High school essay honorable mentions: Becoming free of religion By Niha Ahmad

Growing up in a Muslim household affected me. I was a girl. I was imprisoned. From a young age, I was forced into covering my ankles and elbows. I was forced into being inferior. But now that I am a young adult able to be independent, I choose to show my ankles or elbows. I choose to be free.

Growing up as girl in a Muslim household was hard. I had two older brothers who were always superior to me. My parents thought that my brothers were more important, because in religion, that is just how it goes. I was disgusted by this idea. I began losing the religion my parents forced on me, frustrated that my ankle had to be covered or that my wrist was showing too much, while my brothers were able to get their drivers’ licenses and apply for jobs. I hated that this religion was nothing more than a rulebook.

But because I’m a freethinker, I believe in gender equality and that women can succeed as well. As I go off to college, I can finally be free from this religion and live free.

Niha Ahmad, 18, is from Elgin, Ill., and graduated from Larkin High School. She will be attending the University of Illinois-Chicago and plans to major in computer engineering.

Freedom From Religion Foundation