Religion: My Greatest Struggle | Teen Ink

Religion: My Greatest Struggle

June 3, 2019
By Layla369 BRONZE, Abu Dhabi, Other
Layla369 BRONZE, Abu Dhabi, Other
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Religion. What does that word mean to you? In Egypt, or at least in my community, no such question could be asked. There is never room for questions, concerns, statements, opinions, or different interpretations about religion here. There are only facts that have been known for ages, and can never be disagreed with. That is what religion was to me; it was a cage with no escape. I had to pray five times a day; I had to fast during Ramadan; I had to condemn people who were not of the same religion, sexuality, or ideology as me. This was never a question; it was a must.

This is how I lived the first sixteen years of my life. I hated my beliefs, my sexuality, my thoughts, myself, and did not understand why God had forsaken me and forced me into a world where sin was my only option and hell my only ending point. Pushing my beliefs down worked for a while, until I realized it was only destroying me more. I hated the cowardly, closed-minded person I had become, but still forced myself to fit into the mold society expects me to, because I didn’t want anyone poking around the fake bubble I had built around myself, knowing it would burst at the slightest touch, and the real me would be exposed. It was not until I attended “Seeds of Peace International Camp” that I finally began to wrap my head around the reality of my actions.

Seeds of Peace is a peace-building annual camp that takes place in Maine, USA, where Palestinians, Israelis, Egyptians, Americans, and Jordanians gather for a three-week period to discuss the Arab Israeli conflict. Over there, the Egyptian delegation was one of the smallest delegations present – we hardly got to see each other during the many activities and dialogues planned throughout the day. The point of this setup was to push each of us out of our comfort zone, enabling us to evolve as individuals and learn to accept people no matter how different the worlds they come from maybe.


It was on campground where I finally came to realize what I had become: a mimicked copy of people who continuously made me feel terrible about myself – just so I could blend into my community. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that mine becoming this people had probably made others feel terrible too, and decided to stop this charade once and for all. I finally understood that I cannot be truly happy when pretending to be someone I am not, and that religion is a very personal aspect of one’s life. Even though I should have known this all long, I finally realized that it is not up to people to tell someone whether they are doing something “right or wrong”, because both are subjective abstracts. I am proud of my decision to accept who I am and become a change-maker in my community. As of then, I have been working to sensitize others in the concepts of acceptance and empathy, two traits my society is in dire need of.

 Due to societal pressures, I often find myself falling back into the cycle of craving approval from others, and I start to consider reversing everything I had learned. In that moment, I pause, and remind myself that this is who I am, and I do not want to change me. Every day, I remind myself to set an example for the next girl who is too scared to ask all the questions she wants to in Religion class. This is me, Laila. I do not identify as a Muslim, an agnostic, a Christian, a Jew, a Buddhist, or any other religious ideology. I do not judge others for their ideologies or choices. I am not different, or strange, or weird as many have called me. I am simply human. 

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