Rip it apart, but at least be constructive thanks!
If ever there were two lines of thought completely different from one another, it was mine and the Islamic community’s. Or at least that’s what I thought. While Islam has very fine, very tailored definitions of gender roles, I was the tomboy playing football in the street in front of the mosque during Ramadan with all the other young boys. Islam and I never really got along, and it was mainly because I felt pushed to fill a role I was not meant to. I stopped living the life of a young Muslim woman part way through high school, but I never thought Islam would find its way back and be the guiding factor in my pursuit of law.
The day I tossed aside the veil that once narrowed my vision was the day I looked to my father through swollen, tear shed eyes and asked him why my mother, my two brothers and I were not enough for him to stay. He looked at me with a face free from doubt, insecurity or grief and said “my Lord tells me I am in the right to do what I have done. I have presented my wife with the option to leave or stay, and she agreed with my decision.” I looked to my mother, the strongest most fervent woman I know, expecting the same piercing look I was used to seeing in her pale blue eyes. To my surprise, I saw a look of defeat that mirrored the feelings I had on the inside. With what I may have mistaken was conviction, she whispered to me “he is doing nothing wrong. My faith tells me it is going to be alright. Allah is testing me to determine my faith in him. Allah knows whether your father is behaving justly, and only he can be the judge of it.”
From that day on, very few words were spoken between me, my submissive mother and my polygamist father. He would stay with us for six months, and the rest he spent in his hometown village in Egypt, where he married another woman and raised a separate family. My father gave what was required by the Islamic faith: equal time, equal resources, equal division. He seemed to be doing everything right. And yet I felt there was something innately wrong with my father’s actions.
While in college I was exposed to types of paternalism that looked differently at face value but had the same affects. My mother was convinced that because he presented her with the opportunity to divorce him, that my father gave her a right to choose. But my mom knows the Islamic faith gives all rights to the father. He could have taken away her three children with no opportunity for her to take us back. Or he could have left her to manage two teenagers and an eleven year old on her own, with a salary meant to support one. It is very obvious now, that my mother had no choice at all. She was forced to agree with my father’s decision knowing every day for six months, his intimacy, affection, and love was elsewhere.
Many women, and even men, have felt the way my mom has. That although options seem available, none lead to roads that are desirable or respectable. Had my mom known her rights and realized what my father was doing was barbaric even for Islamic standards, she would have realized she could have demanded more from my father. This is what makes the law appealing for me. In everyday life, men and women are not aware of the legal protections they have to be treated equally and fairly. Law is ever present, even in an institution so deeply entwined with the culture like Islam. It would be helpful for society to have a connection between the inequalities and dilemmas in their lives, and the law. And in my opinion, that’s what a lawyer can provide: legal remedies to problems that seem irresolvable.
I shed my ties to Islam after that conversation with my parents. This included everything from my five daily prayers to my head scarf. I could not wait for the days where I would not have to live by rules that smothered me into the oppressive distinction that is to be a woman of Islam. Little did I know leaving the faith that was my way of life since I was born would be a harder feat than I had imagined.
As was expected, I was exposed to several of society’s sub-cultures when I went off to college. And while these ideas and ways of thinking felt much more natural to me, I still found the root of my values matched the Islamic teachings I was raised to know. I hoped that my relationship with Islam could be mended, but I needed to reconcile indirectly. Slowly I became comfortable with the idea of opening up again. When I was presented with an opportunity to tutor a few students from the Islamic school I once went to, I thought it could be a way for me to settle some old grudges. Talking with the students about their daily lives made me realize that the life I once lead was not what I made it out to be at all. While my lifestyle still does not conform to the requirements of a decent Muslim, I do not push Islam away as forcefully. I have been able to distinguish Islam that was my faith and Islam that is my heritage.
The students mentioned above were from Sudan, and they were falling behind in their math and science classes at school. I was asked to help them learn the material in the previous year. I found that their struggles stemmed from their lack of confidence in learning the material. Once they felt knowledge was possible, learning the material was no struggle at all. They just needed someone to reassure them that they had the abilities to excel.
If people have access to resources that allow them to get what they want from the law, they will likely feel like the law is there to back them up. Knowledge of the law empowers. I recognized this most while working with the Tucson branch of Project Vote Smart. While the organization worked with legislation more so than litigation, it still provided an excellent example of what it means for people ready access to laws. Consumers had readily accessible information whenever they desired. Every day people could make decisions about what they wanted their society to look like with that information. That feeling is powerful, and it is worth striving for.
(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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