Casualties of the Truth

Not too long ago, I saw a post on Facebook which gave me a lot to ponder about.
Someone shared a reddit post about a young Somali man, a college student, who fell in love with an African American woman and presented the idea of marrying her to his Somali parents, who in turn threatened him with disownment, and isolation from his younger siblings if he went through with marrying this woman. Religion wasn’t the issue as the young woman converted to Islam. It was her ethnicity that was the issue. His Somali parents did not want him to marry an African American woman.

Based on my own experience of being in a relationship with an African American man, and having a child with him, and thus being disowned and isolated from my own siblings, this obviously hit very close to home.
As I read what his parents said to him about this young woman, I thought about what my father said about my own relationship and about my child ; his granchild. I struggle still with having a relationship with my father because of things said and done that caused our relationship to be broken, and incredibly difficult to repair.

As I relived fighting for my own child’s mental and emotional wellbeing in 1) a country with a historical and current race problem and 2) in an insular immigrant community with its own prejudices, and bigotry, I did what I do when I need to process things: I write about it.

And although, I have written about personal things before, this one gave me a hard time. I struggled with writing about this in a way that adequately honors my child, his personal story and identity but also challenges these archaic notions of who is a better and more superior human? How do I dismantle the,”them vs us,” mentality, this tribal mentality that exists among all humans for some reason? And how do I do it with while protecting my child?

I am still working on it, because I really don’t have the answers.


Random thoughts floating about.

I  absolutely respect other people’s intellect, so when people say I may “misguide” someone, I am offended for the people who are supposedly easily misguided. In fact, my advice to people is always to not be so gullible and to not believe everything and everyone. Everything is political in the world. Think about who benefits from things. Everyone has bias and we must actively work against our biases and try to confront our own personal demons. Objective truths are hard to identify as everything has a little relativity and subjectivity. Especially “divine” truths. If they were objective, there wouldn’t be so many of them.  

I’m always thinking of this: can we be 100% unbiased? Even 80%? How can you measure bias? When do you know you have no bias at all? Is that even possible? How can you do research if you have any bias? Is bias domain specific?  Is it more important that you have no bias based on protected attributes race, color, national origin, sexualities?

The older one gets, the more one becomes aware of their own mortality. Sooner, or later the clock will stop ticking. What do we do with this time? Do we devote it to faith? Do we devote it to activism, and making the world a better place for future generations? Do we leave a legacy of our own by creating and curating work that is important to us, and close to our own hearts? I think of this a lot. Today I have the time to do something of my own choosing. If I make it to tomorrow, I’m one step closer to death. What am I doing with my time? Am I doing anything that’s worth a grain of salt to humanity, even to my own small family? To my child, and future generations? I don’t know really. A lot of days I just think about a lot of things, try to read a couple of articles, or a few pages in a book that I’m reading, write a few lines, and try to make it through the day. All I know is that living every day is a struggle for everyone. So, one thing I can try to do consciously each day is to be kinder, more understanding, concede on some things in the interest of community and humanity overall. It is hard but it is also very important to me. Other days, I want to fight. That also serves a purpose. You can’t concede all the time, and you can’t concede on some things at all, especially if they’re at the very essence of who you are as an individual. Navigating these things, conceding in the interest of unity and fighting for self-perseveration, are a daily struggle for me. I think for us all, to be honest. I’m just willing to say it out loud. 


So I’m reading Frantz Fanon for my philosophy class, and one of his ways of resisting colonialism /colonization is/was resisting assimilation. This made me think about, “Call Me American,” and Abdi’s quest of assimilation and how many Somalis were calling him a sellout, and other choice words which will not be repeated here.
Resisting assimilation during colonial times obviously has its purpose, but even then assimilation could also have an important purpose: survival. Think about natural selection.
In fact, Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. … but rather, that which is most adaptable to change.”
This does not only apply to physical traits, and surviving the elements, but also to social situations.
Somali waxay ku maah maahdaa,” Haddaad tagto meel lagu il la’yahay ishaa layska ridaa.” (If you go somewhere where people only have one eye, you should take out one of your eyes.) Very gruesome proverb lol…But the idea is assimilation can be good.
It also makes me think of one of the narratives surrounding the hijab discourse ; that the point of the hijab is that you don’t stand out, and where hijab is not the norm, one would obviously stand out, and that would defeat its purpose. (There are various ideas/narratives about the hijab, and its an endless discussion, but this one related to assimilation, and that’s why I used it). Conversely, if you are somewhere (ehem… when I find myself in Somalia some day soon) where the majority of women wear it, then one would stand out if they didn’t. Again, assimilation.
Now, here in the West we, immigrants from Muslim majority countries, speak about being brave against tyranny and standing your ground and not changing in the face of oppression. Aasiya bint Muzahim, who is often used as an example to Muslim women, stood strong against her husband’s tyranny by secretly praying to her God, and practicing her faith. She was eventually killed by her husband. She’s lauded as a martyr for her faith.
However, if one was to be back in their homeland and stood fiercely against the oppression there, whether its the patriarchy or religion, one would be chastised for following gaal (infidel) ways, and be considered a disgrace to her family’s honor. Something terrible would most likely happen to her, more likely than not death, but no one would call her a martyr until much later when society changes and people (generations after) realize how much she sacrificed for what she believed in. Like Aasiya.
In both these examples, they were lauded for their actions much later. They probably had a better chance of survival if they played by the rules made up by the dominant group in the society they lived in.
But having the strength to stay true to oneself ( to thine own self be true) is an admirable trait, now and when we look back at history. Well, if you were on the right side of history, that is. Who admires Nazis?
But for the most part, we do admire people who stay true to themselves. This mantra is also used by ethnic people to hold on to the cultures and traditions of their forefathers. Here assimilation comes across as an affront, a personal betrayal to your ancestors.
In the practical sense, however, I’m always thinking in terms of progress, and I don’t believe its reasonable to hold on to all aspects of our ancestors’ lives. In fact, in our own short lifespan, we know that we’ve wasted ten years if we remain the same person we were at 20 when we are 30. Progress is a consistent theme in human history.
I can’t help but wonder then, how can this apply to our own individual characteristics, our philosophies on living, and even to our belief systems?
How can we make progress there? These are the kind of things I think about. Defining morality, for example, is one such thing that comes up often in my own line of thinking. If one doesn’t go to church or bow down five times a day towards Mecca, are they debased and immoral?
Such simplistic ways of explaining morality make no sense to any thinking being.
For example in Abdi’s book, his white friends who were practicing Buddhism helped him, a black Muslim man, out of sheer humanity. Are those people immoral? Are they going to hell for simply not worshiping Allah? Where is the space in religion for people whose actions define their goodness, although they have not uttered words of tawheed?
How our ancestors would’ve dealt with this question is not the same way we can deal with it today simply because our lived experiences are different than our forefathers and mothers.
In some ways, we are a product of our environment.
Is there any progress in faith where one can not only acknowledge human beings of different faiths but also challenge their own faith to be inclusive and understanding?

Decolonizing Our Minds

It’s really hard to exist in Somali community or any ultra conservative community as a woman with her own mind and full autonomy over her own body. Challenging patriarchy, which is often supported by both culture&religion, is often seen as an affront and betrayal of your culture.
If you say religion is a problem because it infantilizes women and robs us of our autonomy and full humanity, you’re accused of being Islamophobic. This to me is a silencing tactic. I’m quite tired of it, tbh.
Religion sanctions and enables patriarchy and abuse by patriarchy. It infantilizes women and puts men in charge of us. It attaches our bodies to sin by virtue of being born women. We have already committed a crime by being born woman.
When decolonizing our minds, why can’t we talk about how religion suppresses critical thinking, advising that you should never question it even though what it demands at times goes against common sense, and even common decency?
Our morals shouldn’t be governed by the religions of our forefathers. If I say, I don’t practice Islam, Somalis who are in a constant battle across tribal lines, and committing all types of atrocities to one another, want to make me look like I’m a bad person.
What defines a bad person? Your actions? Or that you profess to believe in the God of Abraham? There’s no point mentioning any other tenets because often people just want to know your affiliation. They don’t care what you do really as long as you stay loyal to your birth right.
That’s divine, apparently, and the one and only true path.
How convenient that the religion you were born into is the correct one?

Call me Intrigued

” Nothing was too disgusting, even dead skin we peeled off our feet.” Abdi Iftin,”Call Me American.”
Earlier in the week, I saw a facebook post mocking this sentence. I read how people in their comfortable Western lives mocked desperation and the physical need for food.
I wondered: Have they never known hunger? Even if was due to them accidentally forgetting to pack for school or work, and then feeling so dizzy and hangry by the time they got home, or were able to get some food?
Even that is quite unbearable. But atleast,one knows that they’ll get food as soon as possible. It was not a matter of if they’ll get food, but when.
As Muslims, didn’t they fast 14,16,18 hours at times feeling the hunger pangs, dry mouth, confusion, and irritability that comes with hunger?
This lack of food was their own choice, however, and they knew food was guaranteed as soon as the sun set.
How could they not relate to hunger? How could they not imagine then not having guaranteed food, and how this could drive someone to eat almost anything to survive?
Even I, who’s never known real hunger, other than not eating when I’m supposed to and deeply regretting it when working out, or in the classroom with 30 rambunctious teenagers, could imagine this hell. Real hunger. It terrifies me.
“Desperate situations call for desperate measures.” Most people know that.
Where was their sense of humanity?
As I’m learning more and more about my own people, some things are becoming clearer.
I am realizing that although we may come from the same ethnic community, we can be very different people with different life experiences, different social classes, which can then pave way for different opinions on different aspects of life.
That should be common sense, right?
When you’re an ethnic minority outside of your homeland, your people become a singular entity, devoid of their own individual characteristics. I used to wonder why Somalis were so offended by my choice to not wear hijab, or my nerve to openly question religion. They would say things like,”We don’t do that.” And my Somali American self would say,”Who is WE? I’m just me.” *Kanye shrug *
I’ve realized just as outsiders see us as a singular entity, we also see ourselves that way.
“We’re Somalis, and this is what Somalis do or don’t do.” This leaves no room for individuality. This leaves no room for mistakes. This leaves no room for dissenting voices, or difference in opinion.
I have a lot of thoughts about the book, the discussions online, and about Somalis: our clan dynamics (author is from a minority clan, and I’m sure this influences discussions), group think, and lack of individuality, that I hope to share in the coming weeks.

For Your Sense of Self

You need to make peace with a couple of things.

You need to first make peace with who you are as a person, and realize as well accept that you are not going to please everyone. This can be extremely difficult if you’re nonconfrontational, and an extreme empath. There may not be anything wrong with you, but some people will never like you no matter what and will be against anything and everything that you’re doing. It’s frustrating, yes, but there is nothing that you can do to make yourself more palatable to them. If you try, you will find that you will lose a sense of self, and each time you try, a piece of yourself will go too. It’s futile. Stop now.

You need to let go of toxic people even if they are your own family. This is the hardest. How do you let go of the people 1) you love the most and 2) are indicators of where you as a person are from?

Sometimes your family can be your downfall. If they don’t agree with what you are doing with your life they may try anything and everything to sabotage you, and your goals. If you have an extremely toxic family especially one where the man ie head of household is toxic and influences everyone else, you may need to look elsewhere for love, affection, affirmation, and validation because you will only get heartache, disappointment, disillusionment, and continuous psychological trauma which can prevent you from being able to do any work, and progress in your personal and professional life. (Yes, I am speaking from personal experience)

How do you establish boundaries? Be firm and assertive. Tell someone the boundaries you operate on. A lot of times in our community, we tend to dismiss people’s boundaries. You can’t imagine how many times I’ve blocked a person over.”caadi iska dhig.” What is that supposed to mean other than,” accept my bs, what the hell is wrong with you for expecting better behavior from another adult?” People will either respect their boundaries and you can maintain a relationship with them or they won’t, and you need to decide whether it’s worth keeping them in your life. Often, it’s not, because their actions are detrimental to your being, and the more they cross your boundaries, the more they’re showing what they think of you. They don’t think much of you. Now, is that someone you want to give access to your space? They make you second guess your value, they undercut your achievements, and they throw things back in your face, or they may be more subtle, and sheepishly comment on how that wasn’t really a great deal, and that so and so did something better. Their comparison is not meant to make you feel good about yourself. It is supposed to do exactly what you know its supposed to do: make you feel bad about yourself. Now, is that someone you can trust with your insecurities, and shortcomings, and can give you a helping hand in trying times? No. You know that.

It’s hard to stand alone. People count on the fact that because it is so difficult to be alone that sometimes they continuously trespass your boundaries because they think where else are you going to go? Everyone needs a family, right? Qof kasta meel ayuu ka soo jeedaa? Soo ma aha?

When you disengage and exercise these hard boundaries, know and accept that they may never engage with you again, or accept your terms of engagement. Can you live without them? That’s the question you have to ask yourself. 

What to do those moments when you are especially weak and vulnerable? Do you engage? Well after some time of not communicating with people, they may have moved on too, so engage at your own risk of being rejected, or falling into another cycle. Maybe they’ll be happy to hear from you and needed you to make that move because you disengaged initially.
Maybe they’ve had a ceremonial burying for you, and do not want to have anything to do with you.  This is a tough pill to accept, but accept it you must. Move on.

If a long time has passed, really think about this, and what you are going to say. What is the reason for your return? Are you there to stay? Are you going to stay on their conditions since you made the first move of reestablishing contact?

Finally, I would say find meaning in life that is outside of your connection to other people. People come and go. You have to live with the person you are. Do you like this person? Do you respect this person?
Take care of yourself and your finances like you have no backup outside of yourself, because you truly may not. If you get a flat tire, who are you going to call? If you lose your job, can you survive 3-6 months until you find another? Make an emergency plan for the dark days. Things to do to take your mind off things. Understand that if you did what you could to maintain a relationship and it didn’t work out, it is what it is. Even if you didn’t do what you could, because the business of living got in the way, and the relationship is irreparably broken, then it is what it is. What can you do alone? To make a relationship work you need the other person to not only be willing but also actively work on it along with you. If you don’t have that partnership, then you don’t have a relationship. There is no relationship to maintain or work on.


Make peace with yourself and your circumstances and change what you can control and try not to worry about what you can’t.

On Being Alone

There is a danger in sharing your story. People are quick to dismiss you as,”angry and vengeful.” Well, let’s get this out of the way: I am absolutely angry, and I have a right to be. I am not asking that you understand my anger.
As far as vengeful, what can I really do to my abusers? Shame them? They should be ashamed.
If they didn’t want me to talk about my traumatic experiences at their hands, they shouldn’t have inflicted trauma upon me.
There is another real danger. Much bigger than people criticizing you.
It is the loss of relationships.
When I talk openly about my experiences, and I’m revealing parts of myself, I am also inadvertently unmasking others or people whom they love.
For me, its some of my siblings that I do care about.
When I talk about the trauma I’ve experienced at the hands of their mother, there could be a potential loss of relationships.
I’ve realized a lot of us are silent because of the people we’re bound to. We don’t want to hurt their feelings. We don’t want to inadvertently make them,”choose sides.” Do I ever expect my siblings to choose me over their mother? No. That’s lunacy. I struggle with depression, but I’m pretty lucid and sane. I’m pretty realistic too.
It’s a risk that I’m willing to take because I want to be free from the emotional trauma that I’m still carrying. And speaking about things openly, and publicly, is my way of processing things.
Of course, there are going to be casualties.
Also, when you’re the only child from a different mother, you and your siblings are already oceans apart. There is you. And then there is them. They’re connected, bound by a single womb.
You’re always the outsider. If they’re particularly cruel, they never let you forget it.
I’ve realized my aloneness is my best asset. I feel loyal to myself, and to my own truth.
Being alone removes from you the “loyalty” that keeps you silent, that keeps you accepting the bullshit, the microaggressions within your family, the constant otherness you’re made to feel and expected to forever live with.
Being alone, for me, has never been more powerful.
Being alone is also understandably scary. I want to address this one day and talk about forming tribes of your own choosing, based on mutual respect and love.
But right now, here’s to being alone, being proud of yourself, and loving yourself despite all the ways you’ve been made to believe that you aren’t lovable or a worthy person.
You are.