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Lime green hair

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JUNE 12, 2017

My alarm rings at 3:45 a.m., shattering my quickly forgotten dream to pieces, and with it, my motivation to do anything besides throw my shrieking phone across the room and curl back under the covers in the still-dark night. The last thing I want to do right now is navigate my way down the stairs to scarf down some last-minute food before the sun rises.

The usual thought start playing in my head: “Go back to sleep, you have school in the morning. There’s a good excuse. Plenty of other kids don’t fast, either.”

But I go anyway, my mind dismissing these thoughts as I hoist myself up and blink vacantly until I can comprehend how to use my legs.

I don’t entertain thoughts of not fasting any further than that, because choosing not to fast during Ramadan (without any legitimate excused reason) would be the same as walking to dinner with lime green hair. There would be some exchanged looks of “Wait, is she serious?” followed by confirmation that it’s not a wig, and maybe a loss for words. Once the shock of it wore off, my parents would start chuckling and asking when I’m dying it back. I’d expect some pseudo-counseling from my mom later on as we’re washing dishes after dinner, asking me what happened recently to make me want to do it, boiling it down to an internal change.

And, honestly, I wouldn’t have an answer. My parents don’t like lime green hair, and I don’t see the point of it.

It still raises a few questions as to why we do what we do. Nowadays, I participate in Ramadan because I look at the month as a sort of juice cleanse for the soul. And it actually works to some extent; if I take away every other distraction, a part of me goes, “Okay, I guess it’s time to be a Muslim now.” After a while, my mentality shifts from indifference to actual effort, and I start to feel incomplete and empty if I don’t do what I’m supposed to, maybe the same way a gym buff feels if they skip a day or two.

That’s what it’s supposed to be, anyway. According to the Quran, this month is the most blessed month of the year. The devil is supposedly locked up, allowing Muslims to remove themselves from worldly urges, improve their relationship to God and basically rack up points to get that coveted ticket to Heaven. We fast, pray nightly for an extra hour, refrain from doing things like smoking and cursing and other things usually seen as sinful. There’s even an extra guilt factor if there’s a homeless person on the BART that we didn’t whip our wallet out for.

That being said, very few people end up going the whole way, and many people only fast during Ramadan without extending any effort to change internally. Because honestly, it’s way easier to follow all the motions physically than to address any internal issues, or even acknowledge that change needs to be made.

In truth, motive can play a significant part in how you view your faith, just as it does with many other things. Do I abstain from dyeing my hair because I personally don’t want to do it or because it would be questioned by everyone I know? Does the reason even make a difference?

With religion, the answer isn’t as simple. A lot of countries and households rely on force or fear to instill Islamic values and customs, and their inhabitants carry out these rituals because they have no other choice, since they face brutal punishment if they don’t. I’m not actually forced to do anything, but I’m surrounded by people who never looked at dyeing their hair green as an option, so neither do I.

A lot of people’s behavior stems from their upbringing, and they eventually find a justified reason to continue on with their behavior or mentality voluntarily later on. In a way, I guess this behavior worked on me. I would join my family in mosques and follow their prayers when I was younger because it was the natural way of things that happened in my family and because I didn’t know an alternative existed. Now that I can start to comprehend Islamic customs with deeper reasoning, I participate in Ramadan both because I feel a connection to it, and because I want to join my household and the larger community in this month, too. Even though the option is available to me, I just don’t think lime green is my color.

So, no, today’s not the day for green hair. This morning is for last-minute leftovers and chugged-down water for the next 16 hours.

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

JUNE 12, 2017