Defining Our Identity: with Khadija Sillah

Defining Our Identity: with Khadija Sillah

We’re starting to feature VELA girls from our wonderful community!

Beautiful, unique, witty are some of the words that come to mind when we think of Khadija. We sat down with her to talk about defining our own identity as Muslim girls. Read on for a captivating conversation: 

Hi Khadija, please introduce yourself to the VELA Girl community!

I’m a Black Muslim girl from Philly. I have a visual blog on Instagram, @kingkhadija, where I feature thrifted outfit inspiration. I love Disney movies and like to have conversations about owning your agency to change the world for everyone.

We’re speaking today about defining your own identity as a Muslim girl. Tell us a little about what your journey with identity has been like.

For the longest time I didn’t know where I fit in as a Muslim girl. Growing up I didn’t see any West African Muslim girls that were interested in the same things as me. In Philly, everyone around me was very into Black-American culture.  As a West African Muslim, and having been exposed to many cultures, I fell in love with Bollywood movies and musicians from around the world.

I didn’t tell my best friends my internal struggles because I didn’t want to be seen as other. I wanted to assimilate according to what was “cool”. It was pressure that no one was putting on me but myself. I didn’t know that it was acceptable to like the things I did, until I met someone else who was into the same things. It took me a while to feel like I can be all these things.

Why do you think Muslim girls can sometimes struggle with their identity?

I think being a Muslim girl, especially now, comes with trying to figure out your identity in a world that’s trying to define it for you. There are all these external expectations and narratives about what it means to be a Muslim girl. There’s the distorted media representation, patriarchal pressure, parental expectations, and sometimes pressure from our own Muslim community to deal with.

Muslim girls want to be as much of themselves as they can be, and it’s a struggle owning up to your identity and who you are, and not living on other people’s terms.

What would you tell Muslim girls who are struggling with their own identity?

I want Muslim girls to love themselves. I would tell them not to worry so much about having to figure out exactly who you are before expressing yourself.

I contain three oppressed people in one identity, being Black, and a Muslim, and a Woman. But I’m learning to let myself feel free to explore life without internal or external biases. I would tell them not to let these factors get in the way of determining who you are.

I also want Muslim girls to find refuge in God. If you feel that your relationship with Him is good, then you’re all good.

What does being a VELA Girl mean to you?

I think being a VELA Girl is being yourself, and owning it. The people VELA features are so unapologetically themselves. I remember Marwa doing her fitness thing, she was one of the first on Instagram to do that as a Muslim woman.

Through VELA, Marwa showed others that they can be themselves, while supporting other women in the Muslim community in an inclusive way. What I love most about VELA is that it inspires women to live in their true self, and that VELA really goes out of their way to encourage that journey of self discovery.

Thank you so much Khadija for your courageous vulnerability. This interview has been edited for grammar, but are the thoughts and sentiments of Khadija Sillah. Stay tuned for more features from our inspiring community! 


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