Being Muslim in School

Aidan Arslanoglu, Co-Editor-In-Chief

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As students streamed out of their classroom doors to a range of  food and drinks on last year’s Campus Day, the Muslim population at Shorewood did without the refreshments.

It wasn’t an organized protest. It was Ramadan – a holiday during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.

Kutay Gokeri, senior, has had his fair share of such experiences. Still, he believes that Shorewood has been amenable to his faith.

“I’ve witnessed the opposite of being an outsider as Shorewood has done a good job recognizing Muslim holidays,” he said.

As he’s grown up in the American school system, he’s become accustomed to being part of the Muslim minority at school.

Sometimes classmates come to him with questions about Islam for school projects, and each time turns out to be a learning experience for everyone involved. “I always feel happy to help, and I honestly learned more about my own religion from others being curious about Islam,” he said.

There have been moments of insensitivity, however. “Occasionally, I’ll hear people make the usual jokes on the theme of radical Muslim terrorists and bombs. I learned to overlook them,” he said.

If he ever felt disrespected, he would voice his opposition and would be met with an apology.

Yara Marouf, senior, has also dealt with inconsiderate moments at school.

Marouf describes walking into a class party a couple minutes late to find that the only option left is pepperoni pizza. “Well, I guess no food for me!” she thinks to herself.

Likewise, Marouf notes how the awareness of the school and faculty regarding Muslim traditions could improve in small ways. For example, she says, teachers wish everyone a merry Christmas and happy holidays before winter break but rarely do they recognize Ramadan or Eid.

More importantly, being Muslim often intersects with politics. “I constantly hear people saying things like ‘Man, these Muslims,’ when the [perpetrator] is a single person from a single country in the Middle East.”

Based on the actions of individuals, people stereotype an entire religion that includes over a billion followers.

Finally, she acknowledges that her female perspective differs from that of a male Muslim. “A Muslim guy wouldn’t get asked about sexual restrictions, and they surely wouldn’t be asked why they don’t wear a headscarf,” said Marouf.

She doesn’t believe that complaining is entirely justified, though. “I can’t come to school expecting accomodations for my way of life. It’s not realistic,” said Marouf. Not everyone has relationship with Islam like her, she says, so she understands that people are unaware and sometimes inconsiderate.

On the other hand, Marouf and Gokeri express gratitude for how Islam has fostered a community and their growth as humans

Both of them have bonded with other Muslim students to build a community at Shorewood. “Last year, a lot of the seniors were part of my mosque, and we would hold prayer in the black box.” said Gokeri.

“As a result of the experiences I’ve had as a Muslim-American, I’ve learned to respect others’ identities and faiths more,” said Marouf.

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