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Am I A Muslim?

I pray, I fast
I believe, I abstain
Does that make me a Muslim?
I dance, I sing
I laugh, I smile
Does that make me not a Muslim?
What makes a Muslim?
Is it the way I look?
The way I dress?
The language I speak?
Do I fit your mold?
Must I fit?
Should I try to fit?
Am I a Muslim?

For my first blog post I chose to incorporate one of the main themes of the course, the multi-faceted aspect of Islam, with one of the primary art forms we have seen so far, poetry. Professor Asani began the semester by encouraging us to abandon our preconceived notions of Islam. We are often presented with stereotypical images of Muslims – Arab, bearded, hijabi, terrorist – the list goes on and on. We are told that Islam says this and does that. However, Islam is a religion; it does not say or do anything. It is people who say and do things. This is a fact that is often forgotten or overlooked in modern culture. We are so often presented with a single, unchanging image of Islam and Muslims that we forget that just as there is not one way to be Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, etc, there is not one way to be Muslim.
As I am not much of a poet, I made my poem as simple as possible, focusing on dispelling the idea that there is only one Islam. In the first stanza, I listed many of the common beliefs about Muslims, most of them drawing from the widely recognized “Five Pillars of Islam”. In the second stanza I described some actions that I think many people would not typically associate with Islam. As we have seen in the video clips in class, there are many Muslims who use both song and dance as a means of bringing themselves closer to Allah. I then questioned some of the stereotypical depictions of Muslims, such as their style of dress and their language. On the first day of class we learned that the majority of Muslims do not live in the Middle East and as we saw in “Koran by Heart,” many pious, practicing Muslims do not even speak Arabic.
Ultimately, the goal of this poem was to highlight the many fallacies about Muslims and Islam that persist today. There is not one way to practice Islam and there is not one way to be Muslim.

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