Life Among Others – Osama Fattouh

Growing up in Middleton, WI I was always in both the ethnic and religious minority. My peers and friends were all Christians practicing to various degrees, but nevertheless were still identifying themselves as Christian. I, on the other hand was a Sunni Muslim which made me feel as if I didn’t fit in with the rest of the group. This feeling of being “different” made me insecure about my religion and my identity as a whole. When my parents would call me out of school for the religious holiday Eid, I would just tell my friends that I was sick that day, or when I would be at a friends house and it was time for me to pray, I would make a random excuse as to why I had to leave. This continued throughout elementary school and a little bit into middle school.

However, as I grew older and began learning more about my religion, my faith only strengthened. As I learned about Islam and began applying its teachings in my day-to-day life, I began to feel better about who I was. I could slowly feel the insecurity of my uniqueness fade away with every prayer. I finally began to feel proud about being Muslim. I stopped making excuses as to why I had to step aside and began telling my friends that I had 5 daily prayers that I must attend to. I told my friends about the holidays I celebrate and how these were different from theirs. I answered my friends’ questions about my religion and cleared up any misconceptions they saw on mainstream media. As I became more open about my religious identity, I felt prouder and my faith only got stronger.

My love for my religion is what drove me to join the CRGC. The main reason I used to be insecure about my religion was the mainstream media’s depiction of it. They made it seem as if all Muslims were terrorists and that all we want is bloodshed and violence. When in reality, and in my own experience, Islam is all about peace, heavily scrutinizing violence and bloodshed to the point that it condemns anyone who participates in actions that harm others.

I wanted to join the CRGC so I can help clear up those misconceptions and help lead society one step closer toward global peace and harmony. People from all religions and no religion need to come together and teach one another about their traditions and worldviews so that we can all accept and respect each other. In the end we are all humans trying to figure out our purpose on this planet and who are we to judge each other when we don’t even know the complete answer ourselves?

Have you ever felt insecure about your religion or knew anyone that was? If so, what did you do to get rid of the insecurity of your own religious identity or someone else’s?

3 thoughts on “Life Among Others – Osama Fattouh”

  1. Hello Osama,

    I relate to your struggle growing up as both an ethnic and religious minority myself. As a Muslim, an immigrant who moved here from Russia when I was nine, I definitely felt in a lot of ways different from my peers and my religion was one more thing that made me different. To deal with the insecurity I felt being different than others due to my faith and hearing so many different messages about it in the media, family, and the wider Muslim community who mixed it with culture. Around middle school, I decided to learn about my faith on my own, through reading books about it, the Quran, and watching videos. During that time I grew closer to my faith, as I started understanding the meaning behind our values and rules for myself, and debunking all the myths I heard. Through this journey that I started way back then, I now have a more personal relationship with Allah and Islam. Similarly to you, I joined CRGC to bring forward a better understanding of Islam and create space for dialogue for a greater understanding of others and their faiths.

  2. Hi Osama! Thank you for your thoughtful reflection regarding your experience with your faith. I agree with a lot of what you commented on. Specifically, I have felt insecure about my faith and at one point in elementary school, I even felt ashamed. The majority of my friends were Catholic and celebrated holidays such as Easter and Christmas. During these times, I always felt left out – like I was missing something because it seemed everyone knew stories/history about the resurrection of Jesus and the birth of Jesus and I did not. I didn’t want to tell my friends that I attended the Gurdawara (place of worship for Sikhs) or that my hair was kept long because of my faith. I was reluctant to share the history of my religion because it did not feel normal when almost everyone else was Catholic. My religion of Sikhi has informed who I am, how I think and act around others. As I grew older and understood the teachings of my faith, I began to grow closer to it. I was proud of my long hair in how it symbolized my religion and wanted to go to the Gurdawara. I wish that I could tell my younger self that it is okay to be different and that I should be proud of my religion and differences among all should be celebrated. Ultimately, in college, I have realized that religious or not, everyone has their own opinions, beliefs and worldviews regarding what is most important to them and how the world works. I can now see there is no right answer when it comes to faith – rather, it is an individual journey that we all embark on and this shapes our views and values. I think your last paragraph was particularly powerful, everyone must come together to try and understand the viewpoints/perspectives of other people to truly achieve harmony and peace. Rather than assuming that any one religion is better than the other, learning about and going the extra step to respect all religious/non-religious/spiritual traditions is the way to connect with others and achieve peace in the process. Great post Osama – I really enjoyed reading this!

  3. Hi Osama,
    I think your post this week shows a really good example of way interfaith dialogue is so important. I definitely agree that we need to understand each other better so that no one feels misunderstood or marginalized. I don’t think I ever had to struggle with my religion and other peoples’ perception of it in the same way that you did, since Judaism isn’t misunderstood and villainized by the media in the same way that Islam often is. I do relate to what you said about making up excuses rather than explaining your religious practices to other people, though. Growing up, I learned to say that I was missing school for a “Jewish holiday,” rather than, “Yom Kippur,” (or whatever other holiday it was) because often my teachers didn’t know what I was talking about if I called holidays by their actual names. I also used to tell people I was vegetarian a lot rather than explaining kosher, but I think that was something I did to simplify things and make life easier for people who didn’t know about my religion. In other words, I don’t think I was intentionally hiding my religion because I was insecure or ashamed about it, which I acknowledge is definitely a privilege.

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