Saleha describes her journey from starting her career in the corporate sector, which led to her studying theology, and finally signing up to serve in the United States Army. She discusses the need for building mental health and emotional counseling awareness within the Muslim community, as well as recognizing change within the leadership to address ongoing issues.

This story was recorded in partnership with StoryCorps and MALA.

“I thought I was coming here to America to get an MBA and climb up the corporate ladder and make a mark in the corporate community but I faced Islamophobia and I’m a complete intuition-based kind of person.  I just didn’t feel like I wanted to continue with business and I felt like I had the responsibility to just talk and clear the air with so much ignorance because that’s where all of this fear is coming from.  I think I am just getting challenged every time the moment I feel like I think I understand myself now—think I know who I am and what’s my purpose.  I get challenged with that and because of that I tend to try out these new things like study theology, now getting into psychology, signed the contract to join the US Army.

 

I don’t think I can define myself in a one particular category so I’m just evolving I guess.  It’s the environment I found here.  It’s the diversity I found here.  It’s like the way people are just open to being—being in the moment and just having conversations trying new options whatever they are coming your way and giving it a very fair honest chance to just be whatever they are or who they are and receiving them.  Emotional health is the most neglected aspect of our communities.  I know we need to be spiritually equipped through knowledge and our leaders of the community, our teachers but then spiritual health is a real aspect that needs to be taken care of in an environment of people who specialize in spiritual care, emotional intelligence, emotional health.  That is very important.  Like counseling for instance, back home I never heard the term premarital counseling, family counseling, or just counseling.  It’s a taboo.  It’s like “Are you crazy?  What do you need a psychologist or a therapist? Are you crazy?” That is so wrong.  If you have fever and it’s really out of your hands, you need a doctor.  Does that mean you’re like something’s wrong with you?  It’s a temporary condition which can be like easily dealt without being really stuck by a professional.  Simple, they give you tools.

 

Look, I have realized this now but I know for sure and I’ve heard it from our teachers that the more you talk about it, the more people tend to like listen to it and then try to tap into it themselves.  If we bring it up as like in a point of conflict—an agenda to bring some leadership down or whatnot.  No, it’s don’t gonna happen.  No, it’s how we present this issue… It is damaging us.  It is hurting us.  If I say “Because this community did not provide me, I am this and I’m gonna blame them for this.”  It’s not gonna go anywhere. Nobody likes to be like blamed for anything.  Rather, let’s talk about the problem at hand and not about the people we might have issues with.  That’s why I think by just recognizing that there is a problem that hurts us, our children.  Until then, we don’t.”

 

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