Sabia Khan knows that identity can take many forms and be influenced in many ways, but when it comes to her own identity, it’s her beliefs — shaped by many factors — that are most important. In her story she shares how she tries to respectfully share her identity with those around her and the backlash she has experienced as a result. Still, she won’t give up the fight to portray Muslim Americans in a positive light. This story is part of MALA’s scholarship essay contest. To see more scholarship essays, click here.

 

A person’s identity is shaped by many aspects. Some may have more of an influence than others, and some may not have any influence at all. Family and culture may influence a person’s sense of responsibilities, ethics, morals, tastes in music, humor, sports, and many other aspects of life. Friends and surrounding environments may influence a person’s taste in clothing, music, speech and social activities. But personal interests are what truly set individuals apart. An individual is not a puppet on the string of their puppet-master, nor a chess piece on their master’s game board; individuals choose their own paths in life. They accomplish or strive to accomplish goals that they have set for themselves throughout their lifetime.

For me, I would define myself as a spontaneous, caring, down to Earth person who accepts any person regardless of race, religion or beliefs. I never want to judge anyone when they don’t judge me as an American Muslim. I grew up in a community where there are no Muslims. It was hard to fit in a community where people thought of me as a person who believed in a religion that accepts terrorism. Of course there were many friends and individuals who looked at me as a softhearted, beautiful person that wouldn’t harm anyone, but there were many individuals who looked at Muslims as enemies.

My non-Muslim friends saw me for myself and didn’t see or define me by my religious identity. I wear the hijab, but I have an outgoing personality. So, they told me that while they may have judged me at first by my appearance, within five seconds they saw me for who I was. Many feel Muslims are the exception — that everyone else has freedom of expression and religion, but as Muslims, we must reassure everyone that our religion is in no way compelling us to kill people. I have tried to stand up for myself and my beliefs because I believe that “we the people of the United States” have the freedom to practice whatever we want to practice and shouldn’t do anything merely to impress others.

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