THANK you, for this. I am from, generally, a Christian background, but had many similar experiences growing up. My parents, who will celebrate their 70th anniversary in a month, were almost not permitted to marry, in the 1940’s, because Mom came from Irish-Italian Catholics (still doing services totally in Latin, through the 1960’s)…Dad’s family was German-Irish Protestants…In those days, crossing religions, even Christian subdivisions, was anathema.
In the end though, with WW2 winding down, my dad was signed into the Navy, and allowed to marry his soulmate. Tbeir parents knew it would be a disaster…My parents gave up formal religious observations, and eventually took us kids to Japan, where we mingled mostly with Shinotists and Buddhists through high s hool. I found my childhood amazing, living, faith-filled, and good. The intercultural aspects were wonderful, as was learning how many of “my people” overseas were truly “Ugly Americans”. That elevated consciousness of my own need to practice open-mindedness and more humility (as well as learning more history), has served me well.
22 years later, though, when I arrived at my first college, a Free Methodist-based private school, I found they viewed me as a heathen, because of my mixed religious background. They vontinually tried to “save” my soul. When I did not comply, I was shamed, prayed over, and so on. After two-and-a-half years, I transferred to the secular state university, and was much happier.
I still believe in having faith. I pray continually, but in my own way. Sometimes I am in churches, with my partner, or in the mountains, by a lake, or in my bed, falling asleep at night.
I have come to believe that “worship” is highly personal, and organized religions are there to help those who need, when they need. Most that I have studied have far more in common than they have at odds. What causes strife is, as with most things, dependent upon where we choose to focus.
Growing up, my family and neighborhoods and schools had sociocultural and religiocultural expectations just as you are experiencing… Early-on, divorce was killer — but only for the woman, who became “used goods” for instance.
At my first college, males and females were only just that year being allowed to walk on the same sidewalks between classes! We girls were not really there for an education, but rather to find a good man. Nowadays, of course, that’s ridiculous.
Religions’ expectations of appropriate manifestations are dynamic, as are those of societies and families, even from the eldest to the youngest sibling in any family. I am certain that Muslims in Ameri a will grow and change, just as my parents’ generation saw inter-faith marriage become acceptable, and my own generation saw inter-racial marriage become ordinary — and today, we have dozens of LGBT friends who are married, and so on.
I am excited to see how Muslim women’s and men’s lives will evolve, as they grow here, and around the world we share. I hope to meet more Muslim women, and learn from them, as I have been taught by many others I have lived with and had the privelege to come to know. Thank you again for this writing! Gillian