#AtoZChallenge Day 3: Cultural Identities

C is for Cultural Identities.

C

I was once on a six hour road trip with just me and my dad. To pass the time, we came up with a little game. What are the best and worst parts about your different cultural identities?

Here is what I came up with.

Muslim

Best Part: I have a guidebook, and a Being always looking out for me. I don’t have to wonder about my purpose or why things are the way that they are because God is taking care of that, which is so reassuring.

Worst Part: Because this religion is a way of life, with self-improvement always on the mind, there isn’t really any room to plateau or take a break. I have to constantly watch myself and make sure I’m making use of each moment, which is tiring and does make me a little superficially envious at times of those who don’t follow a religion.

American

Best Part: The shared culture. Thanksgiving dinners. The universal smell of barebeques on Memorial Day and the 4th of July. The holiday season that I look forward to even when I don’t actually celebrate any of those holidays.

Worst Part: That we are all slaves to money and capitalism. Everything, everything, is driven by money in this country.

Muslim-American

Best Part: I have the freedom to take control of how I learn about and interpret my religion. Because I don’t live in a theocracy, where the practice of Islam is governed by those in power, I have the freedom to learn and use my intellect to be critical of my sources and strive to find the most appropriate way of implementing the words of God in my own life.

Worst Part: My government is on a mission to paint the narrative of Islam as having some violent agenda.  I’m caught in the middle of pledging allegiance to this country and sitting by while it defames my very way of life.

Indian

Best Part: From the food to the clothes to the weddings, we just do it better.  Food has more taste, clothes are more festive, and weddings are just so much more fun than American weddings.

Worst Part: The colorism and racism is so painfully strong in this culture, which makes no sense when you consider the bigger picture.

Indian-American

Best Part: I get to enjoy the benefits of being American while having a lot of accessibility to very Indian things, like food or Mehndi or other Indian people.

Worst Part: Growing up and feeling left out of a lot of “American” experiences because our family is too conservative. Sleepovers. Going out with friends. Not having to report back to your parents on the hour every hour.

Indian-Muslim

Best part: Within Muslims in the Midwest, I’m part of the cultural majority, which is a pretty comfortable place to be. The majority of our community looks like me.

Worst part: Indians are so attached to their cultural practices, and that can get tricky when your culture has very strong ties to Hinduism.  There are so many practices that Indian Muslims have to unlearn because they don’t coexist well with Islam.

White

Best Part: Feeling connected to the racial majority in this country. I feel comfortable around White people because they too are my people.

Worst Part: Carrying the baggage of all of the truly terrible things that White people have done to non-White people throughout the centuries.

White-American

Best Part: I can claim roots in this country farther back than most non-White Americans I have encountered, which for some reason appears to be an advantage in terms of how legitimately “American” people consider you.

Worst Part: The overwhelming guilt and disgust at the name White Americans are making for themselves right now.  I have never wanted to distance myself more from this title than I have in the past year.

White-Muslim

Best Part: People, both Muslim and non-Muslim, seem to take you more seriously as a spokesperson for Muslims if you’re White.

Worst Part: Feeling invisible in the sense that Muslims often use “White” as a synonym for “Non-Muslim.”

Mixed-Race

Best Part: I get to experience the goodness of two cultures and attempt to shed the badness from each culture.  I love experiencing Indian culture in terms of the food, dress, language and social fun, while being able to replace the patriarchal culture with the White culture of female independence.

Worst Part: I. Don’t. Know. What. The. Heck. To. Call. Myself.

Mixed-American

Best Part: I am able to feel connected to both the cultural majority and minority of this country and relate to both experiences.

Worst Part: Feeling invisible in any of the discussions on race and culture.

Mixed-Muslim

Best Part: I think it is easier for me and my family to separate what is cultural from what is religious compared to other Muslim families who come from only one ethnic background.

Worst Part: There are very few people who understand why I live my life the way that I do, because in one way or another I separate myself from each culture due to my inclusion in the other culture.


*Note: I wrote the majority of this post about a year ago.

**I know, A to Z is over, but I still want to post the topics I missed over the course of the next few weeks.

#AtoZChallenge Day 13: Misidentification

M is for Misidentification

M

I used to work in a nursing home. One of the residents there talked about coping with the death of two of her cousins. They were in Israel, and according to her, they were killed “by some Arabs.”

Then she turned to me and said, “I know you’re Muslim, so I mean no disrespect.”

Um.

 

Okay.

First, “Muslim” does not equal “Arab”.

Second, even if I was Arab, I am still in no way sympathetic toward the people who killed your cousins.

Obviously, that’s not what I said. I didn’t say anything because the incident simply left me speechless.

She is one of the sweetest women I’ve ever met. She had dementia, and so I could never take personally any of the negatives she had to say because I had to reintroduce who I was to her every single day. On the days that she wasn’t refusing to associate with me because I was Muslim, she would tell me how beautiful she thought my scarf was or what a lovely girl I was for pushing her wheelchair to wherever she needed to go. She would point out to me all of her favorite staff members in the facility and ask each of them how their kids were doing as she did so. She encouraged her fellow residents to stay cheerful and hopeful, even when she had no clue how they got to be her neighbors.

It wasn’t her. It was the idea she had been primed with before her disease took away her ability to remember her context.

I wore a scarf on my head. And so she identified me as a potential sympathizer to the killers of her relatives.

 

#AtoZChallenge Day 1: Awkward Moments

A is for Awkward Moments

A

Being asked “How do they do this in your culture?”  (uhm, which one? Muslim? Indian? American?)

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The imam makes a mistake in recitation but you don’t want to correct it because suddenly you’re questioning every ayah you ever knew.  (it starts with “qul huwallahu ahad,” right?)

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You eat non-zabiha meat and realize the person you’re eating with doesn’t (or vice versa).  (Frantically tries to recall all of the meat products I’ve ever eaten in the presence of this person)

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He asks why you’re not praying.  (you might as well be overt and ask if she’s on her period.)

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She assumes you’re not going to wear Hijab at your wedding.  (I wear Hijab every other day of my life; why would I stop on that single day?)

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Your friends/coworkers make endless references to drinking, not realizing that you’ve lived a pretty decent life without a dose of alcohol in you.  (seriously, I don’t get it.)

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Being asked “How do they say it in your language?” (Honey, you and I speak the same language.)

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They complain about not being represented enough in mainstream entertainment when you’re still waiting on that fictional Hijabi character to show up. (never once been represented accurately and still living)

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He’s Muslim and offers to shake your hand. (can I even use a religious excuse with this one?)

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You accidentally let a “salaam” or “inshaallah” slip when talking to a non-Muslim. (I’m genuinely trying to figure out whether I can just let this one slide. It’s no different from Jewish people saying “mazeltov” or Latinos referencing their “abuela,” right?)

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(Disclaimer: I’m not saying any of these are “good” or “bad” things to do. They’re just moments in life that make me laugh.)

#AtoZChallenge Day 26: Zenith

Z is for Zenith

Z.jpg

Zenith:

The point on the celestial sphere vertically above a given position or observer.

It got to a point where I had to do a google search of “words that start with z” because I had absolutely no idea what to write about for the last day of the A to Z Challenge. Then I found this word, and I wondered…what would someone at my zenith see if they looked down?

What if this someone was following me for the past few years, looking down and watching me? Seeing where I started and how I got to where I am today.

From up there, I feel like I’m unrecognizable.

Five years ago, they would see a timid girl never straying from her comfort zone, unsure of what she wanted to do with her life and no idea how to get to said “life.”

Now, they would see an emerging adult, embracing her role as the authority in charge when put in the right situation, venturing into unfamiliar territory that prior she would deem as too scary, and making strides in developing a career. Even though five posts ago I talked about how much uncertainty there is in my life, I at least now have solid aspirations.

So much of my growth I attribute to my internship and subsequent job. Through working in a nursing home with severely disabled clients, I finally learned how to appropriately talk to strangers. I can talk to adults now and not feel like a kid. I can see someone I’ve never met and give them a genuine smile. We still have a ways to go when it comes to asserting myself, but I have definitely come a long way in my interpersonal skills. And I am quickly learning that interpersonal skills have equal or greater value to education and qualifications in the professional world.

The best part about it all is that the being at my zenith is Allah, and he isn’t just an observer. He’s been with me through it all, watched me grow, and made it happen. When things start to get uncertain, I may feel frustrated or disoriented or angry, but never alone. Because I know that He has helped me get to this point, and He will continue to stay with me and help me grow even more.

#AtoZChallenge Day 25: YouTubers

Y is for YouTubers

Y

YouTube channels seem to be turning into my generation’s new form of TV. I definitely have my likes and dislikes in the YouTube universe, but every now and then I find a gem among the mediocre. I am here today to share with you one of those gems. My favorite YouTube channel.

Dina Tokio is a Muslim fashion blogger and YouTuber. A couple of years ago, she started a YouTube channel with her husband, Sid, and together they film vlogs of their life as well as the occasional advice video. In the last year, they had their first baby, and have been documenting the process of their journey as new parents.

MashaAllah, they seem like two very good people. In a world of bad role models taking over entertainment, these two are the exceptions to the trend. If you’re interested in checking them out, I would recommend the following two videos to start.

#Goals

#AtoZChallenge Day 24: X-Men

X is for X-Men

X

X-Men has always been one of my favorite movie series, and in fact it was one of the first series I ever really got into. Back when there was only one X-Men movie, my parents let me watch it as my first ever PG-13 movie. I loved it, and since then have absolutely loved every subsequent sequel and prequel.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m older and less intensely in love with fictional series anymore, or if long series just aren’t that special anymore, but since the end of the Harry Potter era, there hasn’t been a movie release that has gotten me as excited.

With the exception of X-Men.

(and recently, the Maze Runner series ❤ )

And a month ago when I went to see Zootopia (decent, but not worth the hype in my opinion), I saw a poster for X-Men: Apocalypse and I FLIPPED OUT. I don’t even know what this one is going to be about or which time period it takes place in, but I don’t care.
Contrary to most other multi-chapter movie series, the X-Men movies keep getting better and better for me. And I can’t wait for this one.

(Sidenote: I don’t know how I missed this, but I actually haven’t seen Deadpool yet. I honestly didn’t even know it was part of the series until just now.)xmenstorm.jpg

I mentioned this in passing in another post this month, but for those wondering, my favorite character is Storm. While I really love the whole Wolverine storyline, ever since I was 8 years old watching the first X-Men movie, I wanted to be her. Loyalty, dedication to a cause, and possession of one of the coolest powers in that world. ❤

#AtoZChallenge Day 23: Wanting Too Much

W is for Wanting

W

Over the past few months, I’ve come to an odd realization:

I don’t think I know how to really want something.

I don’t know if I ever have in my post-puberty life.

Because I’ve learned that I need to be okay with not getting everything I want in this life. I need to be okay with loss and disappointment. I need to detach myself from this world and put more focus on the hereafter.

In the process of training myself to do that, I’ve also trained myself to just not want things very strongly so as to avoid disappointment and overattachment to this world.

Now I feel it has become a problem, because now it’s hard for me to pray for things. How can you sincerely ask God for something when you don’t intensely want it? There’s a fine line between trusting God to give you what you pray for and being okay with not getting it. And in trying to navigate where that line is, my duas have felt fake and insincere.

I noticed this when I was applying for graduate school. I realized last summer that as much as I grumble about continuing school, I did really want to go to grad school. And there was a specific program in a specific school that I had been wanting to get into for virtually all of undergrad.

So this past winter, when it came time to fill out the application and then go for the interview, I had to revisit that idea of really wanting to go to the school. As I visited the campus and talked to some of the current students, I realizes that I really wanted to get in to this program.

When it came time to tell the school why I wanted to go there, and then tell God the same thing in my duas afterwards, I was at such a loss of how much I should allow myself want this. It was my top school, but it was also competitive and I had already been rejected from there once before. If I was really relying on God, I would allow myself to be okay with not getting into the program.

But if I didn’t allow myself to feel that desire, how could I take the interview and my subsequent duas seriously?

So I decided to allow myself to want it. I wanted to get into this program more than anything I have wanted in years. I allowed the feeling of desire and longing to fill my heart so that I could give my all in the interview and shed tears when praying to God to allow the interviewers to see the potential in me.

Alhamdulillah, by the grace of God, I got in. I am finally enrolled in my dream program at my dream school. Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah.

But I still have my “wanting” problem. What if I hadn’t gotten in? Would it have been worth the disappointment to have wanted it so badly? Or was my wanting it and praying for it a way of relying on God that I hadn’t tried before, and He rewarded me for it?

I still don’t have the answers to these questions. I only have gratitude.