, is celebrate Eid with gallantry and indicate by example what it means to be Muslim as varied and complicated as it is to be human.
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