Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Coming Out as a Muslim-American

Asalamu Alaykom,

Looking forward to an America that doesn't care whether or not I'm Muslim as much as it doesn't care Anderson Cooper is gay.
I am going to do something today which I have never done on this blog. 
Oh, I've done lots of things which felt both exciting and scary.  I've detailed my life (both the highs and lows) and I've let readers into my world.  That felt OK to me because I could remain hidden behind my computer.
For the first time, I am going to come out from behind my screen and show you who I am.
That's me waving an American flag.  It's not the best picture of me but it's the one I want to represent me as I come out as a Muslim-American.  That was me last year when I visited my family in the U.S.  I was dressed red, white and blue and I marched proudly down the street with my fellow citizens on the Fourth of July. 
You knew I was a Muslim-American before but it's my fault that I didn't show my face.  I was scared.  I was scared that my identity needed to be kept secret in order for me to be safe.  Safe from what?  I didn't know.  I only felt that I needed to hold back from being fully myself on the internet.
It can be argued that it doesn't really matter whether I do or I don't show my face.  Personal choice!  Do or don't and it won't change the world.
Actually, I feel that my little part today in changing the world is showing how I can be both observant in my deen; my religion, and active in my world.  Even if, I spent a thousand words trying to tell you this, it truly is better to show that one picture.  There it is.  This is what one Muslim-American looks like.
This is what I look like.
I have a face and a smile.  I am alive and vibrant.  I am funny and fun.  I celebrate.  I live in the world.  I walk with others.  Though we are different in many ways, we share our common bond of humanity.
My humanity makes it harder for someone to spew a spiteful statistic or a rude remark.  We needed to see Sammy Davis Jr. as accessible; joking with bigot Archie Bunker on "All in the Family".  We needed to hear that respected CNN reporter Anderson Cooper is gay.  Addressing the obvious means taking the truth out of the darkness; out of the closet and bringing it to the light.  "Coming out," means putting a face to who you really are.
I can identify with the idea of, "coming out."  I always knew I was different.  I didn't fit in to the mainstream.  I tried to settle down into a "normal" life.  It didn't work.  I hurt a lot of people along the way because I wasn't really being who I was meant to be.  I did struggle to find myself.  It hasn't been easy but it's been real.  In the end, I feel now that I'm finally at peace with who I am and where I am in my life.  I'm fully living.  Alhumdulillah.
Dr. Annette Colby wrote the following:
Long ago, when your life was new, there was a light that shone brilliantly and freely within you.
You carried this creative, loving, joyful spirit with you into this world. This light and power within you was your energetic life force.
Time passed.
You learned the ways of the world.
You began to hide your light.
We all grew up learning the rules.
Not wanting to suffer the consequences of misbehaving, we obeyed.
Often, we were encouraged not to have our own ideas, emotions, or even our own voices.
We learned to hold in our pain and our anger as we ignored, suppressed, and denied the truth of what we believed.
Connection with inner spirit, intuition, and gut feelings gradually became more distant as we learned to distrust our bodies and ourselves.
We were told, in one way or another, to be less than who we were.
Less playful, less noisy, less questioning.
Not to shine too brightly.
Perhaps we were criticized for our tears and our moods.
We were taught to be proper daughters and sons.
Instructed to be nice girls; obedient, quiet, clean, moral, and proper.
Trained to be strong sons; invincible, unemotional, and stoic.
We were taught to fit in, be normal, dutiful, sensible, smiling, caring, and productive at all times.
While none of this conformity and adaptation is wrong, how might life be different if we had been encouraged to bring our own authentic ideas and individuality to life?

Time for you to think who your authentic self is.  What are you holding back because you are scared?

The Truth will set you free.


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