You have a complicated life so you tell a complicated story. I probably can’t address all of your concerns in a letter but maybe I can give you a start.
You live in two worlds (headscarf and no scarf) but you don’t feel you belong in either. You have done what is called “pairing.” Psychologically you have put together a way of being in the world with the scarf. When you wear the scarf, you behave in the way of Islam. When you take it off, you feel more free to explore the world your sister likes. My guess is that you feel you can’t win. With the scarf, you feel awkward and unable to be social. But without it, you feel guilty. One way you handle the tension is to feel superior to everyone else. But because you are also sensitive, you realize your opinions about just about everyone else except god are probably not fair.
To answer one of your many questions, you may not have known your father personally but you know him by reputation. It seems that all of your older siblings are still reacting to their much longer and damaging relationship with him. They didn’t have a positive role model for relationships and they haven’t been able to make a positive role model for you to follow either. In that way, your father is still very present in your family.
You are asking important and very complicated questions. You are struggling with finding an identity for yourself that is comfortable. Although it is a more difficult struggle for you because of your background, it is nonetheless a usual and important part of growing up.
I think it would be helpful for you to find a therapist who specializes in cross-cultural issues. Yes, there are such people. There is no reason for you to have to discover for yourself the kinds of solutions that others who walk in your two worlds have already found to be helpful. A therapist who shares your two cultures will be able to give you support and guidance that will make more sense to you. Please consider asking a trusted teacher or your doctor for the names of likely therapists. This is not being a “burden.” It’s their job to help kids like you.
I hope this helps a little. I wish you well.
This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on December 4, 2009.