Just recently, three days ago to be exact, I started feeling very out of place here. Due to the recent horrific criminal act in France... but wait also in Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, etc, the focus has been more on Islam. The Arab countries, Islamic scholars as well as many Muslim individuals have taken to the media in all its forms to condemn any act committed by insane extremists who, honestly do not represent me and many others. But no matter how many times they condemn it, the image of Islam and Muslim people is getting worse and not only at the hands of the Muslims.
These three days have been draining to hear the news and more so reading the personal comments of many readers in the article commentaries. Wow! The wave of hatred that one receives from reading those comments hits one like a virtual stone wall. The hurt I feel that some people say, that ALL Muslims should be wiped off the map, is too deep. Even though this was not the only time that I read or heard anything like that. I had a student in Thailand chat to me about how his father believes that ALL Muslims should be taken to a different planet not knowing that I was one of those people who would board that spaceship. Come to think of it, the latter comment sounds way better than the first.
These three days I have been struggling to fit in. I am an international teacher and one of the aspects of being International is that I must try and fit in, in order to enjoy the whole journey as well as make friends from different parts of the world. Being International to me means that one has to be open-minded and accepting of the different cultures we interact with. I thoroughly enjoy getting to know people from different regions of the globe. It is a warming feeling as it makes the world so much smaller and more connected.
But I am struggling to fit in. I am Arab and I am a Muslim. Even though I am not visibly so, my last name, which I use at school, certainly gives it away. This does not mean that I do not mention where I come from every time someone asks me. "I am Iraqi- Palestinian brought up in Jordan!" I say. Whenever Jordan is mentioned in assembly announcements (some of our students go to Jordan for the AMMUN) I yell... WHOOHOO! Two months ago, my book club read The Lemon Tree suggested by a friend of mine. It is a book about my family and Ramleh. I hosted the gathering and made Palestinian dishes. So I do not hide that I am proud of where I come from and who I am but I also try very hard to fit in. Alas, I am failing.
It is because I struggle. I struggle with continuing to be placed in the same tainted jar as the extremist. It is painful as my parents never raised me to be one. To be told something in a social circle without any sensitivity to whom it is directed to, hurts. To be shown a drawing also in a social circle without any sensitivity to how it might make someone feel, hurts. Due to my own sensitivities, I would never do it to someone else. I would never say anything that would insult where they come from, their religion or their beliefs and if I ever did, I would be extremely apologetic.
I respect Freedom of Speech and I believe in its power. I believe people have the right to say what they feel. BUT if one's freedom of speech hurts the feelings of a friend or a partner, then that, to me, is where it should stop. Everything has limits in this world no matter what one might tell you otherwise. When people say: "The sky is the limit," that is it... it is after all a limit.