“You’re not Muslim are you?” a guy from university once asked me. My heart started beating really fast as I searched for words.
I felt like I was being asked a trick question. I am proud of who I am and all but that particular time I hesitated. I felt like I was about to be ousted. What perceptions does this guy have about my religion?
Will he think of me differently? “Yes – but I’m still me!” is what I wanted to say. What I actually said was “Well – my parents are (mumble… mumble …mumble)”. I wish I could go back and punch myself in the face.
Many have written about how immigrant kids—those whose parents or grandparents migrated—generally feel a greater sense of loss and isolation. You’re thinking, “Quit whining”, right? I was lucky to be born, educated and raised in one of the best places on earth. I agree. So what’s the problem? Identity. The world is based off of identification. It feeds off it.
Superficial adjectives like ‘black’, ‘rich’, ‘white’, ‘fat’ are meant to sum up a person’s entire complex history and identity in a single word.We form assumptions as a result of these words and what they have come to mean to us in our own contexts. We define others based on those words and we allow them to define ourselves.
For example, when you hear the word ‘virgin’, your entire perception of that person’s identity starts to form around a particular image you have embedded somewhere in your brain about what a virgin looks like, talks like and just generally is like (I personally think of Shoshana in season one of Girls). Being a virgin then becomes that person’s identity; not just a part of it, but the whole thing. They usually are uptight crazies that have no sexual desires and are only attracted to plants and/or religion or something like that, right?
Most people who know me and then find out that I have not in fact had sex tend to think I’m lying. They think it’s some rouse I’ve concocted to make myself seem unattainable or more desirable. The odd few who do believe me go into shock for a minimum of 45 minutes (this can sometimes last for days and usually involves a lot of annoying questions).
You? The same girl who was dating so and so? The same girl who likes grinding to Kendrick Lamar more than most things on this earth? You pray? You fast? Yes and yes. I just don’t pray and grind at the same time, but that is why there are 24 hours in a day.
Many people have an image of what a Muslim female should look like and, well, I don’t fit it. I don’t wear a hijab or dress in a particular way so it is usually difficult for people to identify me as Muslim and for this reason some have even made fun of other Muslims in front of me. Awkward. In the same way, most people don’t generally identify me as Australian because I have a year round tan.
I, however identify with both. I always think ‘I am Australian and Muslim – so what?’ it’s not like the two are mutually exclusive. Countless drunk men all over the world though, feel the need to point out that “I don’t look Australian” while hitting on me (which is possibly the worst part. Guys: please don’t ever use this as a pick up line!). Or the even better, “But where are you REALLY from?” Oh, yep, because I was lying when I said I was born in Canberra. Who would lie about being from Canberra?
When I was 16, I was walking down a street in Sydney when a woman felt the need to inform me that, “In Australia, we walk on the left”. I wish I could blame my inability to navigate a street on being a tourist or a foreigner, but, alas, I am just a really shitty pedestrian.
You know, the kind that is always getting in the way of a cyclist, a bus or evidently, other pedestrians. Eight years on and the same thing happened to me in the Middle East but according to the angry lady on the travelator, they walk on the right side. Seriously lady? People in the Middle East walk wherever the fuck they want and we all know it.