I read a book that said that successful people have a great social network. I thought having a good social network involved asking a lot of questions of a person. One recent Friday night, I was invited to my uncle’s home and I thought of it as a good chance to improve my social network by sitting with different people and asking them questions.

Everyone was busy talking to the person beside them. There was a woman sitting beside me. She was a little fat, with a round, dark face and maybe in her thirties. I found her looking at me with a very kind smile on her face, just like my mom has sometimes. Then she asked me, “How old are you, my dear?” Though that was the question I always hated, I liked the way she asked me. I said, “I am sixteen.”

I thought it was a good chance for empowering my social network. I wanted to ask something; I thought it would be rude to ask her age, and then I thought of asking if she had any sisters.

A queer look appeared on her face when I asked the question. She shook her head and became lost in thought. Her eyes were oceans of pain and tears filled them.

I asked, “Is she alive?” I don’t know why I thought to ask that question. I just did it without any reason.

“No. She has been killed,” she answered.

“Who did it? And why?” I wanted to know.

“Because she was weak.” She didn’t tell me who killed her sister.

“Is that all?” I asked.

“It was enough,” she replied.

Again the wrong question. I did not know what else to say that wouldn’t hurt her feelings. I thought I was being friendly but it was hard to figure out what kind of questions to ask her and then I ended up hurting her.  

I did not ask her any more questions. I began to think of some of the books I have read recently that had stories of women being hurt. A few weeks ago I finished the book “Half the Sky.” I read the stories from women who had been sold like slaves, raped and abandoned or forced to marry someone they did not like, or abandon their dream because their husbands did not like it.

In physics, we are taught that water boils at 100°C, and we accept it without question. This is okay, but I don’t understand why no one challenges the fact that many humans are behaving like animals. Sometimes I think that if aliens existed and they came to earth, they would laugh at us because we are creatures with amazing minds that can make machines that go into space, but can’t understand there is a big difference between being human and being an animal. 

I feel like I am a bad person since I hate people around the world who lied to me and to my gender. They say the “World War” finished long ago, but it is not finished yet. The camps for torturing people still exist. Many houses are a torture camp for women living there. The violence still exists and my gender still suffers.

I do not know how Muslim parents can say “Azan,” the Islamic call to prayer, at the ears of their newborn child, and do that part of their Sunat, but forget about the rest of the things necessary to raise their child as a good Muslim. There are many parts to the Sunat that a good Muslim must follow. The same is true of any other religion where parents provide education for their child but forget to teach them the biggest lesson—to have humanity.

They cannot just say,  “God created them.” They should finish the sentence: “God created them as human beings and expects them to act as human beings.”

If only we could teach our generation this simple lesson, the world would be a better place for all of us. I do not expect everyone to become an activist to make this happen. I want everyone to just act like a human. That is what we are expected to be. And don’t be liars. The world war is not ended yet.

By Arifa, age 17