I find it startling that we started linking the fact of being open-minded to having a western mentality. Who said that being open-minded means we should have a western mentality? It seems like it’s a trend now to show how open-minded we are by picking on Islam and attacking some Islamic aspects to sound cool and hip and open-minded, we thrive to measure up to the American standards of being open-minded. Its mind boggling to read, hear and meet people whether in Gaza, Palestine or the Arabic world talking about how much they are very proud of being “Western” and “open-minded” and how being religious is so “Two thousand and late” or so “1990s”. Really? Are you for real?
I was born and raised in Europe; I came to Gaza to a whole new culture. I knew I was Muslim but I didn’t learn more about my religion till I came here. I am proud of my blended culture and proud of being Muslim and liberal. I am too open-minded for my own sake which usually puts me in trouble; I am usually accused of either being too liberal or less religious. Both are untrue.
I find myself torn between defending liberal people who choose to be Muslim yet open minded (like girls who are good Muslims but choose not to wear Hijab yet) and in the same time defending religious people who are often accused of being narrow minded, too religious, terrorists ….etc. Women who wear Hijab in the western world are often harassed, slandered and sometimes dangerously attacked like Marwa Al Sherbini (Egyptian woman who was attacked by a German douchebag just because she was wearing Hijab and he later stabbed her to death when she decided to take him to court). Some European countries placed ban on Niqab which made many of Muslim women’s lives hellish and hard.
In the Arab world, women who decided not to wear Hijab yet are often attacked, slandered and harassed. People give themselves the right to judge them and call them many things including: “hookers, sluts and bitches” just because they aren’t covering their heads and they claim that they are doing it because they honor Islam. Well news flash: Islam never asked you to judge, attack and slander people for any reason even if its defending because its not really an “Islamic” act. Islam asks us to respect everyone and all religions. I don’t see people pressuring men for not praying or fasting yet they feel so powerful about pressuring women to wear Hijab.
The western media and governments got so worked up to blame, frame and put shame on Islam for every wrong thing in their countries to cover up their corruption. Islam, Muslims and Arabs became a target. This shows how powerful Islam is and how powerful Muslims are which pushed those directions to focus on deforming Islam’s image. Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance whether you wanna believe it or not.
Ofcourse, some Arabs and Muslims contributed a great deal in deforming Islam’s image. Let me not talk about people elsewhere, let me talk about what I saw with my own eyes. I see some shameful Gazan youth who believe that its very cool and western to degrade Islam so they can get publicity or a trip to a foreign country or an invitation to a conference….. etc. How hideous is that? I see foreign organizations and INGOs in Gaza trying their best to focus on how Hamas is using Islam to oppress people and how some girls in Gaza are forced to wear Hijab and how frustrating is that? Seriously? You left all the bad things happening in Gaza and the suffocating siege imposed on us and suddenly you wanna do the community good by “liberating” Gazan girls from wearing Hijab?
I am not with Hamas nor am I defending it. Hamas has its bad and good sides just like Fatah and all other Palestinian factions. But if I say that our biggest problem in Gaza is Hijab then I would be the most disgusting guy on earth. I personally know some of the most powerful, independent, clever, educated, cultured, influential and inspiring girls in Gaza whom I was honored to know and meet. I never really cared whether they are veiled or not. Some are veiled and some are not but they are equally brilliant. Hijab doesn’t stand in the way for those who wear it or don’t.
What is really pathetic is seeing how some foreign organizations and journalists using Gaza just to attack Islam. I see them writing about religious oppression in Gaza (which doesn’t exist) and how they cant move without wearing Hijab. Come to Gaza and you will see foreign journalists moving freely even if they are wearing a jeans and a T-shirt, you will see veiled and non-veiled girls and you will see that not only do women have freedom but they are also a force to be reckoned with. Women actually wear Jeans and T-shirts in Gaza and I don’t find that so shocking. Let me just share how sick I got when I saw the Anti-Niqab protests in Europe, European women were degrading Hijab in every way possible including wearing Niqab over a bikini and even wearing nothing but Niqab. How disgusting and idiotic.
I laughed my heart out when I read about Aliaa Magdi, the Egyptian thing, who saw that she should share her naked photos to show her revolutionary side. She called it the new "Naked Revolution". She -somehow- decided to link revolution with naked art and claimed that freedom of speech must enable Arabs of sharing their naked photos. No thanks, I will pass. What the hell is wrong with her? What on earth is the link between revolution and nudity? I have no respect for her or her boyfriend who likes to always link sex to everything on earth. They are disgusting and lame and they will do anything for fame.
Oh yeah and lets talk about the honor killing. I don’t support honor killing in any way, shape or form. I am against violence and I do admit that we heard and still hear about some horrifying stories about honor killing in the Arab world. Some stories are not justified and others show how the girl was killed because of a misunderstanding. But lets not forget that crimes exist all around the world. So westerns don’t kill? A western man never murdered his wife\sister\mother\daughter\girlfriend\neighbor…etc for no apparent reason? America has the highest crime rates and yet I never saw it being attacked for “Western” honor killing. Some of the crimes there are much more awful than the Arab honor killing cases. I am not justifying the notorious phenomenon of honor killing in the Arab world; I am just saying lets condemn it internationally so we can be fair to the victims and to ourselves.
Women have been always taking a part in Gazan community. They are equally active, educated and employed if you compare them to men. They have the freedom of movement too. The phenomenon of early marriage has reduced greatly because Gazans are more aware now. Majority of young women are getting married due to love stories and freedom of choice. Women are seeking and occupying high positions in the employment field becoming even higher than men sometimes.
Its fascinating to see how Gaza is evolving and growing in every aspect yet we still see foreign and local attempts to keep us busy with dilemmas from the stone age. We moved on so its time for others to move on and embrace our growth. Its also shameful to see some young Gazans falling in this trap which is deforming the very productive image of Gaza’s bright youth.
So consider me boring for the saying the truth but I don’t wish to be invited to a European country or praised by an American journalist or supported by France just to attack Islam or Gaza. I would rather stay here and raise my voice and say: “We are way hip, cool and advanced than you think; believe or see”.
Why do Muslims and Arabs have to always try hard to fit in and be accepting? Why doesn’t the world embrace us like we embrace it? Why do they want us to become something else? Why do they want us to become like them? Why do they want us to degrade our culture and religion to gain their respect? Why are we always pressured to justify ourselves?
My last advice or message: Please let’s stop judging each other. Its 2011 for god’s sake. People are categorized by being good or bad not by wearing Hijab or not. Not all women wearing Hijab are angels and not all women not wearing Hijab are right. Live and let live. Give love to receive love and lets embrace each other with our differences, imperfections and different perspectives.
From Gaza with love, less judgment and a huge hug,
Follow me on Twitter: @Omar_Gaza