Peace be upon you

How to Muslim for Dummies


My typical week writing for The Daily Californian has pretty much followed the same basic routine this summer.

When the day sneaks up for me to submit another article to my editor, I spend a good 80 percent of my time racking my brain for what part of my religion and life to over-analyze and attempt to (apparently unsuccessfully) explain to readers.

When the idea finally comes — and it usually does take a while — the next day or so is full of writing and proofreading and editing and reading it out loud until I’ve said “Islam” so much that it no longer feels like an actual word.

And now, while I do feel a little sentimental that I’ll no longer be a part of this paper, I also feel like a thoroughly wrung-out towel. I’ve typed out more things about this religion than I even knew I had an opinion on.

That being said, publishing my column was still a sensation I’ve never really gotten used to. Aside from the fact that I’m not even a UC Berkeley student, (my subtle hinting in articles is apparently ineffective. I’m still in high school here, folks) my previous experiences with writing in a barely read school newspaper were a bit more lackluster.

So this was a bit of an upgrade, if I say so myself. Of course, that upgrade came at a cost.

I remember writing out my first few articles with the naive mindset that I was undeniably validated. I took on the label as designated superhero saving people from ignorance one article at a time, which they would of course thank me for later.

“Don’t worry guys, I’m here,” I would condescendingly think in my head as I typed out everything I was feeling with almost no thought. I wrote with the air of schooling an ignorant comment on Facebook (just, you know, in 800 words). Give me your worst, internet.

And that, of course, is a ridiculously foolish mindset to have, because the ugly did come. But what also came were random people expressing their gratefulness for my writing, which I used to fuel me for the rest of my time here.

(To those of you who know me, I’m sure I sounded like I was joking when I said I would frame the first encouraging email I received, but I’m still considering it.)

But, I still have to hide the smirk on my face when people I know talk to me about what I write, and quickly stutter through with the obligatory “Great piece!” or “How cool!” in order to get to the real juicy bit they were all waiting for:

“Do you read the comments on your articles?”

Yes, for a while I did read them. I mean I legitimately read them and tried to actually understand the thought processes behind unfriendly comments. As you can see I still had a lot to learn about how the internet works at the start of the summer.

It’s completely different now. I give a passing glance at the comment section to see who’s misinterpreted which obscure part of my writing that week, I offer a quick acknowledgment of the rare reasonable input and then I move on to the next article.

I’ve realized this summer that I have a lot to learn, not just about how to deal with people but also about my faith, the topic I pretty much lived and breathed while writing this column.

I pictured myself using this platform to get other people to question their beliefs, but ironically I probably ended up spending more time questioning everything that I thought I knew about myself and my religion. Some of the stuff I wrote about I had never talked about with anyone else, including myself, let alone publicly.

For a while I tried to talk more about things that wouldn’t get people to attack me, or at least wouldn’t make anyone angry. Doing this gave me 800 words of fluff. I knew that if I were reading some of my early tries as someone else, I would have just wasted ten minutes of my time. The recycling bin on my Google Drive was filled with draft after draft of these attempts, before I decided to scrap that angle entirely.

So, you ended up with this. I may not be the most ideal Muslim (whatever that means) to gain any insight about this complicated thing we call religion, but hopefully I gave you a sufficient taste of the dummie’s version on how to Muslim, from your average 17-year-old girl.

Thank you all for being the first audience to my expression of this pretty prominent chunk of my life, flawed as it is, but still human, and still worthy of respect.

مع السلام.

Subaita writes the Monday column on Muslim identity. Contact her at [email protected].