I'm Fatima Taha. I am 20 years old. I am an Elementary Education major. I've lived here for three years now. Both of my parents were born in Sudan and I was born in Indianapolis. I lived there for seven years, until second grade. Then I moved to Saudi Arabia. I grew up there basically my entire life and then I moved back here for college.
I have an older brother, he's 23. I have a younger sister and a younger brother. They're in high school and elementary school. My dad is a pilot. He works in Saudi Arabia for an American company, an oil company called Aramco. My mom is a teacher. She is an ESL teacher. The majority of my family, my extended family lives in Sudan and some around the Middle East but the majority of everyone lives in Sudan. We're a pretty normal family, sometimes. My dad's very Americanized I guess you'd say because he moved here when he was young and he lived in California for the longest time before he met my mom and they moved to Indiana. My mom is kind and wise. I guess we’re pretty normal. Pretty average family.
My dad took some classes at Purdue. He loves Purdue. Because we're residents of Indiana, and because I was born here, it was kind of like, "You're going to go to Purdue," or "You're going to go to Indiana, somewhere in Indiana." I applied to IUPUI, I applied to Purdue, and then I didn't really want to come here. I applied to a lot of schools in the Middle East. I was like, "I want to stay where I'm accepted." To me, we would come here for the summers and it would be weird because I was very insecure because I was a lot younger with wearing the hajib. Inside Arabia I was fine. I never felt that pressure or people staring at me or anything like that.
I think my dad has a really big impact on how we see ourselves because he's a person we look up to. He... How do I say this? He's always had a high opinion of America. Ever since, he's lived here forever and he would always be like, "Yeah, you guys, your passport is a blessing." I always hated that. "Oh, we have to go back to Indiana every summer to visit our home." I'd be like, "That's not home." I would be so mad at my dad. Why do you like this place so much? They don't like us. Why do you like them? He's always seen the positive side of America. He got to work for United Airlines for 20 something years. He just sees all the positive that came out of it and just does not let all the negative affect him. He is an American. "Oh, yeah this is my country." I'm like, "I don't like it."
When I was in high school, "I don't want to go to America this summer. I don't want to leave Saudi. I want to go to Sudan or I want to stay in the Middle East." Then, just having him always seeing the positive side of this country forced me to be like, "Oh, actually, it's not a bad place." I'll just say this. Every place has its faults. His attitude helped me be more positive I guess.
I feel like I have to ... A lot of times people will ask me things and if I don't know the answer to it because there are somethings in the religion that I kind of don't know yet just because I've never was asked them or never had to face anything like that so when someone asks me something and I don't know the answer I feel bad because it's like, "Oh, shoot, I'm probably the only Muslim they're going to talk to." You have that burden on you. But it also focuses you to always educate yourself with things so you're prepared. You don't want to say something and then put someone off. Because they're like, "Oh, that sounds weird. That's such a weird answer."
Ever since the election I've been more involved with news and foreign relations and I never was before. It was always not interesting to me. "Oh, what's happening?" "It’s too complicated for me to care.” But then with that, I was more into it. I would go on Facebook and those little videos that you see. I was really impacted by things like that and I'd get super upset. Those are my people that you're talking about. Those are Muslims. Don't say things like that. That's not true. I'd really be upset.
At one point I was kind of depressed about it. I was super upset. I was like, "I can't," and I stopped going on my phone, watching TV, and I stopped going on social media because I was like, "Things are always out there to hurt me." Then that's a negative thing. A positive thing, the question was negative and positive right?
I guess being a minority in a sense helps you sometimes. People want to hear what you have to say. Some classes I have, I feel like I have a different perspective, which helps other people. I'm like, "Okay, that's an opportunity for me to show who I am in a different way and help other people realize it's not only this. It could be this too."
Something I'd like to tell the world is that if you don't know something, just ask. I love love it when people ask me questions. "Why do you wear hijab?" Things like that. I'm like, "Okay, you're not just keeping in your ignorance. You're trying to ask questions and understand me." That's one thing I was taught, if you don't know then ask a Muslim. If you don't know where to find some, go to the mosque. We're really helpful. The Muslim Student Association is always, "Oh, who wants to talk to this class," or "Let's do this." I'm like, "That's awesome." It's really good to stay informed. Not just with Muslims but with every type of person. I think it's really important. Yeah, also really I'm so normal. I stay up doing homework, watch Netflix, pray five times a day and I go to class. There's nothing scary about Muslims at all.
A Day in the Life
I wake up at six in the morning
to pray our morning prayers
then I usually go back to sleep
because I don't have class until 10:30.
Go back to sleep and then I wake up again.
Drive to campus then head to classes then come to the TRC
if I have breaks between class.
Get my work done.
Throughout the day
you're supposed to pray five times a day.
You have to adjust your schedule based on that
and find time to go to the mosque.
I'm lucky that I'm always at Beering and it's right there.
if you have class
or can’t pray on time
you can pray the prayers you missed.
I tend to do that a lot.
At home, I would make up my prayers
because throughout the day
I'm in class.
My schedule goes from 10:30 to 5:30 nonstop.
It's just hard.
Our religion is not here to overburden us.
You're allowed to be flexible.
As long as you're doing the right thing and striving to be a better person.
The biggest difference is I went to an American international school in Saudi Arabia and so the diversity I think is one of the biggest things. When I lived here, I was really young but I remember it's a majority white school. I went to a public school. I actually had a teacher that was prejudice against me and this other kid. That's the biggest story I remember in first grade. My mom would come into school a lot and have to talk to her. "Oh, you're making my daughter feel bad,". That was something that stood out from going to school here.
Going to school in Saudi Arabia it's just a lot more tolerance, a lot more because it's a huge level of diversity there. There's people from everywhere around the world and so there's never problems like that. Moving back here made me realize that it kind of blinded you from racial problems and things just because you're living in a Utopian society kind of like. It was so perfect. I don't know how to explain it. It was very, you never had prejudices and things like that because we were in this American compound with everyone in the same socioeconomic class, everyone was the same education level, everyone was the same but culturally very different.
Coming here I was shocked because everyone is different but culturally a lot of people are the same. I don't know. Yeah. It was interesting moving here because one thing I think is wearing the hijab obviously. There it was like not wearing a hijab. Completely normal and no one made a big deal. You blended in with everyone because a lot of people did. Then here you feel like you're more responsible of your image because you're so highlighted. You're so singled out based on how you look. It's a different kind of responsibility. Coming here it's like, "Oh, you have to represent Islam." Even though you don't, it's not fair to be the token, to be the spokesperson for your entire culture, or your religion. There it was like, "Oh, I just wear a hijab. I'm me." You're seen for yourself, not for how you look. That's one of the biggest changes coming here.
When I was a freshman I joined the Muslim Students Association really quickly because it was people that I associated with. We were comfortable around each other. Not all of us but people wear hijab and they understand there are certain things we can't do and certain things we must do. I was really invested in it. My freshman year I was the treasurer and then my sophomore year I was the vice president. I love the MSA. Then it was a good and a bad thing. Now when I look back on it I kinda depended on it too much. I was very focused on staying with people who [crosstalk 00:10:19], staying with people I was comfortable with which is fine but you don't really grow too much from that.
Eventually I'm like, "Oh, I'll join that club." I tried to do different things because I was trying to do my resume and I was like, "I don't have much on it." Now with Donald Trump being elected and the atmosphere changing, only being the vice president of the Muslim Student Association isn't valued as much as I wish, you know what I mean, it's a good thing obviously because it's something I really liked and support. I love the Muslim Student Association but if that's the only thing you did then it limits you to living in America because you need to yes, identify with your religion but then that's not it. You need to be a more rounded person. That's what I started doing now. Joining other clubs, meeting other people, with that finding an identity I guess because before I was the Muslim girl as least that’s how I felt in most of my classes.
I think I never thought of myself as American ever until recently. Even now, I'm like, "Am I American?" I am American because my passport's American. I was born here. But what is American? Growing up in Saudi I never really actually, I'd tell people, "Oh, I'm Sudani." Sometimes I'd be like, "Oh yeah, I'm kind of Saudi too." I don't know, I never said, "Oh, I'm American because I'm born in Indianapolis." Now I'm like, because of all the media I'm seeing, the positive media, "Oh, everyone's American. We all belong here and everything." I'm like, "Yeah, I'm American because I have just as much as right to be here as everyone else." Not just because I was born here but because that's how the world should be. I think it's more like saying that I'm American rather than being, "I was just born in Indianapolis." That changed.
Whenever it'd be the first day of class, "Oh yeah, I was born in Indianapolis but I was raised in Saudi Arabia." I’m also Sudanese. It was just like that's it, that’s all I felt people saw me as. But now it's like, "Oh, I listen to Drake, I love drawing, and I watch a lot of netflix. I'm normal." I'm more comfortable with being who I am without censoring it because before it was like, "Oh, what if they think I'm weird," and "They probably think I'm a terrorist." That limited me to certain interactions. I limited myself because of how I believed people saw me.