For the Muslims Who Feel Left Out From Their Communities

This Ramadan, I will fast. This decision comes from within–not from societal pressures or my Muslim family’s wants.

I grew up in Westchester, a suburban neighborhood, just a little outside of New York City. As a Pakistani-Muslim, two inseparable identities, I felt like I could never fit in. I was too brown for my white friends and too white for the brown crowd, so where did that put me? Eventually, the burden of not fitting in led me to naively believe that I must shed my Pakistani-Muslim identity in order to be accepted in this country.

The pressures of not fitting were far worse in the Muslim community than my white counterparts. I was constantly told how bad of a Muslim I was because I didn’t know how to read the Quran or properly pray. I never thought that those from my own Muslim community would be the ones to push me away from my religion.

Once coming to college, I was surrounded by Muslims my age, going through similar problems. I came to realize that I should not let anyone take my faith away from me by labeling me as a “bad Muslim.” My spirituality is personal, and I cannot compare myself to other Muslims.

This piece isn’t meant to generalize the problems I have faced to the entire Muslim community, but rather acknowledge the fact that our own community marginalizes those who are not seen as “good” Muslims. This is extremely problematic because it pushes away those who have valid reasons for struggling with their spirituality.

A couple of days ago, I came across Tweets that resonated with me (the screenshot are below). The Tweets addressed issues pertaining to Muslims who are overlooked in our community, which allowed me to fully understand that one of the main reasons I pushed myself away from Islam was because my own community refused to accept me and teach me about Islam with empathy and patience.

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Sania Khalid is senior at Barnard College of Columbia University majoring in Psychology with a concentration in premedical studies. She was born in Pakistan but grew up in Westchester, NY. You can follow her daily adventures on Instagram at @saniaaak.

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