There I stood, torn apart, half of me belonging in one world and the other half being pulled by the other. All my life I’ve kept a secret, a secret so demanding that it became my life. Religion has caused an inner war within me. My mother was a Christian woman who was once married to my father, an Islamic man. On the cold winter day of my birth, I automatically adopted the Islamic faith yet, it never fulfilled me. This is not a story about which religion is better than the other, but a life story about choice and freedom.
What does it mean to be “free”? Lana Del Rey, an American singer, once said, “It takes getting everything you want and then losing it, to know what true freedom feels like”. When I read that, I understood the part about having something, losing it and then reminiscing about that feeling you felt before you lost it. But why does one have to lose that thing? All I wanted was to be free and to openly serve the God that I wanted to serve. Is that too much to ask?
I lived with my father and my grandparents in the same area my primary school was in, whereas my mother lived in an area which was infested with gangs, death, drugs and abuse. My mom couldn’t drive at that point. She then worked, saved up and bought a car because she knew with that, would come the freedom of having her only daughter with her. Living with my grandparents meant “being Muslim”, attending Madrassah and pretending. I knew my mom hated the fact that I lived a Muslim life, but I was the child and they were the adults, they should have discussed this. That was my definition of a messed family- they did not know how to talk to each other, which made me the messenger who continuously died a spiritual death.
When I was in grade seven, I knew that I would be attending high school in the coming year. This meant that I would be free from all the lies. I could start a new life, a life where I could tell everyone that “I am a Christian” without judgement or fear of my family disowning me. I remember, sitting in Madrassah that last day, being so happy and wanting to run home knowing I would never have to go back there again.
During my primary school years I would go to my mom for weekends, it was my little escape – there I was able to attend church. I had to explain why I had an Arabic name, obviously omitting some of the truth. The truth, which currently in my twenty one years on this earth would probably cause so much pain, drama and hatred.
I’ve often heard the expression: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, it’s self –explanatory. The book is merely the surface whereas what is inside holds the underlying meaning and that is abstract. In my case, what I showed people is what they got. Therefore judging a book by its cover is accurate where I am concerned, because like a tattoo, what you get is permanent and trying to remove it is painful and it costs a lot- that is why I allowed others to judge my book by its cover.
It’s been twenty one years and I don’t know how to end this, how to change my life, how not to hurt other people. I’m so focused on not hurting other people that I allowed this omission to hurt me. In the beginning, I was a child and I blamed my parents, but now I am an adult and the only one I can blame is myself. No matter who or what I blame, be it my parents, my grandparents or fear; I am a Christian and all I want to do is say it and not be afraid. So judge my book by its cover because it’s what I give you.