One Voice: Maria Romero

One Voice: Maria Romero

Living in Seattle makes it easier to be Muslim, I think.

Maria Romero
Kirkland, WA
United States
Sunni Muslim

My story...ah well I didn't convert to Islam via marriage as is often assumed and often the case for many women. This August 2009 it will be 11 years since I came to Islam. This has not been an easy road. I've been rejected by family, harassed by former friends and, I'm sure, been declined for jobs based on my appearance.

However, I think my life is so much richer than it could have been without Islam. As a little girl, I wanted so badly to travel and to SEE other ways of living, other people and their culture. As an adult, I haven't travelled as much as I would like. Not yet. But my circle of friends is wider than I could have hoped. I've picked up smatterings of different languages, my laughable cooking skills at least include dishes from two or three other cultures and I have a great circle of sister/friends.

I'm well known for my directness and sharp tongue. I think had I not been Muslim I would never have polished my soul, made my anger mean something greater than just being angry. Ah there we go again, the angry Muslim. But you know, I was angry way before Islam. Submitting to Allah(swt) eased pain I hid in my heart, made burdens bearable and made me grateful, every day, for what I do have. I know that some will say well that could happen with any belief or set of morals. Somehow for me it didn't crystallize until Islam. Not everything is perfect, let me tell you. I'm not, Muslims aren't, but I believe Islam and Allah to be perfect.

Living in Seattle, makes it easier to be Muslim, I think. I have had great experiences in Seattle with random people on the street: "So, ah...it's great that you can still wear your cultural clothing and whatnot." If they only knew, my cultural clothing are the jeans and t shirt that I wear underneath my abaya. Can't get more American than that, can you?

I worry for my daughter. I suspect that teachers treat her differently after I walk into the school for Open House wearing abaya and hijab. [She chooses not to wear hijab yet] Sometimes I just want to shout, "Can't you see she's like any other 14 year old?! She'll hate some of you (teachers), she will love some of you, but can't we just work together so that she survives the madness of teen years and is a successful student and young adult?" How can you be a teacher and limit yourself by pretending I didn't just walk into your classroom? Or ignore my emails because it's just easier that way? Yeah, I took it personally when my daughter went on a trip to D.C. with one of her junior high teachers, who then shared pics of the trip with other parents on Facebook, except me.

There is so much that there is not enough room to tell. Muslims are not just Arabs or Pakistanis. We're not all angry, and even if we are, many of us are rightfully so, given how we are treated here and abroad. I wish you could see us as we see us: A strong, independent, hard working, loving, culture clash of a mixed and yes, sometimes dysfunctional, family that spans the globe. Aren't all blended families struggling to get it right? Does America have it right yet, some 233 years after it was founded? I think not. Give us a chance to become a part of the fabric of your school, town, state and country. You'd be surprised to know, we've been here all along and share many of the same values, day in and day out.

I've shared a group picture of Muslims who took part in the Edmonds (WA) 2009 Fourth of July parade. My daughter and I took part in the parade and she said, "You know, the Fourth is my favorite holiday." I hope that for her sake, that's what others will see, just another American teenager, who talks back, who loves bright colors and science, her friends (both Muslim and non Muslim) and who loves the Fourth of July, because she's an American Muslim, through and through.

About the Project

"The Muslim world" is a phrase that lumps together a complex and diverse group of people and cultures, but one that rarely humanizes the personal and cultural expressions of Muslim identity. On Being’s First Person initiative is an attempt to better understand adherents of the faith by asking each individual to share his or her perspective of what it means to be a Muslim living in the 21st century.

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