This I Believe- I am not the judgment that surrounds me.


I believe in acceptance. Not just acceptance of others, despite contrasting views of the world, I believe in acceptance of oneself. I believe that I am not the judgment that surrounds me.

Alysha Mohamed. My last name is a label embedded into my skin. I notice masked apprehension in an inquirer’s body language whenever I am asked, “Are you Muslim?” To this I grudgingly reply, yes. Guilt creeps its way into my body as I remind myself that Islam is not something to be ashamed of. A religion that emphasizes the values of peace, humility, and self-respect is continuously perceived as one of violence, terrorism, and oppression of women. I will carry this misconception with me everywhere from airports to job interviews. After a moment of awkwardness, I am then asked, “Are you allowed to hang out with boys?” “Do you have to pray five times a day?” And finally, the dreaded, “If you’re Muslim, why don’t you wear a hijab?” My battle with balancing the ethics of faith and the social norms of the western world being questioned often lead me to changing the subject as quickly as possible.

As an Ismaili Muslim, my sect of Islam does not require women to cover their hair or body in a stereotypical Muslim way. Our interpretation of our holy book, the Quran, differs from other groups in the sense that we adapt to current situations and the regions that we live in. Different divisions of the faith sometimes take a more literal meaning to the text. The problem I face with this is that I feel an overwhelming sense of judgment from other Muslims I encounter. “You’re not a real Muslim,” is a phrase that has been thrown at me since I was a child, unable to grasp the concept of what this really meant. I am trapped and looking to be free from society’s instilled views on my religion, the views of different Muslims themselves, and my own constantly changing views of myself and the world.

Many nights over the past year have consisted of me wondering why we need labels in the first place. I am not defined by my name; I am not defined by the religion that I have been born into. I am learning to accept who I am regardless of whether or not others are able to do the same. I am so much more than what meets the eye.


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8 thoughts on “This I Believe- I am not the judgment that surrounds me.

  1. Dear Alysha,

    I’m glad you chose to talk about religion because as a young adult, I am too trying to fathom my purpose in the world with the pulls of differing societies often not allowing me to do so. I too have been asked some of the questions you talked about, and I too absolutely despise the way some media platforms/individuals choose to portray Islam. It does, like all other religions, embrace love, kindness, justice, and peace. Despite what others may believe, I know this is the true Islam, and I’m glad you believe that too.

    A truth that I have come to accept though, is that no matter how hard you try, there will never truly be a society without ignorant thoughts. With this in mind, I aspire to, like you, not be the “judgement that surrounds me.”

    You have incredible ideas, and I would suggest you expand on them more. It is tough to be able to gather your thoughts and transform them into words, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to try!

    With love,

  2. Alysha,

    Being one of Muslim faith myself, I can say that I related outstandingly with this post. While I may not have to put up with the constant remarks dealing with my hijab, I often feel as though my skin color is its own message to the outside world, often a very negative message. Often, people who are ‘brown’ are grouped into a single category; Indian. This has never made much sense to me, because surely people are not shallow enough to believe that the South Asian community here is composed of only Indians, yet this is the belief that I see, time and time again. People often ask me questions like “Are you Indian?”, “What part of India are you from?”, and the rare, but hated, “You sure you’re not hiding a bomb under that jacket?”. The last example was a man inside an airport, talking to my dad with undisguised resentment. The constant comparison between terrorism and Islamic faith confuses me to no end. Looking at someone without thinking “Brown, tall, turban,”, or something along those lines, is virtually impossible. Another, non-religious example of this is the North middle school/South middle school divide. People talked about our differences so much that it was almost impossible to look at a classmate in grade nine without thinking “North, South.” It took almost until March before I finally started thinking of us as all “High schoolers”. We make judgements so fast that it’s almost impossible to pause and see people for what we are. Human.

    These misconceptions are one of the greatest contributing factors to a growing distance between ethnic groups. I’ve always found it interesting how people I pass on the street respond to a smiling, brown boy walking by them. They’re shocked, for the most part, indifferent for the rest. One lady in particular last year was walking with her son, and she pulled her son so she’d be between us two when she saw me. As I merely smiled and passed them, the woman’s facial expression was one of confusion. I can imagine what kind of things that she thought of me before she passed me, all that shallow stigma being shattered by the realization that I’m just a human, like anyone else. I’m not out to steal your children and demand ransom for them. For the most part, people just choose to ignore me, so I can’t judge accurately if that was the case. When I was volunteering over the summer, lots of my fellow volunteers were interested my in relationship status, but when I refused to give any details, they merely assumed that I was too religious to have a girlfriend or something. Not that I thought worse of them from there on, they’re some of my closest friends, but it just goes to show how uneducated some of us are about other cultures. Not through arrogance, but rather ignorance.

    Why would we care? It’s not our religion, customs, faith… Why do we care about others?

    My simple answer to that is that ignorance is bliss. It’s better not to think of the things going on in the world and to go about our daily lives. But learning about it is our only way to shatter the stigma surrounding different people.

    Cut the “That black guy is going to rob me”.
    Cut the “That Asian is such a nerd!”
    Cut the “That brown guy is going to blow us up”
    Cut the “Those whites are money-grubbing freaks”
    Let’s breathe. After all, it’s one of the few things that we can collectively do without being judged.

    Look at us for what we really are.



    1. Areeb,
      I feel like you completely understood what I was trying to write about. Your ideas are so insightful and I feel the exact same way. Ms. Hunnisett was right, this could definitely be a a blog post on its own. Thank you so much for this comment, it was amazing to see how well I could connect with someone I don’t usually talk to. I hope we get the chance to explore this idea more.
      With love,

  3. Dear Aly,

    Wow. The power and truth in your words is absolutely captivating. Thank you for sharing this vivid belief with your classmates.

    I cannot pretend to relate to what you go through, and what millions of people go through with religious discrimination and labels. But this post is one that I almost feel obligated to comment on. As a human, how can I ignore this issue? This topic is one that many people are perturbed to converse about, because many deny that labelling and discrimination exist. And there are others that recognize these terrible things, yet they do nothing about it.

    Reading your piece quite honestly made me frustrated. Obviously not frustrated with you, but frustrated with the world. Why must humanity discriminate and label? Are we not the same species? Do we not all have bones, muscles, and organs? Our bodies work the same. Why can’t we recognize that our minds work the same as well? That bad people are not subjective to a certain race, religion, or orientation?

    The ignorance of many people in regards to religion has steadily increased in recent years. What with terrorism and other world events, religion has been labelled and it’s individuality has thus been forgotten. Your example of being at an airport, and the ignorant questions you get made me, as a reader, clench my fists. Your writing makes me open my eyes even wider to real situations, and for that I thank you.

    Awesome job.

    Carm 🙂

    1. Dear Carm,
      Thank you, thank you, thank you. The whole reason I chose to write about a topic like this was so someone would maybe be able to think about how far mankind has come, but how far we still need to go.

      I honestly believe that if there were more people like you, who become frustrated with even the idea of discrimination, that the world would be a better place. I also fine it really eye opening to read other’s writing and compare and contrast world views and opinions on different topics. Thank you again for your kind comment.

      With love,

  4. Dear Alysha,
    Hello! I am Dixie from the International School of Panama, and I am in Mr. Avelar’s English 10 Honours class. I absolutely adore your piece – you really have a talent for writing – and completely agree that labels are a huge problem in society. When I lived in Dubai, all my Muslim friends in school would be rejected by the English students living there, similarly to how you experience it. I really like the way you described how being stigmatised this way feels to you – it was truly eye-opening. When did you realise that the things people were saying were hurtful? When did it start to affect your every-day mood, if ever?
    I hope that one day, this problem is diminished once and for all. For now, I wish you the best of luck in your future.

    1. Dear Dixie,
      First of all thank you so much for your comment! I am so excited to be doing these blogs with your school. I think when I started realizing that I was being treated differently, I was around 11 years old. This didn’t really affect me until I was around 13 because I couldn’t really understand WHY. I’d love to hear about your experience living in Dubai, I have always wanted to visit!
      I also hope that this problem will be diminished one day, along with any other form of discrimination.
      I look forward to talking to you again, hopefully soon.

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