There is peer pressure in college. This isn’t news. There is the pressure to drink, to hook up, and to run headfirst into adulthood. And, these pressures are especially difficult when you are a Muslim girl.
I am not what you would call “a conservative Muslim girl.” I don’t wear hijab. But, I still remember my father having a very frank discussion with me. He said to me:
“Mashal, your mother and I have lived very fulfilled lives, and we haven’t ever had a drink in our 50 years.”
His words resonated with me and I understood his logic. My religion asked me to refrain from drinking because I can find pleasure in other areas of my life.
I certainly do not judge others who drink, or do anything I choose not to do. I understand and maintain that my decisions are personal. They are my own, just as others make decisions that are their own. Respect is my most treasured value , and I believe that it is essential to respect other people’s decisions and beliefs. Every human being has the right to respect, and my religion does not pardon me from this fundamental fact. Therefore, just as I expect others to respect my decision not to drink, I respect those who do choose to drink.
And herein lies the conflict I face while in college. Though these decisions are my own, as a college student, I encounter situations in which I feel like others may influence my decisions. The desire to fit in seems important, especially during the first year away from home, and sometimes, it can feel like sacrificing your beliefs is worth the acceptance. When partying is the go-to activity on the weekends, it is easy to feel left out. I know I’ve had some lonely nights when the entirety of my school was at a club or a fraternity party.
However, I have found the strength to embrace my identity as a Muslim girl through the amazing community I have found at my university. A collection of strong, independent women have shown me validity in the saying, “why to fit in when you’re born to stand out?” These incredible women have demonstrated to me that there is no need to succumb to peer pressure when there is so much grace and class when you stand by your beliefs.
So, to these amazing women, thank you for inspiring me every day to embrace who I am–a Muslim girl in 21st century America, who doesn’t drink, dresses a bit conservatively and still loves to have fun.
Mariam is an anonymous contributor.