Friday 22 February 2013

Culture, Race, Religion and My Perspective

You are given two choices when you grow up.

1. You can be an ignorant white canadian and live in your little bubble, believe everything you hear about the news, think Africa is a country, hate Muslim people beacuse of 911, not know the definition of colonization, and never leave the country because everywhere else is poor and dangerous

2. You can be open minded, do research, learn that Africa is the largest continent and is filled with several countries, never believe the news because they only display the negatives, travel, go outside the box, consider a holiday outside of Mexico, research different religions, learn the two sides to every story and just be aware to what is different

Candian people are a mix between the two options.


I've met so many small town, small minded rednecks that think South America is the USA. I mean, come on. . . I think part of the problem can be blamed on the government and educational system. When I was in high school, we were restricted to what was offered to study. There was all levels of mechanics but never one social science for geography, anthropology, first nation studies or any sort of mind broadening course.


We all graduated knowing how to change a tire, perform a chemical titration, write an essay, interpert shakespear... but we had no idea who we were, where we came from  and the world that lies outside. We knew nothing about Aborignal/First Nation people. We were ignorant. We didn't know any better. And most of us didn't care either way.


I'm the only person in my grad class who would dare step into the boarders of Africa. Why would anyone go there? It's dangerous there! Black people are dangerous! Black people are scary looking! You can't see them at night!  You will get shot! They have no roads! They live in mud houses!

.... I could really go on with the things I've heard...

No one ever gave Africa a chance.


And you know what?


I LOVE Africa.


I can't speak for the entire African continent. I have only touched into South Africa. And I fell in LOVE with it!


I don't know how people can not see the beauty of the people, the language, the landscape, the ocean, the everything!



Stepping out of my comfort zone into South Africa made me question every stereotype I ever had. It made me open my eyes to realize the differnces in the world: different people, clothing, food, culture, religion, history and so much more.

Some people think that they can judge what they don't understand. If you don't try to understand it, you will never be entitled to judge it.

After visiting South Africa, I couldn't shake the travel bug. I went to Europe: Italy, France, Greece, Spain, Portugal and South Korea

They were all amazing experiences. I think anyone who has the chance to travel should take it.

Now, my major is Anthropology/ International Studies with a diploma in Social Work aimed for development


I live to explore and learn about languges, cultures, places, religions, food and so many more exciting things! It makes me happy, it makes my day!


But, it's not always easy to learn about new cultures. Sometimes I feel conflicted and confused. I spent some time learning about Islam. I am an Athesist. So, I try to be open minded about religions but it becomes quite difficult at times.


I notice I am easily offended.


Canadian people are encouraged to have self independance. So, when I learn about Islam. Wait.. Not about Islam .. But about Saudi Arabian Islam, I feel like by accepting the religion, I am losing a piece of myself. My favourite past time in the summer is to drive. I love driving. I drive when I am happy, sad, depressed, bored, and everything else. It is something I love to do.


In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive. Men should drive women.

To accept the culture of Saudi Arabia would mean for me to accept the driving law. And I cannot accept that. It goes against my beliefs and my way of life.


In my household, my mother works, my grandmother works, my aunties work, my sisters work, I work. Women work.


In Saudi, women usually stay home with children.


In my culture, women dress nice. We dress to make ourselves feel pretty. We do our hair in braids, curls, straight etc. We wear dresses, shirts, jeans, shorts and our choice of clothing is an experession of who we are and how we feel.


In Saudi, women are required to wear hijabs to cover their hair. They were a black abaya to cover their body.


There is no right or wrong way to live.


Saudi women express themselves with their make-up, brand of abaya or hijab, shoes, bags and more ... We all the same, we just follow different rules and ways of life.


However, the abaya and hijab are not my culture and to wear them, to cover myself would be to compromise my beliefs. Just as if a Saudi women were to not wear a hijab or abaya, it is not their culture and it may take away from who they are.

I do not have anything aganist Muslim people, men or women. I have some amazing friends who are Muslim and they are just like me. We have the same beliefs, same morals, same means of enjoyment, we laugh at the same things and we are just the same. There is nothing I hold against Muslim people. I will accept you for who you are, not for which race you belong to.


That being said.... As I like Muslim people, there are many things I do not like about Islam or even the culture. I can like a person, no matter where they are from. But I feel something insdie me become irritated when I learn about polygamy, men must accompany women to the grocery store, shopping mall, and all basic places. In Saudi, women seem to  be denied their freedom of speech. And that is just the way it is.

I can learn about it

I can try to understand it

but I cannot accept it.


For that reason, I question if my passion for travel, culture and food is the correct passion for me.


I was conflicted for a short time. I began getting easily irritated with my Muslim friends because I realized how much their culture of Saudi controls them and how much I disagree with much of the culture.

People from the USA will say they hate Muslim people beacause of 9/1/1. I will never say I hate Muslim people. We are all people. We are all the same, just with different beliefs. Just like I walk away from the arrogant New Yorker, I will walk away from a Saudi if I disagree with the culture. Just like I am easily annoyed with the ignorance of my high school graduation class, I am just as annoyed with the ignorance of some Saudi people I've met.


In that sense, aren't they the same? The small minded class mates I graduated with and the small minded Muslim Saudi's? They are the same. I dislike them equally based on their religious views, their personality, their belifs, their culture but never beacuse of their race.

To be racist is to judge someone based on the color of their skin and to make a judgement without giving them a chance. I will never do that to someone. I may look if I see a hijab. I may stare if I see a black man. I may feel curious if I see an Asian. But I will never discriminate based only on race. I will begin to judge someone based on the things they say, the beilfs they hold, the character I see, the words they say. . .

Sometimes I get a little out of control and I am confused about what I think. I am easily conflicted with trying to understand someone else's culture that sometimes I begin to change myself. I try so hard to understand why, when, who, what. . . Canadian society teaches us that you can always try harder. You can always understand if you just keep trying. But that is wrong. Sometimes we just can't understand what is not natural to us. For me, I may never completely understand Muslims, Islam and Saudi Arabia. I may never agree with it. I may never accept it. I can have Saudi friends but that doesn't mean I have to sacrafice my beliefs to accomodate someone else's.


What I have recently learned is that everyone has a culture. Everyone has a language. Everyone belongs somewhere. Everyone has an opinion and most of us are free to make our own choices after that. As a Canadian multi-cultural culture, we can be understanding and open minded to different cultures but that doesn't mean we have to accpet everything about every culture. There will always be something I will not accept. Weather that something is a conflict between my belifs and a Muslim or between my belifs and my neighbour.


It's never an easy battle. Sometiems I may feel confused and the easiest answer I have found is just to seperate myself from what is confusing me. Once I seperate myself, I can see clearly. I started to dislike my Muslim friends beacuse of our differences. And that's not fair. Everyone will always have differences. When you integrate different societies and cultures, the differences become stronger and more difficult to work through.


I've seperated myself from everything that was causing me conflict and I feel better. I can see clearly. I seperated my personal attachements and feelings from the root of my confusion. And I can begin to understand more clearly.


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