A Day in the Life
I structure my days around my prayer schedule,
then I fill in the gaps with class,
and spending time with friends.
Praying throughout the day helps
to keep me grounded and centered,
especially with how busy I am,
but it can also create scheduling challenges.
It’s really about prioritizing
and making time for it.
I’m just as involved as other students;
I still stress out about exams,
I stay involved with my classes,
my business fraternity,
and Islamic center activities.
Outside of various meetings and events,
I also spend time with friends,
and I call and text
my sister and mom as often as I can.
Since the election
I’ve been making more of an effort
to reach out to people I care about
to see how they’re doing.
I’ve also been praying a lot more,
which gives me more clarity
about what’s been going on.
I never felt myself being hindered by anything or anyone. I think my personality also factors into this. I've always been a kid who's marched to the beat of her drum. Negativity never got me down. My mom had raised me to be a strong woman who didn't factor in other people's opinions. If the crowd was going one way and I saw somebody struggling and they were being treated badly, I would literally go the other way. I don't care what people do. I will just do my own thing, and I will do what I think is right.
I think that really factored in a lot into how I was treated. I saw other Muslims who weren't as confident as I was be treated differently. They were sometimes picked on. I always took their side of course; the moments that I was present I did always stand up for minorities.
I'd never experienced bullying. I know that unfortunately that's a problem of not only Muslims, but a lot of kids growing up. Being different, when I tell people I didn't get bullied, they were shocked. They expected it because as soon as you stick out like a sore thumb, you're picked on. Not me for some reason. They didn't do that. I was very, very lucky I didn't get that.
I did feel very free to be myself. To vocalize my opinions. I was a lot more nice in high school. Now I'm more unapologetically myself. I just made sure everyone was happy, but I was also myself back then.
Now honestly, if my words are harsh to you, there's something wrong with what you're thinking because I'm not saying anything that's hurting you, I'm just vocalizing my stances. I'm just unapologetically myself, even more than ever. I've always unapologetically been myself, and never really needed somebody else. I was very free and West Lafayette always made me feel safe. I always felt home here. Whether it was Purdue Village, whether it was Lindberg Village, I have never felt that I needed to protect myself.
Growing up in high school and middle school, I put a lot of burden on myself. I knew that when I was wearing a headscarf, of course it was a very personal decision I was making. It was a connection between me and my faith. Beyond that, you are walking, talking Islam. You are a banner that says, "I'm a Muslim." You are stating it loudly. Whether that's what your intent was when you signed up for this.
I love it being part of my appearance, but in middle school and high school, I put a burden on myself like as if I was a spokesperson. I felt so much pressure on me to always be perfect. I always wanted to be the best kind of Muslim because I didn't want to put out a bad example. It started becoming too much in a negative way because I started focusing on this perfectionism of being a perfect Muslim. Like on making mistakes and being harsher on myself than ever before because I was representing something that was more than me.
Then going into college, and understanding that I am as human as the person next to me. I do not hold the weight on my shoulders of an entire faith. I am me, and I am not a spokesperson for a faith. I will speak about my faith. I will talk about it with you. I will speak about my own experience with it, but everybody in Islam has such a different experience.
It's like asking a Christian, to represent all of Christianity. They don't represent their entire faith, why do I? Understanding that and embracing that, and then still finding the beauty in my own faith and talking about it. I love talking about it. I love sharing it, but only with others who have the same respect for my faith as I do theirs.
I've learned that, and that's another thing that's shaped me is figuring out who you can talk to about religion and who you cannot. There are some people who will ask in mocking tones. That is when you have to tell them that I think this is your duty to educate yourself. I would recommend a website. Go look into it yourself and then we can have a conversation.
Then there's others who just want to learn. They want to learn about your faith. They want to be aware. They want to have those conversations. You talk to them with open hearts and you connect with them and you learn about their faith and all the differences and the beauty we have within our differences.
It shaped me because I think the perfectionist attitude, but then understanding my own place. It really shaped me. I've always known who I was when everyone was trying to figure out who they were trying to be. I'm a very curious soul. I know that if I did not wear hijab, I would have gone down paths that I didn't want to. It kept my attention in the right direction and the type of person I genuinely wanted to be, beyond my worldly desires and what not.
I don't know. It really helped me be confident. My mom explained to me when I was younger in different ways, but people were judging me by what I was saying and what I was doing, rather than how I looked. Whether I was pretty or not, it didn't matter. My ideas, my brain, what I brought to the table, my character, was so much more important than, oh is she hot. The immature guys never thought of me in a light that I didn't want them to think of me in.
That really shaped me and really helped me focus on my character and what I brought to the table, and I genuinely think me being more mature, developed more at this time because my ideas and intellect, everything became more important than any other thing. I had to win people over with my heart instead of my appearance. That's how it should be anyways, always, regardless of anything. Our society doesn't always do that. It was a simple way to get the attention that I wanted.
I think growing up I didn't realize I was part of so many communities. I was just me. It wasn't a big thing. As I become more educated and aware of the walls we have up. The things that are barriers that I have between the world and I, learning about how all of us women in general are policed with our actions constantly. People are always telling us what to do.
I've always felt like I belonged. I always also knew that I was different. That was very prevalent to everyone and me. Just because I was different didn't mean I didn't belong.
The fact that I didn't have as much of an accent when I spoke really played into the equation. We as a society have this bad habit of equating accents with educated or not educated. When you hear a British accent, people are like wow. Western accents are seen as more educated. Then eastern ones are not; my grandpa was a Two Star General in the Pakistani Army. He has great English, but he has an accent. My grandma's so educated, but has an accent.
Hearing the microaggression of, wow you have really nice English. You sound like a white girl. Not realizing that that's not necessarily a compliment. That is you telling me, "When I saw you, I thought you would have an accent, and maybe not able to communicate with me as well, but you're really good at communicating. You're totally fine. You're good. You passed the test." That's really unfortunate. Not having an accent really allowed me to reach the people that would have dismissed me if I had had an accent.
I think to a degree people underestimate me. Sometimes they see me before I open my mouth, they think I'm a quiet person. They're like, oh, she must be like a shy girl. Then they're surprised when I speak what I think.
There's this constant good Muslim, bad Muslim rhetoric that goes on in every Muslim kids world when they're growing up in America or anywhere I guess where it's, when you're a Muslim whose religious. Viewed through the eyes of other people, non-Muslims. When you're a religious Muslim, you're too religious and you're a bad Muslim. If you're one that can throw back a couple of drinks and smoke some, you're a good Muslim.
There's this limbo that the younger Muslim generation is always constantly trying to balance. Where do you want to be? The Muslim community, if you are the good kind of Muslim according to other faiths or other people in society, you're a bad Muslim. Then if you're a religious one, a really extreme religious, you're sometimes good. That's another thing to remember is not all religious people are extremely religious.
As I've grown older, I’ve realized it's a balancing act between the two. I still do whatever I want, I march to the beat of my own drum self, but as I've grown older I've understood that to get across to the people, to every person, to my audiences, to whoever I'm speaking to, you can't always be so set in your ways. You have to adapt. I think all minorities, even women, are a marginalized group at times. We all have to find our different hats that we need to wear in our situations. When I am with my Muslim friends, it's more relaxed. When I'm with my business fraternity, I also have to get along with all those people with different stances. A lot of them are conservative, which I've been finding out more and more recently. Learning how to wear the certain hat that I need to converse with them. To at least just get a grasp of my perspective, but I'm not trying to change anyone's mind. I'm not here to give you a persuasive speech, right?
I think that comes with maturity. Understanding you do need to learn how to adapt and go with it just so you can go further in life and help eliminate ignorance and be part of a better future. If I can't sit there and have a conversation with those individuals, then I'm not doing my part. If I'm so set in my ways that I can't even budge, and be no. I don't even care to hear you. That's not the right way to do it. I know some people out there exist like that, but in my perspective that's not the way to go about it. I've had to balancing act between the two.
Activism and Opportunities
In my time at Ball State, I was an orientation leader for two years. I was part of the Ball State's speech team. We were fourth in the nation the first year, and fifth in the nation the second year that I was a part of it. I was also an Excel mentor, which was a mentor through the multicultural center. I had different ethnicities and students who were my mentees. I had four girls that I mentored. That was a cool experience.
I gave a TED Talk at Ball State, so that was fun. I also worked really closely with the President of the University for special events that he had. I was also the President of the Muslim Student Association as well as the Vice President of the Islamic Center of Muncie, which is the entire community mosque.
I've transferred my skills over here and I'm starting to still get involved. I'm also part of a professional business fraternity. I was the VP of Marketing there. I'm the VP of Fraternal Affairs here. Kind of across the board, I like to be involved in my surroundings, and I've done that.
As part of the Ball State speech team, I personally focused on a lot of speeches that impacted me and the things that mattered to me. These included rhetorically analyzing Muslim women in America. How Muslim women are policed compared to to other women. I talked about Islamophobia in some of my speeches. I talked about the different types of political statements we wear. How clothes are not statements. They are simply clothes. One of my programs was called Hijabs and Hoodies. It was around the time of Trayvon Martin. Like skinny jeans. They're not making a statement. They're not asking for something, they're wearing just a pair of jeans. Simple things like that.
Since Trump era, or even a little bit before Trump era, according to the Huffington Post, the anti-Muslim sentiment continues to be on the rise. Islamophobia is a very big part of our society. It is becoming more and more prevalent.
Since Trump came into the picture, into the media and on a center stage, it has become widely more accepted and it's starting to become more normalized. Which is really scary. It is really unfortunate for a person who has that much power and that much education, to be that ignorant. He generalizes not only Muslims but a lot of marginalized groups. Now that he is President Elect, it normalizes a lot of things. People who had similar views, but didn't vocalize them because they knew something is off. Now that he is President Elect, and the amount of numbers of people that back him, beyond economic stances, the social stances. These people think it's okay to say these things now. Whether they're opinions, but they're backed up by hatred and bigotry and discrimination and prejudice and all these things.
It's becoming normalized. It's really unfortunate. People are paying the cost of it. Even in recent days, I never am political on Facebook. I don't see the point of it. I'm politically aware in my day-to-day to life, and I was when I was part of the speech team . I like to be in the know so I can have intelligent conversations. After the election, I had to make a status of making all my people aware that I will be more political and I will be talking about issues that I care about, because now I am the voice.
For a lot of my friends, I'm the only Muslim friend that they have. My voice is more important than ever before in bringing light to incidences that are happening just within the first week of President. I can't even call him that. Just Trump. There has been a Muslim woman who was told to hang herself with a headscarf. There are Muslim women who are having their hijabs pulled off their heads and choking on the way falling down, and being robbed. A person who was a Mexican, a Hispanic individual, told that they can't wait until Trump tells them to deport all their people.
All these incidences are happening. It is scary. There's a reason people are scared. It's so easy to dismiss it and say, get over it. It's not that hard. I saw those exact words on Facebook, but this is our reality. This is now my time to step up and start vocalizing and be a better advocate and talk about it. Start the conversation.
When I was the President of the Muslim Student Association at Ball State, we held Islamic Awareness Week. The events that I really wanted, we were able to execute them really well. We had a talk on Islam and feminism. We had a Try on a Headscarf Day. They tried on 200 headscarves. We gave out free scarves. They were able to try them on. We put them on them and talked to them a little bit what it was about.
We also did Ask the Muslims. Two professional Muslims, two college student Muslims starting the conversation. We addressed the Chapel Hill shooting of the three young individuals who were there at that time. We were doing our advocacy before. I've always talked to my friends about intelligent discussions of what it means and all these things, but it's now more important than ever because of the unfortunate things that have come into play because of Trump and his presence now.
I've never been scared of anything. Not scary movies. Not anything like that. Now I'm scared. That to me, it's not defeat. It's just now I need to take precautions to protect myself, but I won't allow this to defeat me or scare me further. I will take steps that there is no longer that. I don't know. I don't want to feel like that. That's not okay. This is my home.
There's positives and negatives sometimes, but I think a lot more positives than negatives. The hijab has brought in so much positivity. Being a Muslim has brought in so much positivity in the things that I keep my hope, that I keep my strength in all those things. It's been such a positive light in my life, in such a hard time for all of America.
My name is Noor. I'm 21 years old. I grew up in West Lafayette, Indiana. I was born in Pakistan. I came to America in 2002. I’m currently a senior in Marketing and Management. I had a very untraditional route of being at Purdue. I was a transfer student, so I went to Ball State for half the time. Growing up I didn't want to go to Purdue, but later when I decided that business was my place I came back because I knew that Krannert is such a great place and it's a great fit for me.
I had a very fun childhood. I was a very optimistic, positive kid. Nothing got me down. My mom is a single mom; when I was young, my parents got divorced when we were in Pakistan, when I was around five. We came to America when my mom wanted to pursue her second Master's, then eventually her PhD here at Purdue. She was in Educational Technology and Distance Learning Education, in the College of Education. I have one younger sister. She's a student at University of Carolina at Charlotte now.
The dynamic of my family was always my sister, my mom, and I; then a lot of times my grandparents would visit. My grandparents have children around the world, in England, Canada, and America, and Pakistan. They came and lived with us a lot; they helped raise my sister and I. They became like a second mom and a dad.
At home we would speak Urdu. We started forgetting our language when we came because we would speak English at school, on the playground, everywhere. Then my mom made a rule where we had to keep speaking our language at home and nothing else. I'm so lucky for that because I'm multi-lingual now because of that.
I had a really, really fun childhood. It was very simple. We lived in Purdue Village for a hot second when we came, which was honestly one of my favorite places we lived. We have so many bigger houses now, right? That was just a simpler time and it was fun. We moved to Lindberg, near Klondike. I went to Klondike Elementary School and Middle School. Then Harrison High School. It really shaped me; I was very involved ever since I was young, in National Junior Honor Society, Student Council, volleyball.
I started playing volleyball the year I started my headscarf. There was nothing I couldn't do. I did everything I wanted with a headscarf on. My identity as a Muslim, my identity as part of now becoming an American. Then my identity also as a Pakistani.
I think those are all three different things. Pakistani isn't necessarily intertwined with Muslim. There's so many things that you balance growing up. Being the older sister, I didn't really have a figure who could talk to me about having a single parent, or what is it like to balance all those different identities, because they all shape and make you. I figured it out somehow, and through my mom, the way she raised me and what she instilled in me. Just falling into the right places, I was able to do a decent job.
I got very lucky; being in West Lafayette, you are surrounded by a little bit more of an educated area. In Harrison, we had a lot of Purdue students' children. I was part of the Tippecanoe School Corporation since I was six years old. Before I even started wearing my headscarf, I was with the same elementary school classes going up. People knew me. In 6th grade I wasn't wearing it. In 7th grade I started to wear it.
People knew me before, and they knew my heart and how I was and everything like that. I had never faced anything like that. I didn't know racism was a thing. I was a very innocent kid who just took others for who they were. I got very, very lucky that the people that I was surrounded by, didn't bring those things to the table at that point.
When I started wearing the headscarf, literally my main concern was that nobody would recognize me. I didn't know that there was racism towards it. I wore it because I fell in love with it for what it stood for. I researched it so much before I wore it. I loved it. I chose to wear it. When you go through puberty is the recommended age to start wearing it. I started wearing it a week before 7th grade started. I was, "Mom, no one's going to recognize me at all." She was like, "No, you're going to be fine."
In school, I was just another kid. I was just going through school. Only difference was I was wearing a headscarf and I carried myself slightly differently. I was able to observe my religion the way I wanted to. I was able to take off all religious holidays if I needed to. Never a problem like that. I wish I had a story, but I honestly don't so I'm very thankful for that.
Literally the only that that happened is as I started school, people just asked questions. Nobody said I couldn't do anything. Nobody judged me. Maybe they did, but silently. I don't know. I was very, very lucky that did not taint my beginning experience.
In middle school, I did have incidents with three teachers who were racist towards me. Everybody knew they didn't like me for no reason. A lot of teachers liked me because I was just a goody two shoes type kid back then. But those teachers didn't like me for no reason. I didn't get it. I didn't get that it was related to that. I didn't correlate it with that. I was just like, oh they're just mean. I just went about my day. I was like, okay next. I was just too happy to let them get me down.
Then another incident I can think of, in high school it was very smooth sailing. Nothing again stopped me. Only time was one racist kid that I grew up with, and I didn't even know he was, but he passed a really, really harsh comment about how if he saw me at the airport, he would be as scared of me as he would of a terrorist. I was shocked. I started shaking. I didn't know how to address these situations. I stand my ground. I know I'm very certain of myself, but in that moment you don't know how to act.
Those are the only experiences in my span of K-12. Which I think it sucks that those happened, but I'm very blessed that I don't have the same experiences as some people I know from bigger cities, and stuff that's happened to them.
In college, honestly it's been a really awesome time. I've been a leader throughout both campuses that I've been a part of. The only incident, it's not even racism, it was just a generalization. Kind of a microaggression, my professor thought I was an international student and didn't speak English. Their intent was nice, but it was nothing major though. I got very, very lucky in the path that I've taken, that I've been able to go through in life, and the people that I've been surrounded by.
Islam and Feminism
I always thought Islam has built-in feminism. The amount of rights Muslim women have in Islam were revolutionary compared to the rights that women had around the world at that time, and continue to have. Muslim women in general, the rules elevate women so much. I was a feminist before I knew feminism and feminist was a thing. That's how I always identified. I didn't know I was, but I was.
When I joined the Ball State speech team, I was interviewing, and my coach introduced herself as, "I'm Mary Moore. I'm this, this, this, and I'm a feminist." I was like, interesting. Throughout my experience with her, she was like, "Isn't that part of your identity? Do you introduce yourself like that?" I'm like, "I think my faith has it intertwined that it's just like when people know I'm a Muslim, they know I should be a feminist." I thought it was hand in hand. It's common sense. Like equal rights and all these things. When you say equal rights it means a lot of things to a lot of people.
One flaw with the entire feminist movement is that sometimes we don't include everyone in our definition of feminism. Feminism is so important but you cannot define it for everyone. You can't define feminism for a certain individual because you don't know their walk of life. Feminists in the west need to re-evaluate and include and have an all inclusive feminism for everyone.
Through the speech team, I learned more about western feminism between what in general feminism is supposed to be and being educated in that. Seeing that in my speeches when I researched it, I'm so more aware and mindful of it now. Not that I personally experienced it, like some act or anything, but I'm aware about how a lot of times in the west it means equal rights, equal rights, equal rights. It means they want us to do the same thing. That's totally fine. That is what you need here, maybe you need as your definition of feminism, but that's not what a Muslim woman needs.
In Islam, Muslim women have an insane amount of rights but there are different roles that men have and different roles that females have. It doesn't mean that either can't do the other role. It does not mean that, but people don't understand it. It's normally the way it is in Islam. The man is always supposed to be the provider of the house. That is one of his roles. It does not mean a woman cannot be the provider of the house. My mother is a single mother. She was my mother and my father. She raised me on her student salary when she was doing her Master's and PhD. She's as much of a Muslim as the person next to her at the mosque.
It's just the feminism, I think it needs to be all inclusive. I think we need to be mindful of what other people's definition is, what every woman wants for themselves. Do not voice what they want. Do not think you know what that woman wants for her own life. Do not undermine other people and their decisions that they make.
When western feminists start talking about how #nohijabday, take off your hijab, because it's okay to take it off. They were undermining a decision Muslim women choose to make every single day. That's not okay. That is what taints the feminism name at times, when you're not all inclusive, and you're not aware of what you should be doing. You do what you think. You undermine a lot of people. It is important, and it's a good thing that they are taking a stance and starting. Education and awareness is the first step of bettering their versions of feminism for those who have a close-minded
This goes for the people in the east and west. People in the east maybe not understand not the version of feminism women in the west have, and they don't accept it. That's not okay either. Vice versa. It's a two way street. We need to all be very inclusive and understand it means different things to different people. Telling somebody to wear something and telling somebody not to wear something, is the same form of oppression.
Don't be telling people what to wear and what not to wear. That's not your place. Do what you need to do to wear whatever the hell you want to wear, but don't sit here and preach to the people who are not wanting to listen to what you have to say.
Islam has shaped a lot of my life, and growing up in America has shaped it as well. Being Pakistani has shaped it as well. I take a lot of pride in the different things that are part of who I am, and I will never be apologetic about it.
As a Muslim woman, as all the things that I've said that I identify as, Islam has just been a constant thing that has always been there in my life, and so many things have been not there. That is something that has always given me positivity, love, education. It's encouraged me to question things and find out things that are right for me, and find the beauty in the world. Not only through my faith but through the individual that I am. It's been such a positive light.
It's unfortunate the things that are going on, but these kind of things about awareness and starting these conversations. I want other people to start the conversations. If you have a question, with a sincere heart, ask a Muslim friend. Ask a person who can lead you to a Muslim friend. I think sincerity as an ally is the biggest thing you can do, and bring to the table. With a sincere heart, do your best. When sincerity is there, your actions follow through. Even if you don't have guidelines on how to stand up for someone, a sincere heart will find a way.
Watch Noor's TEDxBallState Talk