Two Worlds, Two People

BY FARZANA PARVEEN

In 1996, my parents immigrated to Queens, New York from Bangladesh in search of the American Dream with my three siblings...

Growing up, I listened to narrations of their early childhood: the times they climbed mango trees, ran mud races, and collected hailstones in tin cans. I tried painting this landscape in my mind, but the colors, figures, and places never formed a clear picture. I was the first in the family born in America. It is my only home.

As I entered my teen years, my parents became increasingly strict. I told the neighborhood boys I could not make it to our basketball games because I had homework. I told my school friends I could not go to the movies because of a doctor’s appointment. Slowly, the invitations stopped. When I argued with my mom about how it was unfair, she ended the conversations with, “Because you are a Muslim Bangladeshi girl.

I wanted to be that girl, but I also wanted to dress like my peers, play sports, and hang out in mixed-gendered groups. I tried hiding behind my books and paying no heed to the weekend gossips and stories, but I was intrigued. Gradually, I made less excuses with my friends. I led a double life; one as the well-liked peer and another as the respectful daughter.

Currently, I feel as though Muslim teenagers do not follow the rules of Islam as their family wishes them to. I know a handful of Muslim girls that do things such as change into pants from shorts before they get home and take off their headscarves when they get to school. This is definitely a significant issue, in part due to modernization. Muslim families migrate to America, like my parents for example, in search of the American dream. They want their children to receive the best education, attend the top universities and become lawyers, doctors, etc.

However, the children's desires aren't the same as their parents. Muslim teenagers want to fit in with the American culture and feel the need to conform. It’s hard for Muslim parents, who are religious, to understand their modern teens’ desires to follow the American customs. I find it very dishonest how teens act one way with their parents and a completely different way with their peers. I did not like doing that when I was younger, but now things have changed.

My parents soon caught on to my behavior.  We had an open conversation about my actions and what it means to be a Muslim. I was reacquainted with my religion - Islam. My parents explained to me the significance of the Quran and why we do things the way we do. They gave me a more in-depth knowledge of Islam that I always ignored. My parents were very understanding, and though they didn't approve of me being friends with boys and such, they knew that in America it was different. However, I still have to take my religion into account when performing some actions. I believe more teens should try to have this open conversation with their parents. However, not all parents will cooperate like mine. I am still taking baby steps to understand my religion, my challenges, and my individuality. I do not know when my two worlds will become one, but each day is a step in that direction.


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