Fariha Chaudry, a neurologist in Chicago, knows she looks and feels Muslim and believes in Islam, and she knows many others that feel the same. What amazes her is the diversity among those people, and it is her goal to share that multi-cultural liberal qualities exists, while also spreading inclusion when educating others about an identity associated with religion.
My name is Fariha, and I am Pakistani. Well, I am, but I have been living in the United States since I was a baby. My parents live in St. Louis, and I moved to Chicago 15 years ago. I came here after medical school, did my residency here and now am doing private practice in neurology.
I am a practicing Muslim, but I have a very liberal worldview. I have read the Karan, and I’ve read it in translation, so I know what I am allowed to do, and what I am not allowed to do in terms of Islam. When I see and hear different things on social media, I can differentiate between fact and fiction.
I still have a lot of family in Pakistan, and I went there to visit them five years ago. I love going there, and it is so different and nothing like the media portrays. I’m from Lahore—it’s very cosmopolitan, and you do not need to cover your head, and you can walk around sleeveless. There is no state law telling women to cover their head with a hijab; it is just a political-cultural choice.
In Chicago, there is a very large and diverse Muslim population. You have a mixture of people, ranging from very conservative to very liberal. I don’t think people consider the diversity in which Muslims look and practice. I have a range of friends from all ethnic backgrounds; some choose to wear a hijab and others don’t. One of the things I love about Islam is the diversity in the religion. When I went to Haj, I loved being able to see people from every background, age and skin color, and even people with different views of the same religion. It amazes me that we’re all so different, but also, at our core, the same.