Coming to terms with and understanding my identity as a Canadian Muslim is something that I have always struggled with while growing up and, at times, still struggle with today. Growing up has been a constant battle between culture and religion along with the struggle of fitting in with North American society. My understanding of my faith and who I am as a Canadian has evolved over the years, and now more than ever I can confidently say that I am a Canadian Muslim. At a time when being Muslim is difficult and Islam itself is constantly being criticized, it is that much more important to embrace our Canadian-Muslim identity. Growing up, I never really understood this importance.

Islam has always been a part of my life, but during my childhood it was never something I actively embraced. Growing up learning about Islam consisted of learning a bunch of “dos and don’ts”. Don’t eat pork, don’t drink alcohol, don’t go trick-or-treating, don’t eat marshmallows or gummy bears, the list goes on. Rather than seeing Islam in a positive light, I saw it as something that separated me from other kids while growing up. I always felt like I was missing out. It felt impossible to balance being Muslim and trying to live a Canadian lifestyle.

Going from elementary school to high school did not make things better. When you are in high school, you feel the pressures of trying to fit in and find yourself. We are all navigating our way through life while trying to stay true to our faith. In high school, I knew I wanted to see Islam in a new light, gain a better understanding of my faith, and begin that “find yourself” journey. I found that as I got older, surrounding myself with like-minded individuals helped ease the tension between being Muslim and Canadian. Involving myself in different youth groups and finding opportunities within the Muslim community where I was able to express myself helped me grow closer to finding the balance I was looking for. Being able to discover my interests, connecting those interests to my faith, and having the freedom to ask questions without fear of judgement helped me get to the place I am today as a university student.

As teenagers and young adults, we are constantly facing tensions in our life, but it is about balance and surrounding yourself with people who understand and respect your faith, not people who question it or try to make you change your ways. Balancing being Muslim and Canadian is a path that I am still on, but I can say that this path has far less twists and turns than it did a few years ago.