On the Push and Pull of Muslim Cultural Identity

Omar Mouallem in Literary Hub:

The first time I learned I was Muslim was in preschool.

During an excursion to a pizzeria, which is what passed for a field trip in my hometown of High Prairie, Alberta, I consumed a few morsels of ham. My mom arrived with the other parents to pick me up from class, and I began to sing the praises of Hawaiian pizza. She cut me off with a gasp. “You’re Muslim,” she said loudly for my teacher to hear. “Muslims don’t eat pork.”

Abstaining from pork could be the first law of the Five Pillars of Western Islam. Unlike the actual pillars (pray daily, pay alms, fast through Ramadan, pilgrimage to Mecca, and declare Muhammad as a messenger of the one true God), they are defined by what you don’t do: eat pork, celebrate Christmas, drink alcohol, gamble, and date. It’s safe to say that I’ll probably never complete the first set of pillars. But the second I dutifully observed until mid-adolescence. Then I pushed them over, one by one, over the course of ten years. The first to go up was the last to fall.

Which brings me to the second time I learned I was Muslim, a few years ago, at age 30.

More here.