FEATURE: Creative Submissions


The strongest five letters that each one of us has to face
Mother, father, husband, wife, brother, sister, friend.
Target unnamed, time unknown
Strong, weak, rich, poor, sick
A process where discrimination is purely nonexistent
To continuously remember those that have died would be death of hope
To continuously remember what comes after death would be death of humanness

To remember death at every moment of every day would be death of life
Therefore we have been blessed with the greatest blessing of them all
The ability to forget yet be constantly reminded.

They try to break me.
They use every stick and stone
Every word, to try and break me
To define me as someone other than myself

They’ve told me where to gather and where I couldn’t
What to wear and what I shouldn’t
You can build, but not here
It’s not you; we’re just trying to be fair

Call yourself this name, but not that
Talk about this topic, but don’t go near that
And if I step out of line
I suddenly find myself on the frontline
Defending myself as public enemy number one
You’re either with us or someone to be shunned

And as I walk down the street, I can hear their whispers
But I don’t even need to hear every word they say
Because sometimes a look in the eye
Can tell stories longer than any novel you can buy

And even if I don’t hear them at all
Just by the way they step aside
I can tell all the thoughts they have inside
As they try and avoid me at any cost
I can tell that they think that I’m scary and weird
Intellectually challenged, and someone to be feared

Yet, they call themselves tolerant
You can stay, but I’ll avoid you like the plague
Unless you agree to change

Be the person society has defined for you, shaped for you, ingrained in people’s minds for you

But I won’t change to fit their shallow conformities
I won’t let them make me question my loyalties
Because it’s not them that I seek or fear
It’s my Lord, the One who created me

So whisper all you want
Because if I listen to what you say, or give it second thought
Not only will I lose this world, but the one I’ve always sought.

In the Playground

Shirt tucked, hijab secured–I swing my legs up onto the playground bar and quiver into balance. Awkwardly perched on the peak, I look down before I let myself fall backwards. Every fiber in my body yells a prayer that escapes as a whisper through clenched teeth. Bismillah-hir-rahman-nir-rahim. “In the name of God, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful.”

I circle around the bar. I feel my stomach swoop into my throat. One, two spins around. At the third I slip and fall to the ground, my face burning red with confusion.Am I really ready?

A girl comes over and asks if I am hurt. I shake my head and brush away woodchips. Bailey is six years old. Megan, her eight-year-old sister, joins us. I teach them some bar tricks. They are curious, but Megan is curious about something else, too.
“Why do you wear that on your head? Do you want to wear it?” Panic.
“Oh, this? It’s ‘cause of my religion. And I chose to…to wear it.” Trepidation.
“Oh, I guess that you don’t belong to the same religion as me.” Apprehesion.
“Nope, I guess not.” Okay…?
“Bailey, she looks kinda like Gracia, huh?” Relief. Connection.

It was as simple as that. That is when I knew that within those ten minutes we had become friends. There was something about them accepting me that made me accept myself. For many years, I fought to muster the courage to start wearing the hijab. Finally I let go; all my reasons built up to one moment in senior year. But I also fell; it had been a challenge adjusting to my drastic change in identity—until that point in the playground. It was an epiphany. If two little strangers I met could see past my veil, then there was nothing for me to be afraid of. My encounter with them gave me the push to make it over the bar.
SABREEN SHALABI is a second year Political Science major at the University of California, Irvine
AMINAH GALAL is a fourth year History major at the University of California, Irvine
MEENA MALIK is a second year Undecided/Undeclared major at the University of California, Irvine

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