It was 8 a.m. on a Friday when the question popped up on the smartboard: can Sharia law and democracy coexist?

Like every high school student fighting through class, I instantly started to panic. Did I miss Sharia law somewhere in the 14 page reading? I pulled up last night’s article on my laptop and did a quick Command + F for “Sharia law.” There was nothing.

Before I could say anything, I was put onto a team with half of my class, all of whom were already discussing the question. A timer was set for 10 minutes. When it rang, we would start a class debate.

None of us actually knew what we were talking about. Everybody had read the same article. In our circle, we admitted that we did not know anything about Sharia law and were as far as unprepared as we could get.

“Lauren!” the teacher called me. We all looked up from our huddle. “You’re going to present the closing statement.”

I figured it was time to forget earning any class participation for this quarter, because I had nothing to say. I couldn’t understand the question, let alone knowledgeable enough to begin to answer it.

As the preparation period ended and the debate started, I became more and more nervous. All around me, people were arguing with each other. It didn’t matter that none of us knew what we were talking. We all just wanted to sound like we knew what we knew what we were doing. I didn’t say a thing. Besides, what was there to say? I had to start thinking of a good closing statement.

I was the last person to speak on my team. Although I had never been a member of the speech and debate team, I understood the closing statement was the time to sum all of the team’s speaking points, except that our entire team had been saying different things the entire debate.

So instead of admitting I didn’t know enough to speak to the topic, I talked around it for two straight minutes.

At the end, I waited for the big bang. The time when the teacher stands up, tells you they can see through you, and then flunk you on the spot. Instead, my teacher smiled as my team clapped me on the back.

“That was great!” one said.

“Saying that Sharia law is all about interpretation was genius,” another praised.

Despite the result, I need to get something off my chest. I’ve been feeling guilty this past weekend. I didn’t realize how much bravery it takes to say you don’t know something. In a society where “fake it until you make it” is preached and a lack of knowing is seen as stupidity, it takes a lot to be modest, even we all know it is the right thing to do.

If I could go back, I know what I would say. I would tell my class I know little to nothing about Sharia law and how compatible it is to democracy, but that I would look into it because it plays such an important role in our world.

Sure, I would have probably lost a lot of “street cred” and class participation points, but I’ve learned the way we perceive our inner selves is much more significant than how others judge our outside facades.

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