I believe in taking pride in ones heritage and culture while accepting the background of others.
My parents were both born and raised in Palestine, a war torn country bordering the Mediterranean Sea, they left their homeland to come to America in search of opportunities and a better life. My siblings and I were all raised in America; however we paid annual visits to the homeland and therefore kept an essence of nationalism in our home.
Well, before September 11th that is.
After the attacks, Arabs and Muslims were shown in a negative light by the media, and several negative stereotypes surrounded us. People began to question our beliefs, our intentions, our lifestyles; it began to feel as if we were constantly under society’s microscope.
At the tender age of eight years old, I was first introduced to racism. Classmates would come up to me and state their parents no longer allowed them to speak with me, “because I am the enemy.” Suddenly I became the enemy, simply because I came from a different country and practiced a different religion. They made me feel as if I did not belong in this country. It seemed better, and safer, to hide where I was from and practice my own form of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Don’t ask me where I am from, and I won’t tell you.
Eventually, I became ashamed of being Palestinian and Muslim and afraid of what would happen if people were to ever find out I was “one of them.” Would they stop talking to me? Would they send me in for questioning about association with a terrorist organization I had never even heard of before? At that time, anything seemed possible.
It was not until I got older, and wiser, did I realize the beauty of diversity and the beauty of my heritage. America is not white, America is not black, America is American. We are all American. I had just a right to be in this country as the next person, I was not any better nor any worse than anybody else simply due to my race. In the Holy Quran, God tells us, “I created you into diverse nations and tribes that you may come to know one another.” I believe here in America we are fulfilling God’s wish and making it a reality.
I have nothing to be ashamed of; rather I have much to be proud of. I began to see the beauty of my own culture, my own country, and my own religion just by seeing the beauty of being in an atmosphere so rich in diversity.
I now hold a firm belief that if you lose contact with your heritage, you lose contact with yourself. Your culture is something to be proud of, not ashamed of. It should be held in esteem, not hidden in shame.
I am a Palestinian Arab Muslim and (finally) proud of it.