Sarah Sumayah Noor, a health administration major at the University of Memphis, explained the reality of her faith and what she has experienced while living in the heart of the Bible Belt.
Born in Bangladesh to a devout Muslim family, it was not uncommon for Noor to see women covering their heads in traditional hijabs or for her family to “help” her older sister find a husband or for people to make sacrifices in the name of Allah.
However, in America, not everyone Noor has interacted with is as comfortable as she is with these things, especially in Memphis, Tenn. She believes the biggest reason for the proverbial elephant in the room is due to ignorance.
“People do not take time and educate themselves about my religion,” Noor said. “When they see me and understand that I am just like them, that’s when they start to understand me more.”
She says that the misconception that all Muslims are terrorists or suicide bombers is the reason her parents did not want her to wear anything pertaining to her religion after 9/11.
Noor explains that most of the misconceptions start with ignorance of the true concept of jihad. Jihad is the concept of humbling yourself before God, striving and struggling in the name of God and performing a good deed with good intentions.
“Running into traffic to save a child for the sake of God and love for humanity in the name of jihad is the proper way to risk your life for others,” Noor said.
Taking peoples lives in the name of jihad is the opposite of the definition. Not only is jihad a concept of risking life for others, it is the reason women cover themselves from head to toe.
“A woman wearing the hijab is not a form of oppression. She is going against society, humbling herself in the name of God, devoting herself to God,” Noor said.
Noor believes that when a woman is covered it forces men to see her inner beauty and character, rather than judging her for what she looks like.
“I have always been interested in what the reason is behind them wearing the coverings," Mike Owens, resident of the University District said. "I have just never had the guts to ask. I didn't want to offend them.”
Noor also wanted to clear up the misconception of arranged marriages. When her sister was old enough to be married, her parents went to her and asked if she was interested in anyone. To their surprise, she wanted to be married but did not have anyone in mind.
With her sister’s permission, the family helped her look for a suitable mate. These men had to send in their profiles.
"It is like online dating, just on paper,” Noor said.
After her sister met her suitable mate, they arranged the time and place for a meeting and the rest is history.
Noor has taken time to visit her friend's churches and Bible studies in Memphis and has been open to learning others' faiths. She longs for the day when others will be more open to learning the truth about hers.