By Naghmana Ahmed-Sherazi
You are born into a religion, go through life without questioning anything, just, ‘being.’ Then life happens and everything changes. A lot depends on how you were raised, enabling you to cope. I found I was using different techniques in dealing with unexpected and sometimes traumatic experiences in life. As I said, I was born into a religion that I did not question, learned what I knew through osmosis, so to speak – parents, grandparents, mentors, and such.
The difficulty in reconciling some issues arose when I found my mainstay, ‘go to’ people were no longer around to answer questions, or the scope of the issue was beyond their experience. I have long since considered myself to be a citizen of the world – it doesn’t mean I have forsaken or given up my identity. It means I have come to a deeper and more meaningful understanding of self. If I had never moved to the United States, grown through various experiences, and gained awareness, I would probably be very content living the life I was living, happy to be who I was. There was nothing wrong with that existence. In fact, I miss it often; straightforward, uncomplicated, predictable – safe.
Even though I am challenged almost daily in my beliefs, in my existence, in the reason for my being and living here in the United States, I love that I am transforming. I am no longer the same person I was a year ago, and I know I have come across so many people whom I have rubbed off on. I revel in the fact that I can shape someone’s perceptions; I have made people think and wonder, made them uncomfortable in the beliefs they had held on to for a long time; about my religion, my being a Muslim woman, a scientist and a member of a larger community which is not just faith-based.
I have formed bonds with other people – white, colored, single, married, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh, Native, Atheist, non-conformist, activists and traditional. I am amazed that I have something in common with all of them. This has been the biggest surprise. The predominant underlying theme of all our aspirations and dreams is the same – we all want to be heard, want to make the world a safer and more accepting place for our children, and want to be part of a larger community, yet maintain our identities. We are all individual and unique, and we are all working together for common goals. This gives me hope – for the future, for humanity at large. In my native tongue ‘Urdu’, there is a simile; loosely translated, it means that all five fingers of the hand are distinct and individual, yet for the hand to work, they must come together cohesively to function. This is how I see the world. Distinct and individual, yet helping and coming together to function well. Season’s Greetings to all – Muslims just celebrated the prophet’s Birthday, is Christmas Eve was just celebrated and we’re in the midst of Hanukkah ; peace and blessings to you and yours; best wishes for a very Happy New Year – may it bring you joy and fulfillment.