Being multi-cultural can either be someone who is from one race and has lived in different place/s other than their home country or someone who is a mixed race aka multi-racial. In my case, I am both a multi-cultural/racial individual.
For years, I’ve been struggling with my identity and recently I managed to figure it out. So here, I write a blog post about my journey to finding my identity.
“What are you??” Is the impolite question asked by simple-minded people when they first meet me. My reply is always the same to that question by telling them my father is Palestinian and my mother is from the Philippines but I was born and brought up in U.A.E. BUT IT DOESN’T STOP THERE. They continue asking questions like ‘what is your religion?’, ‘do you feel more Arab or more Filipino?’, ‘do you have an Emirati passport?’, …….. the questions go on and on…….
So here is a summary about my ethnicity and religion, lets start with my father. His father (my grand-dad) is a Palestinian Muslim from Haifa and fled to Lebanon in 1948 which made him become a refugee. My grandmother, is Hungarian/Austrian Protestant who travelled to Mandatory Palestine in the 1940s to visit the biblical cities. She travelled around Bethlehem, Nazareth and lastly, Jerusalem where she met my grand-dad. They fell in love and eloped. I have never met her family because they did not approve of us for being Arabs and Muslims. Hence, we only learned the Austrian culture from her and her cooking. My father who is a Palestinian Refugee with Hungarian/ Austrian ethnicity was born and brought up in Beirut, Lebanon. That itself is culture diversity.
Now, lets talk about my mother. She is a Filipina from a Catholic Family in Illocos Norte and Esabella, they come from a province which very much influenced by the Spanish. My family eventually moved to Antipolo, Rizal and the household’s primary language became Tagalog.
Then my parents met in the United Arab Emirates where I was born and brought up. So I was brought up in a household of Palestinian, Lebanese, Emirati, Austrian, Hungarian & Filipino cultures and traditions. I’d say because I lived in the Middle East all my life my mannerism may be more towards the Arab side but then there’s the Nissreen that loves Karaoke, Ballroom Dancing and Eating Rice. Because of all this cultural diversity I had in my household, I would see the world with a completely different perspective. There are communities for Filipinos, Palestinians, etc and I couldn’t join any community because I didn’t fit in. My father said do not join a community but rather be friends with people from all around the world.
After my mother died, I suffered a lot internally and specifically my identity but I managed to not show it. I would have group of friends from so many different countries and I would observe everything they’d say or do and I was scared of society and I was so scared to be judged because I was different so I had to think and act like them to be able to fit in but I wasn’t myself. On top of that all, RELIGION was an issue. My parents taught me not to discriminate about any religion or any religious sector and to always respect anyone’s beliefs whether they are Buddhist, Sikhs, Jews, Atheists, etc. So I’m Muslim and I’m not Shiaa or Sunni or whatever sectors there are because I don’t believe in that. To the Muslims who are reading this post, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) never said he was a Sunni or a Shiaa but called himself a Muslim so I follow what the prophet has taught rather than what society implements in the religion.
There were so many things that I would do different than others and I get insulted for that or teased. By the way, my mother passed away when I was young and my father worked most of the time to financially support us so I had to figure this all out by myself. Until one day, I was introduced to my friend’s friend and when I told her I have an identity crisis and her reply changed the way I think about everything and everyone around me, she said “you have the power to differentiate the bad and the good of both worlds and you have the best of both”. That hit me hard but the society I lived in did not accept change. So I fought a lot to state my opinion and I fought racism in so many different communities. There were times where I cried a lot but my dad told me “you cannot change everyone, you need to understand the way they think and state your opinion in a calm way; make them try to understand you but know this, not everyone can change their opinions. There are stubborn people out there so just show respect.” I was taught that everyone has an opinion and even if we did not reach an agreement we should always debate or discuss with respect. Mocking someone’s religion and ethnicity is not acceptable.
When I met my British husband (…and yes, I know I added another culture in my household) everything I view in this world has changed. I view things differently. I see everyone’s perspective and I managed to understand it. I do not mock or disrespect anyone but if I get upset it is because you have disrespected me.
We live in a world where we must learn from each other and not spread hate. There are things that I do not agree with in other cultures but I understand we are all not the same as long as we respect each others values and that’s the definition of a human-being.
So what am I?
The answer to your question is I’m just a human-being and that is my identity.