Identity is a funny thing


My mother has always said that she thinks of me of not as knowing who I am – of being lost and torn between two cultures, and of having two identities competing with each other. I’ve never really felt like that, it’s just the false Western vs Muslim civilisation dichotomy that resonates in her, which she projects on to me. Perhaps because she’s a convert & sees the two ‘cultures’ as opposing, rather than just being bunches of peoples and ideas.

Like every other human, I’ve always had multiple and fluid identities, but, perhaps it was growing up within these multiple cultures and identities that has in fact, made me resolute in who I am, which is a human, with lots of solidarities and identities who exists within webs of culture and solidarities with other human beings, some of whom I identify with, some of whom I don’t. Some ideologies and identities I like/dislike, some people I like/dislike, it’s as simple as that. I have Muslim, Jewish & Christian family. I grew up with a mind that learnt very early on how complicated, yet simple, people are. We’re just individual people, in spite of our multiple identities, roles, and groupings.

I got told this week by a student that I had no right or capability of identifying myself as Muslim, as I don’t practise. It’s funny how other people can try to dictate who you are by their standards. Practising or not, it’s still my identity, which, incidentally, it’s up to me, and only me, to choose. Some aspects I can’t choose. I can’t choose my Egyptian-ness, my British-ness, my female-ness, and considering I had zero choice in my birth or upbringing, like anyone else, my Muslim-ness either. I am more than the sum of my parts, but my parts are still my parts, no matter how much the dictators would like to think otherwise. I can’t undo who I am, no matter how much anyone would like me to or try to impose on me.

Just a few thoughts, I am who I am, thankfully, and it amuses me to see peoples’ reactions to that. In a funny way, how people identify you or deal with aspects of your identity (or perceived identity) identifies a lot about them & their identities.

I still find it amusing when a question regarding something Arab or Muslim or Feminist-y comes up in seminars and I see the faces turn towards me. It makes me laugh. I do, however, find it really galling when people try & tell me what I think or believe based on their perceptions of who they think I am.

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