I was reading Muslimah Media Watch’s post and thinking about identity. In particular, my own identity. Let me start by saying I’m annoyed with news programs like the one referenced in the post that name shows about Muslim women “Behind the Veil” or “Beneath the Veil.” GIVE IT A REST…PLEASE! Can non-Muslims stop worrying about what’s beneath my “veil” or behind it? How many programs are there that feature non-Muslim women and name it “Behind the bra” or “Beneath the shirt”? You see where I’m going with this one, right?
Anyhow, I personally dislike the way non-Muslims and Muslims alike reduce a Muslim woman to her hijab and to her identity as a Muslim woman. Yes, Islam governs the way I do most of the things in my life (or try to do anyway.) But like many people, I have multiple identities:
I’m African-American (from the Midwest but have a southern slant since my mom is from the South)
I’m Jamaican (from the country, part Jamaican Indian-a ‘coolie gyal’ to some, part Black)
I’m “western” in thinking and to some extent in values
I’m a convert to Islam (and I didn’t convert because I was dating or married to a Muslim man)
A college graduate
A former carnival reveler
A former dancer (not classically trained)
A Jamerican bad gyal
And so much more. Most importantly, I’m a human being (even if I sometimes feel like I’m from another planet, lol.) Since I’m a human being it means that I will falter at times. I will waver. I will do things, think things, and say things that are not conducive to my way of life (Islam.) Both Muslims and non-Muslims need to realize that wavering (or ‘backsliding’ as some call it) is part of the religious experience. We all have tests, struggles and temptations. Mine aren’t necessarily the same as someone else’s. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I succeed. If I do fail or if I’m stuck momentairly, it doesn’t mean that I’ve “left the deen” or that “I’m not Muslim anymore.”
I’m tired of being exoticized by the media. And I’m sick of people trying to force me into a box.