Assalamu Alaeiku —Peace be Upon You.

From being celebrated by my friends for going out sober, to having people assume I’m oppressed and need their help, my experience as a Muslim student at Queen’s hasn’t been the easiest. Back home, being a Muslim comes naturally —here, it’s a constant reminder of misrepresentation and fear.

“In Jordan, I was just like everyone else. I didn’t need to explain why I don’t drink or wear the hijab, or how I possibly still have fun while sober.”

In Jordan, I was just like everyone else. I didn’t need to explain why I don’t drink or wear the hijab, or how I possibly still have fun while sober. Coming to Queen’s, I quickly encountered these questions from other students, without having realized I do all of these things. With that being said, I’ve been intrigued by their curiosity and in awe of their respect for my decisions.

To be a Muslim means many things. To me, it’s the epitome of love, peace, and gratitude, where kindness and generosity know no end and peace is everlasting.  It’s where you give everything to the people you love, forgive, and know nothing of hate. It’s cherishing, valuing, and uplifting women through their grace. It’s waking up at dawn to pray fajr (Dawn prayer), and packing up your leftovers for the homeless. It’s reciting a verse from the Quran for sweet dreams after a stressful night at Stauffer, and struggling to follow the Lunar calendar to find out when Ramadan will start so I can begin fasting for 30 days.

Mostly, to be a Muslim means staying true to what you believe in, without the fear of making mistakes, for that is only human.

Source: Hareer Al-Qaragolie

When I started university, I had to add a lot of things to that definition. One of the changes was being lonely, as one Muslim student on campus said to MUSE, “being a visible Muslim at Queen’s feels isolating at times.”

The beauty of being Muslim is often overshadowed on campus. Every Muslim member of the Queen’s community tackles a unique struggle. Personally, my experience at Queen’s exposed me to different things that come with being a Muslim. It taught me how to balance upholding my values with learning new ones, but it also taught me that hate and ignorance are inevitable.

“I’ve been labeled as the ‘safe kind of Muslim’ by my closest friends regarding my white-passing appearance and my personal choice to not wear the hijab.”

There are still many of my peers who associate the idea of being openly Muslim as having been forced into a system of oppression and violence. For example, I’ve been labeled as the “safe kind of Muslim” by my closest friends regarding my white-passing appearance and my personal choice to not wear the hijab. I receive pity and unsolicited advice from my friends in response to my personal choices, and endure the assumption I’m oppressed by the lifestyle I live.

In Islam, it’s important to have a community.

“If it weren’t for the student-led Muslim student association on Queen’s campus which organizes Friday prayer, social and educational events for Muslims by Muslims, being a Muslim would’ve been very difficult and lonely,” said another Muslim student to MUSE.

It’s also important that people show compassion, reach out, and ask questions when they’re unsure about something.

For those who want to connect with the Muslim community, or who are in need of a mental health counselor, I recommend reaching out to the Queen’s Muslim Association (QUMSA), the Queen’s Chaplaincy Office —for religious and spiritual counseling and accommodation —, and the Peer Support Center, or visiting Mitchell Hall’s prayer and spirituality room.

For a community considered to be a minority at Queen’s, the Muslim population is diverse in many ways, including how we choose to represent our faith. Whether you wear the hijab or not, pray five times a day or not, abstain from alcohol or not,  we are all trying to find our way into becoming better versions of ourselves in our own time, according to our own concept of what it means to be a good person.

“Just like any other student at Queen’s, I’m constantly learning and evolving —I simply do that through my faith, in all its beauty.”

As a Muslim student, my experience doesn’t represent every Muslim on campus. Just like any other student at Queen’s, I’m constantly learning and evolving —I simply do that through my faith, in all its beauty.

Header Source: Hareer Al-Qaragolie