Why Ridwan, 16, Pretended He Was Allergic to Pork
"I walked up to them and they were playing basketball, doing their normal stuff like we usually do. And I told them that I wanted to talk to them."
That was the day that 16-year-old Ridwan Abdirahman told his friends that he was a Muslim after two-and-a-half years of keeping that part of himself hidden.
At first, it was easy for Abdirahman to keep his religion a secret from his friends. They met in middle school when they all got put on the same team during a basketball game.
Abdirahman looked up to his friends because they were known for being cool and always joking around. He was worried that might end if they knew he was Muslim. He didn't want to seem boring to them, and he didn't want them to adjust their usual hobbies and not have fun because of him.
But the older they got, the harder it became to keep his religion hidden, especially when his friends did things like party, smoke and date. Instead, Abdirahman made up excuses like being sick or simply not feeling up to it.
Abdirahman, now a sophomore at an online school, comes from a religious family where they pray, fast during the month of Ramadan and go to Hajj.
"We can't eat pork, we can't party, we can't smoke, we can't drink,” Abdirahman said. “It's just a lot of stuff that other people do that we can't do."
His lies were getting out of control. "I couldn't keep on going like this,” he said. “I can't pretend that I'm allergic to pork instead of not being able to eat it because of my religion."
Abdirahman made up his mind to tell his friends about himself and his beliefs.
"I thought they were going to be like, ‘Well forget him,'" Abdirahman said of his friends. "'He's Muslim and we're Christian, he can't do the stuff that we do. Let's not even hang out with him anymore.' That's what I thought they were going to say."
Abdirahman prepared himself to just walk away, but their reaction was completely different than what he was expecting.
One of his friends said "So? I'm a Christian." Then it was dead silent for awhile.
"One of them said, 'Bro, this is not something we should talk about. It's not like we're going to stop being friends with you. Come on now! We knew each other for awhile,’” said Abdirahman. “Then after that, we all just got up and patted each other on the shoulders and continued playing basketball."
Abdirahman's friends were understanding and open-minded, and that was an eye-opener for him.
He realized that he'd been so afraid of standing out that he'd been stereotyping his friends because they weren't Muslim. Abdirahman said the experience taught him to stand up for what he believes in, and not be afraid of what other people might think.
Today, Abdirahman plays basketball with his friends every week. And when it's time to pray, he feels comfortable getting up and going.
RadioActive is KUOW's program for high school students. This story was produced in RadioActive’s Fall Workshop in partnership with Neighborhood House - High Point Center. Listen to RadioActive stories, subscribe to the RadioActive podcast and stay in touch on Facebook.