Students with multi-religion households define their own identity

Khusbu Patel | The Chronicle

Religions like Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism may seem incompatible at first glance, but MHS students are thriving through the mix.

MHS senior Tanya Marla has a Hindu father and a Muslim mother. Marla said that growing up, she learned to appreciate both cultures and enjoys celebrating the holidays and traditions of both religions. Marla said that even though she practices the Hindu religion more often, she appreciates the Islamic faith.

“Both of them are individually beautiful religions and they both equally mean the same to me,” Marla said. “They’re both parts of my life that allow me to experience culture from two different perspectives.”

The Muslim and Hindu religions have some differences, but they both emphasize family connections and prayers, and they both celebrate with large events around food, music and dance. Her parents have different religious rituals, and when the Muslim and Hindu cultures conflict, Marla said that her parents compromise. 

“My dad will still go to the temple; my mom has her own room for religious activities,” Marla said. “They do everything per their religions separately, but they will always respect the other’s time and religion.”

Marla said that there were conflicts with her extended family as some of them interpreted their religion as incompatible with other religions in marriage. 

“Their journey was not easy,” Marla said. “I have a lot of amazing extended family [who] have been pretty supportive of my parents’ journey, [but] there’s always going to be those relatives that aren’t accepting of the different religions.”

Marla said that the world should normalize multi-religion households. She said that as the world accepts more diverse ideas, marrying people with different religions should not be questioned as frequently as it is today.

“We’re in the 21st century, people are just so much more open to things,” Marla said. “Why not religion? I think that it could definitely be something happening more often [as] people are more accepting of the newer social norms”.

Mason Levin is a senior with a Christian parent and a Jewish parent. Levin said that his parents never forced religion on him; it was always his choice to decide which religion to practice, and he has chosen not to be very involved in any religion.

“I just didn’t think much of it. I don’t see religion as a big deal anymore,” Levin said.

As Levin grew up with multiple perspectives in the house, he decided that religion is a minor concept to him. He said that he believes that it shouldn’t matter, and people should be able to get along regardless of religion.

“You should be able to marry who you want to marry and religion should never affect it”, Levin said.

MHS senior Farmah Jallow has Christian and Muslim parents, but she usually spends holidays with her extended family on her mom’s side. Jallow said that holidays are when she feels more exposed to religious practice, so celebrating holidays like Christmas with only one side of her family was strange. 

“It felt like something was missing; this vital part of my family,” Jallow said. 

When Jallow’s parents chose to be together, there were disagreements between their families about how their kids would be raised. Jallow said that their disagreements faded over time, but her extended family still fought for her to follow their religion.

“They both expect loyalty. They just assumed that I’ll get older and choose their side,” Jallow said. 

Jallow does not regularly attend a church or mosque, but when she does, she said that she feels out of place. She said that other families believe she knows less about the religion and as result, Jallow feels like she has to prove her knowledge of the religion. 

“[I] feel a little left out from other people who are from mono-religious families because [I] don’t have that full cultural experience,” Jallow said. 

Jallow finds it difficult to identify with one religion, as she started selecting the ideas she liked and combining the religions. She said that combining ideas from religions did not seem authentic, so she is hesitant as to which individual religion she identifies with. 

“[Religion] is more of a personal philosophy,” Jallow said. “Trying to choose one doesn’t make sense to me. Whatever moral compass I’ve come up with from having a little bit of both works for me.”

Illustration by Becca Hunter