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Meet the Modern Muslim-American Family

Julia Vandenoever

I never thought I would cross-reference baby names with the names of terrorists. But we did.

It's something to consider when you're a Muslim living in the U.S. Not to mention that traditional Muslim names are often mispronounced. At home we pronounce our daughter's name as Furah. But at school, she's called Farah.

Shortly after Furah was born, we had to fly out of town. It was odd that we couldn't check in online. Once at the airport, we found out why. “Your daughter has been flagged as a security risk,” the agent told us. “I'm sorry.”

When I was pregnant with my son, I told my husband, “Maybe we should name him George. It's as patriotic as can be.” We settled on Emre, a modern Turkish name. To this day, my mother still has trouble spelling it.

We are constantly trying to balance the American way of life with our traditional Muslim upbringing. Take, for example, the high-level negotiations I had with the school lunch planners about not giving our daughter pork. Our religion forbids it, and it's a restriction we take seriously. During a conference, Furah's second-grade teacher remarked (and I don't think positively) that our daughter was obsessed with whether her food had pork in it. I knew she was set. Now I'm working on getting Emre to say “yuck” to pepperoni.

Speaking of my son, he was telling us about a girl in his class. My daughter asked if she was his crush. Is there a dating scene in kindergarten?! Raised with a strict no-dating policy, and having a semi-arranged marriage, I may be seriously ill-equipped for this.

But our Muslim family is as American as yours. And there is a real beauty to being Muslim here. The opportunities we have, the protection from harm and the economic stability are all far superior to the majority of Muslim countries. There, the family you are born into and who you know dictates your life, no matter how smart or hardworking you are. Although Islam preaches advancement through merit, the U.S. is the only country in which this ideal can be achieved. My daughter may not be able to drive in Saudi Arabia, but she could become president of the U.S.

Inshallah (a word used by Muslims meaning “God willing”), my kids will grow up proud of our heritage. Our ancestors translated Greek texts when Europe was in the Dark Ages. They built the Taj Mahal, and gave us the lead singer of Queen. I hope they'll feel uniquely American because they are Muslim. Or at least say no to pork.

Aliya G. Hasan, M.D., lives in Denver. To expose her children to her native language of Urdu, they watch Bollywood movies together.

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