Reverts' Challenges at College and the Workplace

Muslim Youth Coping with Negative Peer Pressure:
By Diva Allott

hijabi Muslimah
My advice to people suffering from peer pressure in the work place is to be strong and not run away

Peer pressure is something that affects everybody at some point throughout their lives, but is mostly predominant in teenagers and young adults.

What can make peer pressure even more difficult to handle is when a person is new to Islam.

Their life is changing so much and they must adapt to fit within the boundaries of Islam without appearing anti-social with peers.

My advice to all those contemplating whether they should reveal their recent conversion or keep it a secret, I would always advise an individual to be courageous and to out their religion.

Be proud of what you are and the decision you made. Write a list of all the pros and cons of either keeping it a secret or being open about it. And I will guarantee that every time it is always the better option to be open about it so that you can practice Islam in college or the workplace to the best of your ability.

I will not lie to you, of course you are going to be pressured to go back to your old ways and to fit in with the outside world but be strong and ask God to make things easier for you.

The following you are going to read are experiences I have had as a young Muslim both in the workplace and at college and I hope they will help you make your decision and guide you along your journey as a new Muslim.

My Early Days as a Muslim

I converted in November 2010 whilst I was working at a fashion retail store in the local shopping centre. I never told anyone whilst I was working there, I did not wear hijab because I was worried about what my colleagues would say but I wore more modest clothes which affected the way I was treated at work as it didn’t fit in with the fashion industry. They offered me a permanent job in February but I decided to escape that environment, I turned it down and began a fresh start as a Muslimah who covered with hijab.

My advice to people suffering from peer pressure in the work place is to be strong and not run away, it is wrong for companies to discriminate against you because of the way you look or your religion. Don’t feel pressured into fitting in or looking a certain way, what I find helpful now is to remember God and what He has ordained us to do, and that He is the All Wise and the All Knowing and He does not try to make this life hard for us but to protect us, we should strive for the Hereafter not pleasing those in this life. After leaving my job I felt courageous enough to declare my Islam.

At College

she said “Look! Diva was normal last week and is abnormal this week”

I’m also a college student and after declaring my Islam naturally the peer pressure got worse as all of my friends were non Muslims and they wanted me to be “the old me” again. A significant memory I have of first wearing my scarf was when I walked into my psychology lesson late because I was trying to make my scarf go on right. As I walked in the teacher was doing a lesson on abnormality, and used me as an example, she said “Look! Diva was normal last week and is abnormal this week,” suggesting that because I wore a scarf it didn’t make me normal. This made me feel pressured to fit in with my environment and what people thought of me.

When a young Muslim encounters any pressure, it’s very important not to fall at the first hurdle and to give up in order to make other people happy. You have to think of yourself, what you want and what you believe in. I started to gradually change my activities and started going to the prayer room at lunch to read books and meet other Muslims. Slowly, I made new friends and started to take part in different social activities like study circles, Arabic classes and cinema trips. I didn’t completely cut ties with my old friends, I just made it clear to them that I wasn’t able to indulge in most of the activities I used to and after having being invited a couple of times and politely declining they got the message.

I will be the first to say that it isn’t easy to completely change your lifestyle without upsetting anyone but my key advice is to decline any offers that go against Islam and perhaps suggest something else such as a cinema trip or a shopping trip. Always stick to your guns and don’t change your mind because this will show others you are weak. Be strong and don’t one week say “yes” to going to the pub or a nightclub then another week say “no” because this can be confusing to others.

I am still studying at the moment and there is only me and three other Muslims on the course out of thirty, most days at lunch are spent discussing the events of the weekend, how drunk people were and whose boyfriend is whose. Sometimes it’s difficult feeling left out because we don’t drink wine, don’t have boyfriends and don’t go nightclubbing. When the conversation takes this direction I tend the venture to the prayer room or try and strike up a conversation with somebody else about something I can join in.

New Job in Hijab

speak to your colleagues and mangers personally and explain Islam

Last year I got a new job as a revert Muslim who covered in a local supermarket. If anything I thought this would have less pressure in it than the fashion industry. Although it wasn’t the same kind of pressure it still affected me.

I received lots of nasty comments from managers and customers. I would be asked why I wear that rubbish on my head. People would say “are you a Pakistani now then?” “You’re boring because you don’t drink” or “Muslims are ignorant.” Mangers would often say you can’t wear that scarf at work, get a different color, ... nothing was ever good enough for them.

What made it worse was the long shifts as I often needed to take breaks to make Salah (prayer). People would mock me saying “make a prayer for me while you’re there”, “you don’t need to pray you’re just making it up”. I had to prove my prayers to my manager by bringing a time table in so she knew I wasn’t lying. This put me under a lot of pressure by other colleagues because they were kicking up a fuss saying that “if she can pray, I can break to smoke.” It made going to work very difficult.

My advice to Muslims in a similar situation is to speak to your colleagues and mangers personally and explain Islam and that it is obligatory to pray despite what they may think. Finally if they are still putting you under pressure explain the law to them on equality in the work place. Whatever you do, don’t run away from the situation because you have as much right to be there as anyone else.

Finally, I hope these anecdotes have helped and may God make your journey in this life as easy as possible.

When you feel all alone remember that God is always close to you.

First Published: September 2012
Related Links:
Islam: Our Deen is Full of Love (Folder)
Twelve Tips for New Muslims
Muslim Youth on the Least Trodden Path
How to Tell Your Parents About Your Conversion
New Muslims and Family Problems

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