Girls Under Pressure!


She stares at herself in the mirror. She thinks to herself, does my hijab cover all of my hair? Is my outfit loose enough? Is it too loose? Is it fashionable? Should I wear some lip gloss or will I receive sin? Will Moh notice me today? Is it a sin for me to try and make him notice me? Will I pass my bio exam today? Will Princeton University accept me? Ugh! I wish I could go and relieve myself from all of this stress!

These thoughts aren't the thoughts going through the head of just one Muslim teenage girl, but of many of them, as they wake up in the morning and get ready for school.  Teens all over the world feel a great deal of peer and parental pressure daily. Every teenager experiences a different amount and type of pressure. The question is, do Muslim girls feel more peer pressure than American girls?

Muslim Girls vs. American Girls

Everyone experiences peer pressure, whether they're willing to admit it or not. Teens feel a great deal of peer pressure during their adolescent years. Studies, however, show that girls feel a greater deal of peer pressure than boys do and that they have a harder time adjusting to society. Girls have a lot to worry about. For example, they worry about their looks, families, friends, and studies.

When Hamza Academy Islamic teacher and psychologist Yasmin was asked whether she thought Muslim or American girls felt more peer pressure, she stated, "I think that depends. Girls who are confident in themselves, are firm in their beliefs, and have a strong support system are less likely to feel peer pressure than the average girl. However, for girls who have less self confidence and who are unsure of their beliefs, these girls are likely to face a lot of peer pressure and are likely to succumb to it as well."

Muslim girls may look different, but they really worry about the same exact things as Americans. On top of this, they have a lot of other issues to worry about. For example, while most teenage girls are spending their Saturday afternoons shopping for flashy and stylish shorts and t-shirts, a Muslim girl would probably be praying her afternoon prayer or attending some sort of weekend Islamic school. While an American girl is styling her hair in the morning, making sure she looks like some popular celebrity, a Muslim girl is making sure her hijab covers every strand of her hair, her neck, her ears, and her chest. While the parents of this same American girl may be proud of their daughter earning a B, the Muslim girl's parents are probably disappointed that she received an A instead of an A+.

Muslim girls often want to do the same things that American girls do. Who likes to feel like an outcast? At the same time, they have to make sure that they observe their religion by doing so. According to Yasmin, a person who is well aware of the presence of her creator, or his mercy, and his omnipotence is less likely to be stressed or give into peer pressure. This kind of person finds security and strength that others don't. Therefore, it is easier for this person to turn away from negative peer pressure and to deal with life's difficulties.

Pressure from Friends

Friends have a great deal of influence in the lives of teens. Whether they realize it or not, teens are often a reflection of their friends. A lot of times Muslim girls have a hard time finding other Muslim girls just like them so they end up having close American friends. Even though both girls are best friends since they were little, the Muslim girl often feels embarrassed to talk to her best friend about certain controversial issues. As mentioned before, no one likes to feel like an outcast.  Most girls often end up trying to blend in and do whatever their friends do. Most of the time they end up ignoring their gut feelings. Their friends say to do one thing, while they know they want to do another.

For example, the American girl may be desperately pleading her best friend to take her hijab off for a day and go clubbing with her and her boyfriend. As the American girl picks out a shiny low cut tube top for her friend and tries to find her date, the Muslim girl is probably saying no in her head and heart, but still wants to go out and have a good time. Her religion forbids everything her best friend wants her to do. But at the same time, she doesn't want to seem like a freak in the eyes of her one and only friend. What should she do?

Not only do many Muslim girls have trouble coping with pressure from friends, they also have a hard time adjusting to mainstream society. Lusana Ahsan, a student at Brooklyn College says, "Yes. I do believe that it's harder for Muslim girls to adjust in society than average Muslim girls. She's different because of the way she dresses, acts, and the way she leads her life style. A true Muslim girl prays five times a day. An American girl wouldn't. A Muslim girl would restrict what music she listens to and what TV shows she watches. The same thing goes for the boys. When we think about adapting to society, we think of how well we blend in with others. In that sense, a Muslim girl has to consider more deeply what aspects of society they can imitate and to what extent they have to stick to their own individuality."

Farzana Akter, a student at Queens College boldly states, "I never let anything stop me from what has to be done." She says that some people were mean and prejudiced, but she just ignored them and keeps on moving.

Do all Muslim girls feel the same way? Iman Khwaja, a student at the Muslim school Hamza Academy, says, "Alhamdulillah, Allah makes it easy for me to not give into pressure. When my friends are doing the wrong thing, I try my best to correct them, and if it doesn't work, then I know that Allah is with me and that's all I need. Usually, I'll send out an e-mail correcting behavior, and my best friend usually helps me out with that. If not e-mails, I just correct as I see wrong going on." I don't have any non Muslims friends," Iman continues, "but if I'm ever in a situation when I'm around them, I try to set a good example and give Muslims a good reputation. Most people I've met are very nice and interested, so it's always a good Da'wah opportunity."

She also stated that she doesn't really feel a great amount of peer pressure. "When you have Muslims around you that are constantly trying to better themselves, it makes you a better person, too. When one person picks up a good habit, they encourage the others to do that same. And when everyone around you is doing the wrong thing, it strengthens your Iman and relationship with Allah when you try to correct them. We're all Muslims and encourage each other to enjoin good and forbid evil. I think American girls in school have it worse than me, because they are constantly exposed to drugs, dating, etc. and they've never been taught or believed with conviction that it's wrong. Because of their weak belief in the danger of these things, they don't understand the full extent of it, and they give into the pressure more easily. There are so many people worse off. Compared to them, I've got nothing much to complain about."

Iman is not the only one who feels this way. Lamisa Ahsan, a sophomore at Francis Lewis High School says, "I don't feel left out when hanging out with a group of all American friends, because I choose my friends wisely. Those of my friends that I hang out with comfort me regardless of their race, religion or gender." She also states boldly that she doesn't let such controversial issues bother her, and that she just keeps on walking when she hears such remarks. "I don't feel a lot of peer pressure regarding my religion because I'm happy about what I believe and won't let others people's words change my beliefs."

Parental Pressure

Parents play a huge part in the lives of their children. Their children look up to them as role models. A young child may often copy what his or her mother or father is doing to appear more grown up. However, during the adolescent years a teenager is often trying to figure out who he or she is. A teen may express many sides of their personality. The parent and the teen often become confuse. They're no longer as close as they used to be. Instead of talking about things and laughing at corny jokes, there's yelling, hatred, and doors slamming in faces. Even though a teen may act as if he or she doesn't care about what others say or think about them, they really do. Of those people, they really consider their parents the most.

Parents place a lot of pressure on their children. It may be to do well in school, or become the best athlete. Is all of this pressure good for their kids?  

"I think that the Muslim girls are broken up into two groups. The first one is born and raised in another country. The second one is raised here in America. The first group finds it hard to adjust because they aren't used to the cultures and freedoms of this country. In the second group, the parents don't understand that the environment is very different from the environment that they grew up in," says Yasmin. "I defiantly had problems adjusting to society because I didn't have the ‘all American family' and because my parents were very strict with Me." continues Yasmin, "I grew up here, but my parents didn't. A lot of people did certain things that I never did, so it was very hard to make friends. I definitely felt as if there were thing going on in my life that no one else was going through, or could even identify with or understand." When asked about who she thinks feels more parental pressure, she answered by simply stating, "This also depends from family to family. In families were children are encouraged and supported for an early age and though out their teenage years, girls feel less pressure and more acceptance. This is true regardless of the background or religion of the family in question."

Iman and Lamisa are both American born children. Iman stated that her parents are very supportive and are always encouraging her to do the right thing, because she a role model for her younger siblings. Lamisa, however, is the youngest in her family and is constantly striving to match the quality of her sister's work. Lusana is studying to be a doctor and has an almost perfect score of her SAT. She's also on full scholarship and graduated as one of Stuyvesant's best students. Lamisa receives not only a great deal of pressure from her parents, but from her relatives as well, who are always pushing and encouraging her to match her sister. Lamisa says that she just wants to be her, and not a mirror image of her sister. She says that the pressure can get very overwhelming.

Need A Little Help?

It's not healthy to keep all of your feelings bottled up within you. A person's mind is actually very similar to a balloon. Often the balloon gets so filled up with air that it busts. Many people enjoy seeing that balloon burst while others don't. But if the balloon had a mind, what would it say? Luckily we do. That's why it's a wise choice to release some air out of the balloon before it's too late. Here are some tips and advice from experts and every day teenage girls who experience peer pressure daily.

Tips from Yasmin:

"Remembering, and constantly reminding ourselves of our real purpose in life, to worship our Creator. Seeking His guidance and help, and putting our trust in Him to make our difficulties easy are the most important things we can do to help ourselves. Doing this will put things in perspective for us, help us realize that we don't need to do what every one else is doing, and help us attain and maintain peace of mind. Additionally, realizing this will also make a person strong against peer pressure."

Tips from Lamisa:

"I often deal with my stress, peer and parental pressure by just ignoring it for a while. I allow my self to think about the situation and I later come back to talk to my friends or sisters about it. Listening to music also helps me. It allows me to relax and just have some time for my self, during which I'm just me."

Tips from Lusana:

"When you feel pressured to do something by others or you feel that you have to dress in a certain way or talk in a certain way or behave in a certain way, it always helps to talk to other Muslims who believe in the same things you do. If you can't find some one to talk to then read books by Muslim writers and thinkers and read the Quran. If you try to be strong on your own, most likely you will fall that's why its important to have friends that will be there to encourage you to be strong and follow your beliefs.

If your friends are forcing you to do something, then they really aren't your real friend. A friend will only want what is best for you. If you feel don't have the right kind of friends yet, then talk to any one who understand you. Whether it's your parents, your teacher or even your librarian!

I often feel stress because I have a lot of things to do and too little time to complete them.  I normally make a schedule for myself. Each time I complete something I check it of and I feel like I've accomplished something."

 Everyone has a hard time dealing with stress, and it's very important to make sure that it doesn't turn into an overwhelmed burden. Finding a friend, or a person that has or is experiencing the same things as you really does help. Instead of yelling to take out ones anger, it is best to go for a walk, or jog at a park. The most important thing to remember is that nobody is alone.