I got 99 Problems, but haram ain’t one of them

I’m really trying to pace myself. Maybe a post per day. But I can’t right now. I have so much going on and at the same time I have so much to get off my chest. My feelings about this whole exercise is a revelation with heavy elements of confession.

I want to show the complexity of being a hybrid. How some people look at us like cultural mutts, not belonging anywhere definite, rather than being the compilation of those cultures. The derision I’ve received at not being Arab enough or Western enough, or too Arab or too Western (yeah lots of ors here) has been the bane of my existence. Add to that, the haram police (self-righteous, pretentious, self-appointed imams) on my ass for not adhering to Islam “correctly”. Whatever the fuck that means

A heavy component to being brought up Arab is religion – regardless if it’s Islam or not (as observed through my interaction with my Arab Christian friends). But, having been raised with religion, what happens when you live in a secular or non-religious society? One of two things, either you clamp down on your beliefs and see the world through that filter, or you realize you can be a decent human without the threat of eternal fire or the bribery of endless paradise.

Understand that this post is my proverbial self-outing. Some will embrace me, but the closest to me may very well reject me. This goes beyond being whitewashed, I simply, in good faith, cannot identify with the religious edicts in Islam or any other established and organized religion. There, I said it. And if I were to ever return to the fold, Islam needs a damn Reformation, like centuries ago.

I have been grappling with self-doubt and guilt for a long time. I suffered a huge existential crisis a year ago, when through natural intellectual evolution, I questioned the system – my system. And things just didn’t add up. I couldn’t blame childhood naivete. I mean, good god, even as a kid I was a handful.

Picture an eight-year-old asking her Islamic studies teacher to explain where God came from. And no, “He was and is and will always be” was not a good enough answer for me back then – as a child. So, imagine how I’m still grappling with religion as an adult.

What it came down to was my goals. What am I trying to achieve, what am I trying to learn? And what is so damn threatening about my way of life and existence that I’m derided left, right and centre? I am adaptable to change. And I feel people can change and change their views. Mind you before I continue, this is in no way a religion bashing. Do you, just don’t do me in the process.

This is an entry about self-evolution.

Change petrifies some people. If things are chugging along, why do you have to change them? Why disrupt the status quo? Personally, I love challenges. Even when those challenges are beyond my abilities, I know I will learn something out of the experience.

As a child, I was taught that you should change only if you really must. Thank god I’m a slow-learner and that didn’t catch on. But, my parents really tried to instill this mantra in me. Why? See my previous blog about how being a refugee royally sucks. Life was going hanky-dory for my family and then things out of their control turned that life upside-down. They don’t like change. They want stability and normalcy.

Having been raised in Canada, I didn’t have the same life stress. Call it the first-world-problems complex. My tummy was full, I had toys, I had friends, and I wasn’t afraid of war or regional instability. The most omg, I mean oma-moment I remember from my childhood was the 1997 ice storm. Even our family from Iraq called us up to make sure we were alive. My, my, how the tables turned.

So, back to change and evolution. I discovered most people are averse to change. At work, at home, on the street, wherever. Let things be. But, what if they plateau? Which they will, what then? Am I not supposed to challenge my mind? Some people will say ‘no’. Why? Why disrupt a belief system that has been ingrained in minds, life, society? It’s working fine for the people who put it in place. So, that means do not push boundaries or think about ? personal growth and development.

Again, I have zero qualms if someone questioned my way of thinking and my methods. Their acts are a form of further discovery is how I see it. I’m for sure going to learn something new from them, and I will learn something about myself. Where’s the problem?

The issue isn’t willingness to have my beliefs questioned, but to consider that some of those beliefs were passed on to me. If I question my beliefs, I am questioning my family’s beliefs, and the wider community’s beliefs, and eventually the global community I have belonged to since birth.

As a westernized Arab, which I hope by now you understand is the click-bait whitewashed term, it is brutally hard to explain to your family that they have assimilated but you’ve assimilated more. I discovered that as our parents become grandparents and enter their senior years, they long for the time of their youth. Which is understandable. But, that nostalgia harks back to a world that no longer exists. The Iraq of their youth and the Middle East in general, has culturally morphed. It is not the same. But, there’s this guilt-tripping they level at their children, telling us we forgot who we are. That is not the case.

We learned to take the best of two worlds and live as best as we can. And #sorryNotsorry, but I’m not going to change my tune because my mom is afraid of what the community gossips will say. No, I don’t attend the mosque because it is a social gathering place for more of that gossip. Worse yet, the general truths and moral code coming from the pulpit isn’t being practiced. Aunty-this and aunty-that are hung up on marrying their sons off to so-and-so’s daughter and news on the latest trips from “back home”.

Consider this my proverbial coming out of the closet.

I can’t fucken do it. I can’t do gossip. I can’t do the hypocrisy. I can’t fucken do the fake religiosity. I can’t abide the phony self-righteousness. It’s nauseating. It’s disgusting. It’s a turn-off. I don’t want your community, because it’s been poisonous to me. You could’ve done it so much better and you royally fucked up. You cannot see that the simple truths of honesty, respect, altruism are components of almost all faiths. But you’re better than everyone else. Yeah, I don’t think so. Congratulations on pushing us further and further away.   IMG_6206








*Title Credit: Zuzu came up with it during one of our family discussions about religion and kittens.


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