Lately I've been thinking about how people change over the years - the people I have known for ages, some since I was a child. Logically and morally I know that when people change something about themselves (especially in the religious sense), I should not be quick to judge them or the reasoning behind those decisions. But recently I've noticed a lot of my peers (and by peers I mean females of a similar age and with similar education) starting to become more liberal about their religion (as well as other things).
And while I know that religious decisions are deeply personal, I often wonder at the trends that I've been observing amongst my peers. I've noticed that as the years progress, many of them slowly start to detach themselves from their Muslim identities. The more they venture into higher education, the greater their separation from Islam. Obviously this isn't the case for all or even most women, but it has happened enough for me to notice it as a pattern.
I can't help but feel that as your education is furthered, there is an intense pressure put on you to adopt a code of thinking that favours self-taught knowledge over traditional teachings (traditional in the broadest sense of the word). I remember while I was in university, I always had this drive to continuously prove to my classmates and professors that I was an open-minded person, not tightly bound by traditional thinking. I desperately needed people to see me as something other than just a Muslim.
When I was pursuing my masters, my attitude changed - I don't know if this was because I had grown more experienced in life, or whether it was just because I sort of stopped caring about how other people perceived me. Instead of pushing my Islam out of the classroom, I made it the topic of my research papers and my presentations. I wrote about my personal journeys and my relationship to others being defined by my relationship to God. I came to terms with the fact that in a stand off between myself, my beliefs, my essence, and the system of education I wasn't going to be the only one to change.
I consider myself to be lucky that I didn't bend to the will of a higher education that claims to be inclusive but actually mocks most, if not all traditional types of knowledge. A lot of people are getting lost in the education system, they are trying to pull out their roots and plant them someplace else, they are distancing themselves from who they once were, as though to say I'm ashamed of my past. But I can't think of anything sadder or harder on the soul than giving up what you once were to be someone who only seeks acceptance and value from other human beings.