ZARINAH EL-AMIN NAEEM
Zarinah El-Amin Naeem is a cultural anthropologist who uses travel and art to build connections between people. She is an author and owns her own publishing company, Niyah Press.
My family is mixed. My parents converted to Islam, so they were the only Muslims in their family. I didn’t celebrate Christmas, but we respected Christmas. At Christmas time, we went to my aunt’s house for dinner.
It was never, “Oh you’re a Muslim, you can’t go there.” I always said, “No, I’m a Muslim, I know who I am. My aunt is Christian. We know who she is and we’re going to celebrate her holiday.”
That type of blended upbringing never made me feel weird about being different. That was important for my parents—instilling that in us. My father did a lot of interfaith events and programming. We were always around other people.
We’re working on it more with our children. I took the children to the Sikh temple. It was a nice experience to sit down outside of where I normally go and see how other people worship and talk to them about their faith.
That was powerful for me. The children have friends from all backgrounds, but we do need to be a little bit more intentional. It’s good for them to be able to meet other people. The more types of experiences they have like that growing up, the more it’s going to open their minds. They won’t be afraid of what they know.