Zarifeh Shalabi is a devout Muslim who was recently crowned Summit High School's prom queen on April 9th in Fontana, California, despite the recent terrorist attacks that took place in nearby San Bernardino.
The high school, as well as Shalabi’s home, is just a few miles from the site of the attack last December. Under the circumstances, Shalabi's nomination and subsequent election for prom queen was enough of a story for even the New York Times to cover.
“I'm not what someone thinks of when they think of prom queen,” said Shalabi, who wears a hijab every day to signify her faith. A hijab is a head covering that conceals the hair and neck. It is part of Zarifeh's commitment to wear one. Shalabi's religion is Islam, and all the people in her family are observant Muslims.
Islam refers to a community of believers, or a religion. Muslims believe that God is beyond all comprehension, and are not expected to visualize God, just to live righteous lives. The Islamic religion is articulated in the Quran, which is considered by believers to be the verbatim word of God. In this case, God is known as Allah, and is believed to have passed the message to Muhammad. Islam originated in Mecca in the early part of the 7th century. Muslims are the followers of the Islamic religion. Muslim denominations include Sunni, Shia, and Sufism, but all are part of Islam. About 25 percent of the world's population are Muslims who follow the Islamic religion. Of course, not all of them are terrorists.
Due to the strength of her commitment to her faith, Zarifeh is expected to stay close to home and strictly limit her social activities. She has never been to a school dance, or any kind of party, or even a sleep over. However, because of her nomination for prom queen, and with special permission from the Mosque, Zarifeh was allowed to attend her high school prom.
When Zarifeh Shalabi's name was announced at school on that fateful day, and the loud speaker said she had been nominated for prom queen, her social circle immediately rallied to support her. After all, anyone who gets nominated for prom queen probably has a few friends, right? Soon enough, Shalabi's friends started campaigning for votes, all of them wearing bright T-shirts and hijabs. All of Zarifeh's friends were echoing in the hallways, “Vote for Shalabi!” According to Shalabi's friend, Sahari Sanchez, “This was a way to prove we don't have problems with bullying or racism.”
Zarifeh Shalabi danced the night away with a friend, had major fun, and toward the end of the evening, was crowned Prom Queen of Summit High School, 2016. How curious that she made so many wonderful, supportive friends, despite not being allowed to go out much. Says her friend Sahari, “I feel like we have something to teach the rest of the country. It makes me really proud.”
Shalabi told CBS news that after the December 2nd attacks she was afraid to leave her house. Some people don't like Muslims,” she said. “Some people see all Muslims as terrorists.”