My Islamic experiences in New York City (Part I)


 I have been here in this city for over a decade now. So, I have a good idea of how people are here and how things work. New York City is one of those places where you’ll see a homeless man singing over the top of his lungs in a crowded subway and everyone will act like as if he doesn’t exist. Yeah, that’s normal here. For me, this is one of the good things about New York. The fact that you can do almost whatever you please – put on the weirdest clothes ever made, eat the oddest looking food that you wish, speak any language regardless of how strange it might sound to others, and the list goes on. In the end, as long as you’re not directly bothering anyone, many New Yorkers won’t even blink at you.

Now, what does this mean for me as a Muslim? Well, firstly, it means we have the freedom to dress in shalwar kameez and thobe (or hijab, for sisters) in public and no one will look at you as if you just landed from Mars. I have heard of stories in other, less diverse, areas of the country, where wearing Islamic clothing can get you mean and dirty looks from the local residents. Here, however, Alhamdulillah, majority of the people are accepting of different cultures, nationalities, and religions. After all, New York City is one of the biggest cities in the world, so it definitely has its perks.

Having the freedom to be able to adhere to our Islamic and cultural ways so openly, a lot of Muslims have developed an identity here throughout the past several decades. There are many areas of the city throughout the five boroughs which are famously known to be populated by Muslims hailing from the Arabian peninsula, the Subcontinent (Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh) and Africa. So, another of my interesting experiences is being able to get the diverse taste of Muslim cultures from so many corners of the world, all in one city.

We have restaurants serving food from different corners of the Muslim world in very close proximity. So, you can try out authentic Somali canjeero, delicious Turkish shawarma, or tasty biryani from Pakistan, all without having to travel halfway across the globe. Oh, and, let’s not forget about the Halal Carts and their famous white sauce!

The fact that you get to see your brothers and sisters in Islam from places you’d never even hear about if it wasn’t for you being in New York, it instills a sense of unity in me. Even though we are from different places, we all have one thing that unites us all – la ilaha illallah muhammadur rasulullah (There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah). This is the unity of this Ummah that goes above race, color, ethnicity, nations, social status, professions, etc.

And, we truly get to witness the unity in places like masjids, during Islamic events, and in MSAs at colleges and universities. A Yemeni, a Pakistani, a Bengali, a Ghanaian standing next to each other and making sujood to One God, sitting together and sharing stories and jokes, or just going out to eat, these are the Islamic experiences we would not be able to enjoy in our home countries. Alhamdulillah for Islam!

It’s clear that New York City has its benefits for us Muslims living here. However, unfortunately, it isn’t always as pleasant and peaceful as we’d like it to be. Why do I say that? Find out in Part II.

Experience submitted by Brother Anonymous