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Fear of Stigma Suffocates Religious Expression

Louise Ba ‘20 reflects on how Islam and Blake interact

October 14, 2019

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Fear of Stigma Suffocates Religious Expression

I remember sitting in a circle made of chairs in advisory during my sophomore year. Hearing about everyone’s different faith and backgrounds after Eboo Patel’s visit was intriguing, but nerve-wracking. We went around the room and shared our religious affiliation, and as the attention was drawn to me, I remember being so nervous to share. I was expecting judgment and harsh stares, yet after I uttered the words, “I am Muslim,” none came. 

As a Senegalese-American Muslim teenager living in Minneapolis, I am constantly being tugged between religion, culture, life in America, and going to a private school. I knew right away that fitting in was something I’d never be able to do, due to all the different religions and identities I encounter daily. 

So I chose to embrace all of mine. 

Though times have been hard, like a junior year which included, fasting during my AP Government and Politics exam, whilst simultaneously having to struggle to remember Keynesian and Hayekian policies and deal with stomach cramps, they’ve also been really cool, like Patel’s visit. I vividly remember conversing with him about the struggle between dealing with culture and religion all in the setting of an independent school. It was so refreshing to hear students amongst all different religions conversing and sharing experiences, and hopefully, more conversations around the diversity of faith can be held in the future. 

A hope I have for Blake is to accommodate Muslim students, as our population amongst the Blake student body is growing. Room such as more Muslim and/or POC (People of Color) speakers and activists brought in to speak in front of the school, or space where we can all convene during Ramadan at lunch, to collectively share our experiences. Ramadan is a one month period where Muslims do not eat or drink anything from sunup to sundown; the religious point of Ramadan is to cleanse ourselves from sin and temptation and focus solely on God. It’s difficult because I have to focus on school and ignore how hungry I am, but through pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I find that I am able to focus a lot more than I would with a full stomach, and I’m super proud of myself by the end of the month!

Being completely honest, my time here has had its highs and lows, and as my high school years come to a close, I hope that the future generation of Muslim students are encouraged to share their viewpoints and perspectives, and know that sometimes, our preconceived notions of the vocal judgments people have to offer are simply a figment of our own imagination.

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