“Why do I have to wear the hijab?”, “Is it really worth it to skip class and pray dhuhr (afternoon prayer)?”, “Why can’t I go to prom?” These are all questions that might have gone through our minds or the minds of our siblings or friends, but what is the root cause for these questions? Shame.

We are afraid of standing out by wearing our hijabs. We are afraid of the questioning we might face if we ask our teachers for a five minute break to go pray dhuhr. We are afraid of being left out while everyone excitedly participates in promposals, prom dress selections, and other prom-related planning. We are afraid of “exposing” ourselves to the world as Muslims. Basically, we are ashamed of our Muslim identities.

This is where I come in and say, “Suck it up.” Harsh, I know, but that is the only way we can deal with the difficulties of being the other, the stranger – and yes, we are strangers, even if we were born or raised here in Canada.

The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Islam began as something strange, and it will go back to being strange, so glad tidings to the stranger.” [Sahih Muslim]

This hadith1 indicates that Muslims will always be seen as strangers. What does this mean? It means that we will always be few in number compared to the majority, that our practices will never be accepted as the norm in common Western society, and that we will be the ones who will stand out in a room full of people and have to explain why we do what we do, or dress how we dress, and simply defend ourselves at every turn of the way. That is the life of a stranger. That is the life of a Muslim. That is the life that we have to come to terms with, no matter what. Because Jannah2 is the real deal.

But still, how can we accept our Muslim identities and not be ashamed of them, even after the realization that we will always stand out? By embracing them. And how do we do that? By understanding what it means to be a Muslim, by clarifying our doubts and learning about the continuous questions that non-Muslims ask us that we do not know the answers to, and finally, by always seeking and upgrading our knowledge of the deen3.

Dear Muslim brother or sister, know that we, here in Canada, the land of the free, are part of a mosaic. That means that every piece is accepted with its unique individuality and helps complete the entire artwork, including us. We are needed in society, no matter how “weird” our beliefs and practices may seem to others. So go out there and do your thing — while upholding your Muslim identity as you do.

At the end of the day, haters gon’ hate, so forget them and do what will benefit you in this life and the next.

1Prophetic tradition