Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Muslim Youth Living in the 21st Century

 Assalaamu'alaykum/Hi All!

The blogpost below is a speech written by an amazing 16 year old named Semra Candemir who read it out at our recent youth group event. She left the stage with much of the room (of 100+ young girls and ladies) in tears and with a standing ovation. It is definitely a must-read for anyone wanting to have a glimpse into the life of an Australian Muslim teenager as she struggled with her faith and identity. She is an inspiration to all Muslim teens out there!

Reflect and benefit from reading about her journey.


Living in the 21st Century
By Semra Candemir
December 17th 2011

Living in the 21st century is a struggle for most youth, but more importantly us Muslim girls. Identity, reputation and religion are 3 factors we struggle to uphold in our day-to-day life. At times we feel pressured to ‘go with the flow’ and at others you just want to swim against the current of what’s considered to be the ‘social norm.’  We feel as if our parents don’t understand or even care. You snuggle up in bed at night and let your tears, escape freely, trickling down your cheeks pooling up in your ears, as you stare at your ceiling, recapping the days events and even at times questioning yourself why me?
Well I have an answer to that why me?
I say that it’s because Allah loves you.

I’ve had my fair share of struggles in life and this is my story and my tips on keeping steadfast through this world full of temptation and extreme ‘freedom.’

I was always the responsible one, well that was what my mum used to say. I was the one at every social event taking care of every ones children, mind you I was a child myself I think about 11 or 12, I always wonder if people knew that at the time when they were handing over their little infants. I was always relied on and thought to succeed and excel, and Alhamdulillah academically I did. Oh Semra you know Semra, she’s going to be someone one day, she’s going to make us proud, or when your a doctor Semra you can treat me, and I’m going in my head if anything I would be a child’s doctor, not prescribe arthritis cream and sleeping pills.  So I would just nod and smile and soak in the attention, goodness I was a drama queen.

My problems started when I hit 13 and made the move from primary to high school keep in mind, I was top of my class in primary and it was a small school, so competition wasn’t really my thing, no one was competitive in primary everyone wanted the best for each other, then BAM I entered a jungle, that jungle I’m referring to is Lesmurdie Senior High School. It was a completely new environment and here I am innocent little daddy’s goody too shoos entering the ‘big wide world’ My mentality was I am never going to be like these people I have been raised better than them, they are kuffar, I am muslim, it’s haram for me, Im too responsible and smart to be caught up with these types of people… So I thought.

As each term went past, so did ‘Semra.’ As each day came to a close so did my self esteem, confidence and ‘happiness.’ I began drowning. Drowning in dunya, needing to ‘fit’ in, needing to talk like them walk like them, dress like them, I needed to BE them, so I thought. I began shutting myself off from my family emotionally, but still keeping the Turkish traditions of the eldest girl must clean and lardi daa. But emotionally and mentally I wasn’t their, I built a wall between the world and me. I began thinking my mum was neglecting me that she doesn’t want to talk to me anymore and the world hated on me. I felt alone and depressed and literally just wanted to disappear. I felt like I couldn’t be me, then I thought who am I, what is me, I don’t even know myself.

I knew from then on that there was something missing in my life, a huge part of me was empty, but I could never out a finger on it. During all this my parents were practicing Muslims, but still to that point I didn’t even know the definition of the word Muslim. I just knew everything as culture or this is Turkish culture or that is Turkish culture. But every day I would wake up and hate going to school, knowing how you have to be and how to act and which period you can sneak out of to look ‘cool.’ It just kept on going down hill, the world hates me, I’m all alone, stuff the world attitude, little did I know Allah was watching over me and was sure to bring happiness into my life.

Alhamdulillah I made it through year 8, but a changed person, I wasn’t the confident happy, I can do anything I set my mind to daddy’s girl anymore, I was someone different, I had molded to the conformities of society, and so I was happy on the outside to the world but inside, their was blackness, their was holes and dips and mountains and monsters, I hated myself and I didn’t even know why, do you know how annoying that is?

My mum was always asking what was wrong and could see a change in me but my answer was always nothing, she was mean remember she neglected me and through me into a jungle of ravenous animals, (I kept thinking this to myself) trying to blame her for my own misery. School wasn’t school, we weren’t their for education, it was a competition day in day out, we weren’t their to learn about academics, we were their to feed on other peoples gossip and lives, and whisper it to other people, so others would look like the loser not you, defiantly not me I thought I will not let myself get their,  I would rather die then be treated like the way where treating these innocent people. I hated myself, hated myself for hurting others, for lying for hurting my family, for pulling myself away. But I knew no better, you think that it wont happen to you, that your better then them and then before you know it you get caught in one thing that leads to another and so forth.

In year 9 something strange happened to me, I began to question life and the purpose of life and, my parents would be telling me to pray or this or that, and we would fast in Ramadan, no idea why I was fasting though at the time, it was just because, that was my answer to everything, just because we have to.  My mum started an Islamic class and I wanted to go along to, I wanted to learn, their was something inside me that felt right about ‘Islam’ I needed to know more. Before I knew it Allah had planted the seed of Islam in me and from then on, it was a thirst. I wanted to know everything about Islam I was in love with it, it made sense to me, it made me happy, strange right? Me, Semra, I was happy for the first time in a long time, the feeling my religion gave me at that time I couldn’t even explain it. After I grasped Islam I hated school more haha, I wanted to break free from it , I wanted to be a different person I wanted to change and grow and have the freedom to do that, so I broke all odds and decided  I was going to put on hijab. Keep in mind my high school has never been exposed to Islam or Muslims before and it’s in the hills, so everyone’s…not racist but ermmm, ‘uneducated’ you could say. But even so Allah had given me the strength to think I could do it so I thought I could. I got up early in the morning wore my uniform but this time instead of spending an hour on my hair, I placed a hijab on my head, and I’m telling you it was the most bliss feeling ever, I felt liberated within myself. After I finished getting ready I sat on the couch and waited for everyone to get up and so forth, and when my mum walked into the lounge room and looked at me, she was shocked, I felt a little embarrassed but I got over it, she’s like what are you doing, why are you wearing that, I said mum I’m going to wear hijab from now on. I think she got scared for me, and was like are you sure you want to do that, I was like yerp im completely sure, and walked out the door with utter confidence. Once I reached the bus stop, I was ready to turn on my heels and run the other way and rip that piece of material off my head, I was thinking to myself you are the most craziest person Semra, you are going to be humiliated walking onto that bus full of school kids staring at you, take your hijab off now, I was so close to unpinning my hijab when the bus pulled up. Subhanallah I thought, perfect timing, with a hesitant step I walked onto the school bus with my head held low, I walked to my usual spot and stood their, I thought I was going to pass out. 

Once I got to school I was stressing for nothing everyone LIKED my hijab, they were interested in it they wanted to know more about it, and the smile that was plastered on my face for that day was priceless. For a few months everything ran smoothly, after that  the long awaited abuse I was dreading for so long started to roll in, I was a tough girl I ignored it as much as I could. I was spat on, called names, had things thrown at me, but I stayed strong I knew they were uneducated that it’s going to be ok, that Allah will help me through this. I was getting verbally abused a lot one day a boy said the most hurtful things I just broke down and cried, everything has just hit a point. I was full of anger and hate towards them I couldn’t understand why they were treating me like this some of these were my bestest friends before my hijab went on and now my enemies? I didn’t understand I was more miserable than ever but I always kept my trust in allah that  it was going to get better. Things carried on for a while and I held on, one day as I was walking to Italian, a boy came from behind me and grabbed the back of my hijab, the same one who threw a glue stick at my head in SNE class, so I was pretty worked up about this point. As he grabbed my hijab, sure enough expecting to rip it off my head, my reflexes were amazing at this point I must admit I grabbed his arm from behind twisted it as I turned around kicked him and told him in the coldest voice possible to get his filthy hands off me and never touch me again or else you’ll have another thing coming. That got him off my back, I think he was a little more than frightened that day, thinking he could make a fool out of my in front of everyone, he was surely not expecting me to do what I did. I learnt that day that I need to start sticking up for myself, and stopped being walked all over.

About 9 months of wearing the hijab it all got a bit much and I decided to take it off. Worst decision of my entire life I think haha. No one asked me why I took it off, everyone thought it was coming. The day I returned to school with no hijab, I had friends again, how ironic?? Even my teachers were nice to me, mind you I forgot to add all my teachers were pulling me aside asking if putting my hijab on was my decision or if I was forced into wearing it, I laughed at them and said if anything my parents wouldn’t want me wearing it because they know how hard it is for me and it kills them to see me going through this and walked off.

The day I took off hijab, I fell back into their routines, but to a more serious level, I couldn’t get along with my mum, we fought all the time, I hardly ever spoke to my dad or my siblings it was me against the world again. I got so caught up in the dunya lifestyle, doing exactly what all the people around me were doing, just so I could be recognized as ‘one of them.’ I had no other friends but them, I had no positive Islamic environment around me, no girls my age that I knew who were doing good, so that was it for me I thought, this is the lifestyle ill live until school is over. I started feeling ashamed of myself, I would sit and cry and think why am I doing this, this isn’t me, this isn’t meant to be me. If I had to ever give one piece of advice to anyone, its that don’t ever underestimate the power of shaytaan and don’t ever think that you wont become like them or go down the wrong path. One of the most famous sayings quotes;  ‘you are who your friends are’ is possibly the most spot on, honest, accurate sayings in history, which is why it is so important for us to keep good company.  No one would have ever thought, I didn’t even think that my friends would have an influence on me even though they’re not Muslim, I would never go down their road, I even thought to myself late at night, that their bad energy will never rub off on me, I have a reputation to keep up in my family, I will never be one of them.

I want to wrap it up, sorry for the novel haha, yous have probably fallen asleep, I just want to quickly summarize the rest and say I had a mental breakdown at the age of 15 I thought that only happened to people going through mid life crisis. I was wrong, there is only so much guilt a person can up hold before breaking down. But after that I knew what was right I suffered the misery that sin bought upon me and I had also tasted the sweetness of faith, and their was only one path and one option to choose and that is by far faith, there is nothing more sweet or dearer to the heart then the connection with our almighty creator, there is no greater love then allah (swa)’s love, and no one in the universe has as much mercy upon us than allah (swa) does. Alhamdulillah I have been nearly covered for a year now and it has been by far the most beneficial and happiest year, I learnt the how to read quran, I taught myself how to pray properly, and no matter how many years I lost not being able to be as good as others younger than me in quran and ect. I know that this was my path this is what I chose and at the end of the day I know that I learnt everything solely out of love and with the pure intention of wanting to please allah swa, so I am very proud of myself to have come from where I was (in a hole) to rising, then falling and rising again, and inshallah I have no intention on falling again. I have changed schools, I have awesome friends who support me and one person who deserves the biggest thank you in all of history is my beautiful mother, as much as I put that woman through, she always stuck by me, even when I thought she wasn’t their she was secretly their I just don’t like to admit it sometimes haha, but she has been my rock throughout my whole journey all my ups and downs, this lady has endured all, love and pain, she has carried burden after burden from me. And as much as I have grown as a person, I know she has to, I think I taught her some new survival skills and PATIENCE, where would we be without patience subhanllah and Alhamdulillah, my dad and her completed hajj this year, was well deserved after having to look after 4 teenagers Im sure it was well deserved and relaxing and she only came back yesterday! Lucky person, leaving me for 7 weeks to run the household, work and study for my TEE exams!! I honestly have no idea how she does it, I just felt like knocking my siblings over the head with a saucepan sometimes, so I now know how she sort of feels probably 1-80th of what she endures. So as much as I frustrate you mum I love you with my whole heart, I couldn’t have asked for someone more patient and dear to me than you, I promise ill help you more in the house now, I totally understand why your cleaning all day everyday after us. How fortunate we are to having mothers, there is no one like them in the entire world, nothing and no one can replace them. <3

I leave my story their, I hope my story has opened some of your eyes to the pressure you can be under in society that it is not worth any of it in any shape way or form.

3 tips I would give to my dear sisters in islam,

- Choose your friends carefully, make sure they remind you of Allah when your spending time with them, when you look at them they remind you of your religion, and that when you’d talk that you gain knowledge from your conversations, no empty talk!

- Stay close to your mothers, love them more than anything, tell her how much you love her everyday, she is not your enemy, I would know don’t worry. Make her you best friend and confide in her all the time, and know she only wants the best for you in this like and the akhira inshallah.

- Finally is just to be you, don’t ever feel pressured that you need to be anyone else, hold your head high and be DIFFERENT!! Rock your hijab and abaya, and know that allah is pleased with you
J We don’t want to look like all the rest, we are different and that’s how it’s going to be and be proud of it!
Some tips for the mummies, struggling with their forever mood changing daughters. Don’t be the mother role around her, be her friend! Be someone she can confide in and trust and enjoy talking to. Make sure that they know they can talk to you without feeling frightened or ashamed, let them know that you won’t judge them, that you’re their for guidance and advice.

Take your daughters out every now and then, have some quality girly time. Joke around and let her know how cool mamas can be, just because your older doesn’t mean you’ve lost your jive!

All I want to say is be there for your daughters, because it is hard being a teenager in the world, there is so much social pressure, it can be overwhelming at times. So just really let her know that you are there for her and to always remind her of Allah and that she isn’t alone!

“Islam began as something strange, and it shall return to being something strange, so give glad tidings to the strangers.”

I am proud to be a stranger!


  1. as-salamu 3laykum sister. Jazaki Allahu khayr. It was a pleasure to read about your spiritual odyssey. Al7amdulillah, you have realised the beauty of being from amongst Al-Ghurabaa in this dunya. Imam al-Nawawi mentioned that Imam al-Shafi`i used a walking stick for which he was asked: "Why do you carry a stick when you are neither old nor ailing?" He replied: "To remember I am only a traveller in this world."

    I ask Allah swt to reward you for your patience, to increase you in beneficial knowledge, and to make you a shining example for the contemporary ummah - Ameen Ya Rabb!

  2. Brilliant! MashAllah, may Allah guide you and guide others through you. May he keep you steadfast upon His way of life.

  3. Ma sha Allah... really good story and inspirational... it reminds of this collection of Hijab quotes and Women in Islam http://greatislamicquotes.com/women-in-islam/

  4. The reasoning and rationale behind this blogs makes it a brilliant read.
    Ramadan Brazil