Growing up Muslim in the West
It's quite obvious to judge from my name that even though I am born and raised in North America, I am still not considered "western". Which is completely fair. I have Pakistani roots which I hold my head high up for and would never want to have it any other way. However, I am an American (and Canadian too!) which should be equally acknowledged.
Let's start with some background, shall we? 1994. Seattle, Washington. I pride myself in sharing the same birthplace as Starbucks and of course Seattle's Best Coffee. Fast forward to 2001 and we have one of the most frightening and deathly attack's traumatized my nation. Yes, my nation. After all, I was born there wasn't I?
Growing up, I was oblivious to anything that was occurring about Muslims and Terror. Perhaps it was just my age at which Barbie's and Kool-Aid were the focal point of my attention. The issues related to being Muslim and American didn't really hit me till I was in high school, at which point I had already moved to Canada. 'Terrorist' was the most notorious name they used. I could go on about the bullying aspect but the focus here is on being a Muslim and merging my religion, culture and lifestyle with the Western traditions.
Late night parties, drinking, boyfriends, and bikini's were not allowed in my Islamic lifestyle but were completely acceptable in the Western. Similarly, fasting for several hours, wearing modest clothing and praying five times a day were not considered normal in my Western lifestyle but noble and pious in my Islamic lifestyle. How was I going to merge two completely opposite ways of life while being a teenager?! And to be quite honest, I couldn't merge them at the time. At the time I learned religion from a memorization stand point. My parents never forced me to do anything, they always taught me to learn and understand wholeheartedly. I, however, just blindly followed what I considered was the norm.
And that is actually the answer to merging both lifestyles. Perhaps the opposite to the answer because it all lies within thinking for yourself and not just simply following the norm. Anyone can say the Shahada (the Muslim profession of faith) and pray five times a day. Anyone can fast for nearly 20 hours a day and celebrate Eid (One of the major Islamic holidays). However, the one who has a connection and intent to follow the lord or whoever they may consider to be the higher being is the true person of faith.
And I'm definitely not one to speak for an entire religion or to force it on anyone. I believe that everyone has their own choice and if I want to live life on my own terms then I, too, have to let others do the same. To everyone their own choice!
Although my two worlds are completely different, I've learned to take from both of them to create my own lifestyle which I am wholeheartedly content in. We all struggle with finding our inner peace but, attempting to attain it is where the true bliss lies. Trust me.