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You’re listening to stateside I’m Cynthia Canty Hope College is a small , private liberal arts college near Holland in West Michigan. Founded in 1862 in partnership with the Reformed Church in America . So it’s Christian identity is very central my next guest is among its more than 3300 students . Let’s say she brings a different point of view to hope Sophia her tab is a freshman at hope studying English and computer science and she is Muslim she’s turned her experience of being Muslim in West Michigan into an award-winning essay titled through the Sophia her tab is with us now via Skype . Welcome , good to have you here . Good to be here , so you are from Chicago . You are Muslims . So why did you choose the small Christian College in West Michigan .
It’s actually kind of funny hope was like at the bottom of my list of places I wanted to attend. Just because I thought I wanted a large institution no religious affiliation everything that hope was was like the complete opposite is what I wanted . You know , I had to keep visiting for like scholarships and other interviews and stuff and my emissions who’s absolutely fantastic . He was like , you know what , you never really knows you like a place until you stay overnight the overnight taste of hope is what it’s called . And I was like , well , I’m going to be here . Might as well . Right . And I did the overnight and it was one of those moments where I’ll never forget it . I was like , crying in my posts dorm room because my heart was so full of God in that moment . In a way I didn’t really know how to describe and it just felt like I needed to be there and when I finally got my last letter I was immediately like all right . Dad the credit card .
Think let’s do this thing right and now you have turned this experience of being Muslim in West Michigan at this small Christian college you’ve turned it into an essay called through the dome and you have won a prize for best addressing the experience of being Muslim in America. Tell us a little about this prize .
So the harder Razia share Shia prize is nonfiction and it’s in poetry and it’s through the Oakland arts review which is hosted 2 Open University so I submitted for nonfiction. You don’t have to be Muslim to actually submit anything but it’s all about sort of the joys and the challenges of being a Muslim in America or Islam in America .
Yes. And here you are being honored . In a sense , for being a voice for your Muslim sisters and brothers .
Which is crazy because I’ve it’s it’s just the same. Well , I tell you what , would you read us a little bit from through the Dome . Yeah , sure . So what did you think about your overnight visit my admissions representative beamed his teeth catching the glare of the window son did it give you some guidance , how was I supposed to explain just how wide I felt how I felt I could fly up through the swing scrapers back home and hug their aluminum frames or float away like the picture of my dad is exhausted form leaning over the bakery sink washing dishes in the ’90s . I think it did give me some guidance if his mouth could smile any wider it did Sophia . I want to caution you he leaned forward in his chair striped tie shifting past news you’re going to be different .
A beautiful writing beautiful , beautiful writing in Sofia knowing that truth there , I mean it’s a big adjustment for everybody when they leave home and go to college , knowing that you would be more different. How did you feel about that going in .
It was a terrifying experience I grew up in Chicago , a break. Live in the suburbs , and so it’s very diverse like if I tell someone I’m Muslim nobody even raises an eyebrow but Holland is very not like that , and I knew this going in there were people there who had never met a Muslim . You know a lot of these people come from like really small Christian towns and they just never encountered anybody of any other state , let alone something as you know , criticized so much in the media today as like Islam is it was a really scary experience cause I was like , what if people find out what is people find out and you know like I get . It’s a small campus like I’m not a perfect person and I definitely made assumptions that mediation like what kinds of assumptions . I think some of the fears I just assumed that people weren’t going to be as accepting as they were , I assume that the people who didn’t know anything about Islam might make the worst case assumption that you would be , you know , some sort of terrorist or some sort of Isis supporter , which is like almost no Muslims ever like most Muslims take Isis and any Islamic terror group with a burning passion . I think part of it is you’re forced to sort of make these assumptions because you’ve experienced them like I have experienced being called a terrorist I’ve experienced being screened out of my friends’ homes you know in displays where I’m from which is pretty diverse I’ve been yelled out of my friend’s house who bothered found out I was a Muslim , like screened in the out of her house line . These are things that genuinely happen in my brain was like if this can happen in a diverse town as much as the strict cargo and its surrounding suburbs , what’s it going to be like an atomic Hamlin word super Christian .
But you embrace that you took the jump and you you basically gambled so here you are nearing the end of your first year at help how has the experience matched up with those assumptions. When you came in last fall .
Totally not what I expected period , most people honestly didn’t even care. I would tell them that I was Muslim , and they were just kind of shrug if anything people were super interested would I’m totally cool about like if you want to know more about my fate please ask and so people would like just feel like so excited . You like can we sit down and talk about Irish friend one time found out I was Muslim . It was like , Are you doing anything right now and I was like , not immediately rags me by the arm into her room and was like we’re talking about this now because I’m so interested . I had one reaction which really threw me off , which was I told this person I was Muslim , and they just kind of looked at me as her like oh okay and they sort of like walked away things then they would they were friend of mine like they’d know me before they found out it was Muslim . Yeah and they would like I need to process this will become a league win away like handles on their own in back totally . Finally , a few days later . So , and I’m curious how has .
Your view of Christianity Sofia Ben impacted by this time you’ve spent at hope.
I never really had like a super negative view on Christianity. I think any form of religion is great honestly as long as it gives you a moral compass this like you start really using religion to justify immoral actions I get kind of hurt you know scene was like people who don’t follow or religion like as long as religion or no religion makes you a better person . I really don’t care so might Christianity hasn’t changed . I think I’ve become more enlightened about things about Christianity how people practicing how people practice differently , but I didn’t know that most Protestants don’t cross themselves just small things like that like I’ve attended a couple of church services like I definitely gotten a better grasp of what Christianity is and you know why it has to offer to people . Does that make sense . It does .
Indeed it doesn’t it in your , in your essay through the John you quote some verses from the Koran and there is one that I want to ask you about you quote this verse we will test you in fear hunger loss of wealth life in fruit but give glad tidings to the patient. What were you feeling when you wrote that and why was this verse are resonating with you .
It’s a burst that’s always resonated with me I deal with chronic illness and have my entire life Muslims look at everything in life is a test from God as a test of faith as a test of persistence as a test of you’ve vs temptation and for me , that was always a verse that was like when you’re broke in and when you’re down and when you’ve gone through all these difficult experiences. The only way out is through and the only way through his patients and so I’ve always seems like when I’ve been broken , and when I did Downing when things have been heart is hope hasn’t been easy . It’s been hard being away from a with the strong Islamic community are really strong community of people like me .
It’s a beautiful verse , and it’s interesting week you can almost counter it with a verse from James from the epistle of James considerate joy my brother when UN encounter various trials , knowing that the testing of your faith producers endurance it’s indeed so much of the same sentiment.
Yeah , it’s actually really interesting because when I was writing this memoir peace. One of my .