August 31, 2010

Don't Tread On Me

Although I'm Egyptian by heritage, I've always been American in my head and in my heart. (Of course I'm a Muslim but I'm not talking about religion here so don't go commenting about that) Even after living here in Egypt for 8 years now, you can't shake where you were brought up, what you've always known since being a child or the way you think.

But now I find, I've surprised my self in my reactions to things. I won't go into details but someone recently made a remark to me about our decision to live here. Now I'm the first person to complain about Egypt but can I just say? That little dig? It made me defensive. I felt attacked not just personally but on a patriotic level. Now we all know there are a lot of things wrong with Egypt but there are a lot of good things about this country as well. The same is true of any country of course.

I think that part of why I feel the need to defend Egypt at times, comes from my blood, but I believe it's primarily from living here. As much as I complain and roll my eyes about people here and the way they do things, I've also seen the best of it. The warm hearted people. The hospitality. You know your Neighbours and share your food with each other. The sunshine year round. The beautiful sea. The all around relaxed environment. Never feeling like you're not welcome, just to name a few.

Tensions of late in the US regarding Muslims are at an all time high and I sincerely worry about that as a potential problem if we were to go for a visit.

In the end I'll always identify as American first, but don't you ever imply that Egypt is not a good place to live or bring up children. It only makes you sound elitist and arrogant. /rant

12 comments:

  1. Salaam 3alaik ya Mona,

    Ramadaan Kareem :-) I just wanna say, even though I've had bad experiences with every single Egyptian I've met (except for one lady), I don't say ALL Egyptians are bad.

    InshaaAllah that doesn't come off as dumb or the wrong way.

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  2. My thoughts exactly!

    My dad is Egyptian and mum is English. They live in England. My dad absolutley hates Egypt. He is constantly asking why would I choose to live here and he is always complaining about it.

    Of course I do complain about Egypt, like you said there are many things wrong with Egypt but there are so many things great about it too.

    My dad is always telling me that the young people of Egypt want to move to England or the US. But I tell him, just look at all the young teachers who work in my school, from England, US, Australia and many other places. They choose to come to Egypt to live and work and many of them have stayed for more than their original contract so clearly there must be something to like about Egypt.

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  3. i can completely relate to this but i'm british i went to egypt recently and when people asked me where i was from i kept saying britain or england but they would keep saying your not from britain where are you from. i was born in london and grew up here this is the place i was brought up and that can never change.
    BTW loving your blog :)

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  4. I've found myself feeling the exact same way about living in the deep South. It's like, I can complain about this place because it's mine and it's part of who I am, but when somebody who isn't from here says something disparaging about this place, it sort of hurts. Mainly if they are implying that everybody who lives here is ignorant or racist or uneducated or whatever. I guess I take a sort of underdog pride in this little corner of America.

    As far as the anti-Muslim crazies are concerned... I will just say this. I don't have cable, and until a couple days ago, I didn't even have an antenna. So I've been so out of the news loop, other than what I pick up online.

    I really think that your average American is either tolerant of Muslims or just doesn't really think about these things.

    However, the Conservative puppetmasters have made this Park 51 thing a focus in order to make all the people who don't really think for themselves get all worked up into a tizzy. The Conservative machine has a huge share of our media, they have the biggest loudest voice by far, and they, by and large, control information flow.

    So it may appear as a result that Americans are totally flipping out about Muslims, because that's all over the news.

    Unfortunately, they are stoking hatred, and this big focus on things like Park 51 is actually pushing the public mindset toward being anti-Muslim, or at the very least fearful of Muslim culture. It's pretty disturbing how easily people are manipulated by fear.

    Now, in my day-to-day real life, here in the deep South, I'm just gonna say this. I have Palestinian friends, I've had a few Lebanese friends too, and I just recently met a Syrian guy (well, we aren't very diverse here, but you know). And we're all in a community together. I think my city is very accepting and tolerant of people from other cultures or who practice religions other than Christianity. I see women wearing the hijab walking down the street or at the store all the time. I can't speak for them, it would be presumptuous of me, but it seems like we do okay in our little city. We aren't burning down Mosques or harassing minorities here.

    The news media has this way of twisting reality. Now, obviously, there are anti-Muslim hate crimes happening in this country. And the focus on the paranoid mob is creating an even bigger, more dangerous paranoid mob. It's disappointing. We can do better. But at the same time, I really do think you have nothing to be afraid about if you come back here to visit.

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  5. @ Amalia,
    The only reason why Egyptian youth want to migrate to western countries because of the higher standard of living and its easy to make a dollar. If you are well off in Egypt, its a very beautiful country to be in and you probably would never want to leave. Anyone who speaks like that about their home country, to me that isn't showing appreciation about where your from.

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  6. Great post, Mona! I'm not Egyptian at all, or even Arab, but I find myself having the same reaction to cynics and naysayers. The positive things you mentioned about Egypt are on point mashaa Allaah. And yes, the situation back home only makes me more sure that this is the right place for me and my family. To each his/her own, but like you said, don't even try to be doggin' Egypt! LOL!

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  7. Mona, Great name! I know what you mean. Thanks :)

    Designerd, I can see how that would be disconcerting, stereotypes about the south. I'm really glad to know it's better than I imagine. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    Muslimah, Its sad that you have to be well off to live like the standards we are used to in the west but I'm sure there are tonnes of people who live simple lives but are completely happy.

    Asiya, thanks! :)!!

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  8. Salamat Mona.

    This is something I struggle with on a personal level. I was born and brought up in Australia. Since being married, I visit Lebanon just about every year. My husband's parents are there as are all of my aunts and uncles and cousins.

    I think I come off elitist and arrogant. I try so hard to just keep my mouth shut. Lebanon and its people have been through a hell of a lot. But I tend to forget that when I am there. I am always rolling my eyes and saying things that I always regret. Who am I to judge them?

    I too am Lebanese in my heart. I may not understand lots of things about Lebanon and the Lebanese, but that does not give me the right to put them down in any way.

    Thanks for this post. It is a very good reminder to me to see the positives before embarking on a ridicule fest. I tend to defend Lebanon in Australia and Australia in Lebanon. In Lebanon I identify as an aussie, and in oz I identify as Lebanese.

    How warped is that? Who am I? :-) oh no. Not THAT question!!

    You make some very good points, points that can be made about many cultures and countries. Who are we to ridicule?

    Oh. which reminds me of the various comments I made about the dust and dirt in Lebanon the last time I was there. Why would I compare a country which is ravaged by war with a country that has everything at its beck and call? How arrogant is that!

    This coming visit, maybe I can change my tune a little. Maybe I can take a moment to realise that my parents grew up in the country. That a lot of what I believe in is due to that country. That my culture us embedded in that country. It is me.

    Again. Thanks.

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  9. Salaam!

    I recently decided with my husband that we'd like to live in a Muslim country for one to two years. We want to experience it and also I really want to learn Arabic. It will also be an opportunity for us to visit a large part of Europe and the Middle East.

    When I mentioned the idea to a few friends, they only had terrible things to say about living in the Middle East. I got pretty offended since none of them have done it, they were so judgemental, and most of them have not been to that part of the World. They are Muslim.

    My husband and I made the decision after speaking to many American people that have lived there recently or are living there now. In terms of work and compensation, it seems more promising for Americans at this time than in America itself.

    I just don't like how people put Muslim countries down. I'm not saying they are wonderful places to live and to be Muslim, but there are positives and negatives everywhere. We need to experience and not be so judgemental.

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  10. Salams Mona!

    So I've never been to Egypt, however I can relate to what you're feeling. Born in Singapore, raised in Malaysia, had my share of running around to quite a number of places allover just made me feel like I'm a part of each and every place. I guess when we've stayed long in a particular place, no matter how disgustingly crazy life is, we can't deny the fact that we have a sentimental/patriotic attachment to it. At least that's what I feel. :)

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  11. You can be American and Egyptian at the same time. There is nothing wrong with it. When you live somewhere for a long time, get to know the people, their culture, their thought process, you can't help but appreciate them no matter how annoying it can be at times.

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  12. Houda,Yea, I was just thinking about these things and it's just about being open minded and having balance. Nothings black or white.

    Saba, Its definitely something people don't know until they experience it. I'm sure it's the same in other countries/areas of the world.

    Hajar, You're right. We become attatched weather we like it or not.:)

    Hijabee, I agree, I'm both.

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Thanks for commenting!