Growing Up Muslim


  “They call me [a] terrorist or just bad names in general. I’ve actually had people ask me, ‘Do you have a bomb with you?’”

 Orchestra major Brianna McKnight, 10, often gets comments from strangers about her religion. She doesn’t let these comments affect her as she politely tells them, “That’s not me. That’s not us. We don’t condone that.” Brianna practices Islam which she feels is a very misunderstood religion, and despite strangers comments, she has found that LVA is very accepting.

  As part of her religion, Brianna has to pray five times a day. Depending on where the sun is determines the time of each of her prayers. Fajr, which is the early morning prayer, takes place at about 5:30 a.m. in the winter. Duhur is the midday prayer, and Asr is the afternoon prayer. The hardest part is having to pray during school.

  “I would usually pray after school. Like as soon as I got home, but now I have to pray at school because of the time shift, so that’s been kinda hard because we have to wash ourselves before we pray. And it’s really embarrassing because some people are like, ‘what are you doing?’ Because we also have to wash our feet and like sometimes I have my foot in the sink when they walk in,”  said Brianna.

  At night there are two more prayers that she must say before going to bed; Maghrib is the evening prayer, and Isha is the night prayer.

  Before each prayer, Brianna must wash herself, which is called Wudu. She washes her hands, face, arms, feet, neck, head, and ears. After Wudu, Brianna must pray on a prayer mat so that she knows the surface is clean. Each prayer consists of a specific combination of movements called Rakat. One Rakat is standing, bowing, standing, prostrating which is being on your knees with your head to the ground, kneeling and prostrating again. Fajr is two Rakat, Duhur, Asr, and Isha are four, and Maghrib is three.

  Even though Brianna has to pray during school and at home, she doesn’t feel that it takes away from her being a teenager. “I don’t necessarily feel like I’ve missed out on things because of Islam, but sometimes I feel like it distances people from me,” Brianna said.

  Every time Brianna leaves the house, she doesn’t know what to expect. Some days she might get the curious looks and a couple questions. Sometimes she’ll get the occasional comments about being a terrorist and being told to go back to the Middle East. Brianna said, “Most of my experiences as a Muslimah in public have just become standard. The stares and the comments are something I’ve grown used to.”

  Brianna and her family also believe in fasting for Ramadan, the holy month. They fast between the Fajr to Maghrib prayers.  At the end of Ramadan, they celebrate the end of the fasting with the holiday, Eid-Al-Fatir, which translates to “The Celebration of the End of the Fast.” During this time, Brianna celebrates by eating, giving to charities, playing games, reflecting on the changes made in Ramadan, and spending time with her family and loved ones.  

  “I think people like to comment on Islam because they don’t understand it. They don’t take a second to try and to see what the real religion is; all they see is what media portrays us as. People fear what they can’t understand. That’s why a lot of people are afraid of Muslims,” said Brianna.

   Brianna is also the president of Coexist club where her main priorities are to inspire people to make a difference in the world. She enjoys being taught about other people’s religions and cultures as well as telling others about hers. She hopes to one day change the world by teaching people not to be afraid and to understand other people and their choices.