Friday, February 11, 2011

Revolution & Egyptian Identity

For most of my life, I rarely attributed my characteristics or personality traits to being Egyptian. I had assumed my sense of humour was of my own making. I assumed my values, dreams, hopes all came from an amalgamation of being a Muslim and a Canadian. I didn't factor in my Egyptian roots.

Over the past two years or so, I've started becoming more aware of how my family's dynamics and my own personal traits have real roots in the Egyptian culture. When I first began to realize this, it was an interesting and almost frightening awakening. How could I have gone through my entire life nearly rejecting a part of my identity - not because I specifically disliked it, but because I truly believed it had no bearing on my life? It began to seem nonsensical to me. Perhaps it was because in the past 2-3 years I've made many more trips to Egypt than I ever had before. I made 3 separate trips to Egypt in 2010 alone.

Similarly, I still had this internal conflict with myself - was it Islamically right for me to be "proud" of my heritage. I always rejected this notion of national pride because I didn't believe that any one race was better than the other - and on that specific point, I know I am right. But the way it translated into my life wasn't right; I suppressed that identity, thinking it was more important to just be known as Muslim than anything else. And I still believe that is mostly right. But not all right.

I didn't give myself the chance to celebrate the unique identity that came along with such a rich culture. I think I've been missing out a lot.

This became even more clear to me after witnessing the bravery, confidence, unity, resourcefulness, and steadfastness of the Egyptian people over the past 18 days. I am both proud and incredibly humbled to claim Egyptian roots and heritage. I can only aspire to hope for the characteristics of both strength and the culture of humility that I have seen in the Egyptian people.

For the first time in 25 years, I can say with a clear sense of purpose and sincerity: I'm proud to be Egyptian.


1 said...

"was it Islamically right for me to be "proud" of my heritage. I always rejected this notion of national pride"

Initially you mentioned identifying yourself as a Muslim and Canadian...If you are proud to be Canadian and identify yourself as one then what's wrong with identifying and being proud also of your roots and heritage. Nothing wrong with that and being proud of it.

The only time I feel it becomes un/not-islamic is if someone feels they are better than others if they are an Arab over non-Arab or vice versa or Westerner over Easterner, etc. When they give preference, favour or help one more than the other also.

One common practice which we often forget here is when Arabs speak with other Arabs in Arabic even though they know non-Arabs are standing with them. Or Pakistanis/Indians speaking in Urdu or Hindi in the presence of Arabs.

Asmaa said...

1, clarification: I don't think the words "I'm proud to be Canadian" have ever passed my lips. There's something about that phrase that doesn't sit well with me. Naturally being Canadian factors into my identity, but nationalistic "pride"...well, not really. I now know that I'm definitely more proud to be Egyptian =)

Also, I agree with your last point. That's in bad taste.

Nauman said...

Now you can walk like an Egyptian with pride... :)