My sole claim to culture lies not in my familial past but rather my religion. As a Muslim, there are certain practices, customs and ideologies that influence my way of life and define how I view myself and the world around me. Without them, I would be very different from the person I am today. Without them, I would probably be treated very differently than how I am today. By my skin colour alone, it would be obvious that I am a foreigner. When my clothing and way of speaking are added, it’s obvious that it changes how people react to me. I know what a lot of people say about my religion. I am well aware of their views on ‘outsiders’ and immigrants. I’ve had people judge me based on the way I look, the way I dress and the language I use.
There’s a certain attitude used - by many - towards people who believe in certain things – and maybe this is not always the case – but for some, faith is regarded as not something bad, but rather, something stupid. Illogical or irrational, even. There’s a hint of a laugh when I say something about my views, a bit of contempt or confusion. They ask me if I “don’t know what they’re doing in the East” if I “don’t realize I’m being oppressed.” There’s another form of oppression when people are in danger of not being able to practice what they believe in; another form of conformism being put into place when people can’t wear a symbol of faith - an article of clothing - just because you don’t like it. And yes – if I didn’t want to wear what I do, that would be fine, but I do want to wear it and that’s also fine.
Their questions make me feel like I’m going to cry. In a country where freedom is preached, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is almost ignored because someone doesn’t like what I believe in. Or maybe it’s not my faith but rather who practices it - but not every man with a beard has a gun and not every woman in a scarf is forced to wear it. Yes, I understand your security concerns but it’s a concern to me if you want to see what’s underneath. As far as I’m concerned, it’s an invasion of privacy. I’m sorry for what some people do, but if we judged the practitioners of a belief by the actions of a few, then there would be no people found without guilt. I’m sorry if that’s extreme but that’s what you’re saying when you call my brothers and sisters extremists. Or rather, ‘Islamists’. And I’m sorry, but Islam is the only thing that I have and rather than connecting me to a country I left more than half a lifetime ago, it connects me to more than one billion people I could call my brother or sister.Well, that's pretty insulting. Also disturbing. Also depressing. But I guess the folks who awarded her this prize (and whose outfit is funded in part by the Canadian government) had their reasons for doing so, including, I suspect, masochistic tendencies, leftist self-loathing and a stubborn case of head-up-butt-it is.