December 4, 2008
Egypt… bigotry hidden under thick layers of religious and liberal pretences
Coming from a religiously conservative family, I was brought up to take extra pride in my faith, even though I did not necessarily understand it enough to practice it properly. Almost everyone in my family (from both sides) has a meaningful name influenced by religion.
My dad gave my sisters and me very unique names that make people go “ohhhh” when they know our names; they are simple, short and have quite the religious significance.
Mine however is not exclusively Islamic, it goes back to Jewish origins; a fact which makes it easier to pronounce than my sisters’. My father’s name on the other hand is esm morrakab; meaning, he has two names to count as a first name, more like the western verion of middle names, only everyone I know acknowledges his second name since the first is Mohamed, which is pretty common in our culture.
Until college, I used to go by my first name and my father’s middle name. That combination made my name sound perfectly neutral; people couldn’t guess my religion and accordingly treated me cautiously in fear of offending me.
I won’t go through with the whole issue of whether religious tolerance exists in Egypt or not; it’s fair to say that some people (either Christians or Muslims) are tolerant of the other religion, while some others simply aren’t. As a child, it was confusing, and it led to a huge deal of misconceptions that took me quite some time to overcome (not in a traumatizing way though).
I resented by name, because it made people ask me too many questions. I really wanted a simpler name that did not raise so much questions and wonderings before people started getting comfortable.
Until I got veiled!
I was confronted by how cruel society can be, judging people by their looks. I realized that my neutral name and non-significant appearance shielded me from awkward moments. I realized it was a blessing having been treated with extra caution!
And no, it’s not the expected group of people who judged me, whatever that is. Against the general assumption, I travelled to the US the next summer, and I barely had any troubles because of my veil. Average Americans, aside from the “notorious” political agenda (which is not up to me to support or condemn), do not judge people based on their looks the way people do in Egypt (and perhaps the Middle East). We are such racists and bigots and the sad part is that we hide it under thick layers of fake religiousness and liberalism which we barely practice when unwatched.
Please meet those who judge me…
- Strictly religious Muslims who consider what I wear not hijab, and expect me to dress more modestly, and
- Pseudo-Liberals, either Christians or Muslims who seem to be very appalled by my veil!
Now I won’t go defending my choice or my religion because I don’t think those who judge me or my likes would either understand or appreciate what I have to say. All I can say is “SHAME ON YOU”, both parties.
“Religious Muslim Practicers”, you should know that “الأعمال بالنيات”, you should know that “الدين يسر، و ليس عسر”, you should “بشروا و لا تنفروا”, and if I am that offensive to look at, you can totally “غض البصر”!!
And “Liberals”, shame shame shame, the people who had passed the “liberal heritage” to you fought for big notions like “freedom of choice” that should be accepted without consequences, but what can I say, you were obviously never involved in such fights and simply cannot appreciate the trophy, freedom!!
I find both parties hypocrites, who miserably fail practicing what they preach and give their causes a horrible horrible names.
It used to hurt and offend me when I felt mistreated because of my veil, but then I realized something; it’s a unique way of blocking all the fakers and pretenders who can’t handle but judge me based on my appearance rather than my personality. To those people, I say it’s really your loss, touché!