Noor Najeeb's friends looked forward to Homestead High School's senior prom all year. They bought frilly princess gowns. They found dates. They slipped into high-heel shoes, styled their tresses and perfected their makeup for one of the most-anticipated social events of the year. But the 17-year-old is a practicing Muslim who believes going to the prom would be an affront to Islam. So Najeeb - the president of the National Honor Society, violinist and active volunteer - decided to take a pass. "It's another social event," she said. "It's really important for one to uphold beliefs and values." With prom season in full swing, Najeeb and her Muslim peers are learning one of life's lessons: Principles matter more when something is sacrificed to uphold them.
Each year, many teen Muslims choose not to take part in one of the hallmark social events of high school. For them, staying true to their Muslim identity is staying true to themselves, no matter how hard. Proms - a ritual of dating and intimate dancing that for some is associated with drinking and sex - conflict with Islamic beliefs. Islam requires Muslims to dress modestly, abstain from alcohol and avoid close contact with members of the opposite sex. Such interactions are considered haram, or forbidden. Meeting these standards can be an especially tall order for teens driven by raging hormones, intense curiosity and a fear of alienation. "It's a challenge," said Naba Mallick, 17, a senior at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School in Milwaukee, who didn't attend prom last year. "To be the one who has stayed strong in religious beliefs, it's a big deal."
To be clear, not all young Muslims skip prom. And among those who do, they are not alone; many conservative Christian families also frown upon dancing and dating among teens. But for many young Muslims in the United States who experience life in a religiously and socially homogenous society, events such as the prom compel them to distinguish themselves. (MORE)