Hey, APC! I’m Angel Samsuhadi, a 15-year-old aspiring journalist born and raised in Northern Virginia. I’m fully Indonesian. My mom is from East Java and my dad is from Jakarta.
This piece was inspired by my struggles with being Muslim, Asian, and a Muslim-Asian. It isn’t a very relatable experience, considering that Muslim Asians are such a small portion of America, but I still find it necessary to let our experiences be heard.
Islam and Asian are not mutually exclusive
“What the hell are you wearing?” He was referring to the hijab that I was wearing for Sunday school. I’m not sure, and I’ll never be sure if this was a reaction of surprise or disgust. When I saw that blue Snapchat notification I expected a funny meme or a ‘wyd’, not chastisement. Over the years I’ve had to get used to chastisement for plenty of reasons. My religion, my race, my sexuality. This off-handed remark wasn’t the first thorn on the rose for me and it definitely wasn’t the last, but this experience pierced my skin deeper than the others had. This one drew blood. Not only because the pain was coming from a boy I thought I liked, but because it was a brash reminder that I’m a walking contradiction. No one would ever expect an Asian girl to be able to love Allah.
I’ve always been an outsider where ever I went. The kids at school made fun of my oriental face with eyes stretched to their ears. They thought it was hilarious when they did this; like they were a caricature artist on the streets and I was the model with features to be contorted and twisted for a silly picture. Even when I moved to a predominantly Asian school I couldn’t fit in with those kids either. I was the wrong type of Asian. What set me apart from the crowd was my eyes. My bug eyes were slightly too large for any human to have, let alone an Asian girl. They knew right away that I wasn’t one of them. I ate with my hands instead of chopsticks. I kiss the hands of elders instead of bow my head. Their eyes may have been smaller than mine but in every other way, I was smaller than them. Their minds were bigger than mine. They absorbed information quicker and easier than I could have ever hoped for. Their pockets were bigger than mine. My friends wondered why I never wanted to invite them to my house. I didn’t have to courage to tell them that my home already had guests of roaches and mice. I had already felt alone in my ethnicity, and I was soon to feel alone in my religion.
With bigger brains came bigger awareness. The kids at school watched FOX news with their parents at 9 pm and watched ISIS and Al-Qaeda run rampant on their screens. At 9 am, they came back to class with cold blood in their hearts for Muslims. For me. I scrambled to defend myself and my people but I couldn’t find the words. The boys liked to debate me about Islam, which was code for berating me into submission. They were more well-spoken than I was and they strategically slipped numbers and statistics where they wouldn’t fit but sounded like they did. Over the course of middle school, I lost my strength to fight. I was sapped of all my energy. I couldn’t bear to try to defend my God any longer so instead, I left Him. It was easy to hide any trace of Islam in me, after all, no one expects an Asian girl to be a “terrorist”.
I was lost for so many years. Rejecting my heritage and religion had set me back so many years. I could barely read Arabic, much less understand it. The same went for Indonesian. I pushed these cultural markings to the back of my brain where they sat and rotted away. The words of God had faded from my memory, leaving me alone with only my own thoughts. In the past, I would sit down for prayer and feel like I was calling for help in an empty cavern. No one was there to listen but me. My voice reverberated against the vast walls and back to my own ears.
I’ve only recently started to rediscover myself. Life has gradually been on the incline. I wish I could give advice on how to forget others and remember yourself, but I’m not sure how to do this either. A bike requires more effort to go uphill than downhill. I have been pedaling frantically to get to the peak, but that’s all I’m really doing. I’m trying to get by and better myself by taking my knowledge and future into my own hands. No more waiting around for anyone to save me. No more tolerating rose thorns that prick my fingers. Here’s the advice that I keep in mind. Whatever force you believe in, whether it be God, aliens, the Universe, maybe just pure chance, has a plan for you. This doesn’t mean that your body will move unconsciously to its end goal. It means that whatever choice you make will be the right choice. Mistakes will be made, but ultimately those mistakes will turn into blessings. Trust in the process the universe has because it will land you in the right place at the right time. Insha’allah.