Huffington Post interviewed two Muslim teen girls from different corners of America — seventeen-year-old Salsabel Fares who lives in Florissant, Missouri, and Arshia Hussain, also seventeen, who lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. The girls talked about a wide range of matters including wearing the hijab, balancing prayer and school activities, and what worried them most. Here are some snippets from the fascinating (and delightful) interviews.
On Muslims in their home towns:
Arshia (Minnesota): The Muslim population is growing. We haven’t had a masjid here (mosque), but we are trying to get one. We have Friday prayers in our local community center… I went to a private Islamic school until high school. I grew up with Muslims and learned alongside Muslims. When I went into mainstream public school, that was a big change for me… in [public school] you’ll see more different types of religions.
Salsabel (Missouri): I live in the northern part of St. Louis which is really diverse. We have a lot of Muslims, more than in the West County. The more west you go, the less you see diversity and the less you see Muslims… I go to a school where 27 languages are spoken. I don’t feel outcasted at school and when I go to the store and stuff like that I don’t feel that terrified.
Do you think your non-Muslim classmates understand your faith?
Arshia (Minnesota): My classmates and friends are of all different backgrounds honestly. There are other Muslims who wear hijab in my school, too. Most of my friends that I know, I can trust them and they support me.
Salsabel (Missouri): So many of my non-Muslim friends stick up for me. They see racism happening outside of school and they speak to me about it and talk to me about their frustrations.
When did you start wearing hijab?
Arshia (Minnesota): I was required to wear a hijab in middle school [at my old Islamic school]. They had it as a uniform. I didn’t start wearing it outside of school until seventh grade. My mom does it and most of the Muslims around me do it. I was already wearing it at school, so I thought I might as well start wearing it everywhere.
Salsabel (Missouri): In my family [all the women] wear hijab. I grew up knowing that I’d have to wear it when I finally become an adult.
What are some challenges you think teenage American Muslims have to face these days?
Arshia (Minnesota): The one thing I’ve struggled with is praying five times a day, which is mandatory. But a lot of people’s agendas and schedules, things like galas and sports games, they go through that prayer time and it’s harder to move around that prayer time when you’re conforming to other people’s schedules… Another challenge is just college, ACT prep. The same thing as any other kid. Just getting ready for life.
Salsabel (Missouri): A big one [challenge] would probably be praying. You know how we’re supposed to pray five times a day? No Muslim teenager will tell you that they pray five times a day. I try to pray all of them, but I still struggle sometimes… Another struggle for sure is wearing the hijab for us females, as soon as you hit high school. In middle school, the family starts asking, “When do you want to wear it?” The more they ask, it puts a lot of pressure on a girl. Because what if a girl doesn’t want to wear it. What does she do? Another challenge in general is just fitting in. Any teenager, they just want to fit in.