My mother asked me a question recently that I conveniently ignored. However, it’s been weighing on my mind for quite some days now.
She asked me why my sisters are straying from our beliefs and faith so much. She asked it as if she had no idea where she went wrong. In my mind, I wanted to shake her and my father as well. Yet, I had no idea how to answer her.
The conservative in me still cringes when I see my sisters’ Instagram posts. Pictures of them in various states of undress- yet no more undressed than your average American. Just in a state that my religion (or those who follow it) would balk at and have a hissy fit. But I couldn’t blame them. They were free to finally make up their mind. To do things their own way. To follow what they chose. Yet, a part of me still cringed at the images and I didn’t know why. I wasn’t any better than them. I wasn’t more religious or conservative.
Then it came to me. In my mind I whispered to her, Do you not see? You and father crushed us. You oppressed us. You took away our sense of individuality. You made us feel shabby and ugly. You made us wish we were like “normal” American families because they had simple freedoms- like the right to formulate their own opinions, like the permission to wear makeup. Don’t you see? You pulled the rubber band so far back that the only path it had was to the ultimate extreme opposite of what you were trying to teach us.
As I spoke, I became more confident in what I was saying, as if the lightbulb of my brain went Aha! I continued with a steadier, stronger voice, We weren’t being taught humility as you thought- we were being taught conformity. We weren’t being taught pride in our faith, we were being taught contempt of others. We weren’t being taught love, we were being taught fear. How else do you expect us to respond when your punishment for not memorizing a passage from the holy book was to threaten taking away our education and marrying us off young (and though you’d never have done that we still believed it)? Isn’t our religion one that preaches balance and peace? Why did we turn our noses up at people who were “less religious” than us, then? Why did we not have balance in our views and our lives? Everything was haram, or forbidden. Everything fun and happy. Even when it really wasn’t. We still turned our noses up and condemned those acts as “weak”. Secretly, I envied them; I wished I could go to the movies with my friends and wear a little bit of makeup and trim back my eyebrows. Yes, these may seem petty and insignificant, but when you live everyday in fear that your mother will tell your father and then you’d get beat, it means a lot. These are just some of the reasons why we have turned out the way we have. It’s time to just accept it and keep us in your prayers.
Though I do not have the heart to tell her this face to face, I know she’ll read it here even though I wish she wouldn’t. I know it wasn’t all on her. She tried. She thought she was doing right. But she still bears part of the responsibility in how we turned out. Yes, my father prophecied, almost every day, that we will become infidels and follow satan. And to a child, hearing that daily, well obviously will negatively affect a child’s psyche. No one ever reassured us and said, “You are wonderful, God would be so proud of you.” The damage is done.