Sohaib Sultan on Identity
Sohaib Sultan and his wife Arshe spoke about this year's theme of identity on November 11, discussing some of the challenges they have faced in finding their own as Muslim Americans. The couple speaks to different communities like ours with the hope of educating people on Muslim culture, and changing the stereotypes we so often hear associated with it.
Sohaib is the full-time Muslim Life Coordinator and Chaplain at Princeton University. He has always felt it is his role to act as a bridge-maker for the Muslim people, answering questions about his culture from a very young age. Growing up in Indianapolis, he was quickly made aware of his differences. He said it was in third grade on the seesaw at recess that he was first asked about his religion. From then on, Sohaib made it his duty to educate the world on Muslim culture. He shared that the most difficult bridge he has to build is with those people who have already made up their minds on Islam. “Our identity is not fixed,” Sohaib said, "and so much of our identity is something put on us by other people.” He urges people to open their minds and create their own identity.
Arshe, also a Muslim American, grew up under different circumstances. Raised in Brooklyn, New York, she was surrounded by an array of culture. Engrossed in the diversity of New York, she never felt out of place. That was until her senior year of college at NYU. On September 11, 2001 everything changed. New York was no longer an open and comforting place for her. People looked at her differently and saw her just as a Muslim, not for her true identity. She revealed that for her, there is a “pre 9/11 world and a post 9/11 world.” She does not want to be noticed just for her Hijab—the name of the headdress she wears—or whispered about as she prays. Rather, she would like to be seen for the person she is. She hopes people will look beyond the stereotypes of Islam, and be open to education on the religion. The couple is proud of where they come from, what they practice, and their own individual identities.
-Anna Walker '14