Chronology of My Faith II I Randa Aimour

Chronology of My Faith II

Continued from: Chronology of my Faith I

When I was eight years old, I decided to start praying. My mum was against it at first, she told me I was too young, that she didn’t have time to teach me, that I needed to wait; but I insisted. It was also the year I decided to start fasting. Ramadan was my favorite, it still is. I didn’t mind not eating at school, although I thought I would; the smell never really tempted me.

I didn’t like the questions. Everyone wanted to know why I didn’t eat at lunch-time anymore. They couldn’t pronounce Ramadan. The woman who minded us during the lunch break asked me if my parents made me do it. I told her they didn’t. She looked like she didn’t believe me, but it was the truth. She made me feel uncomfortable; they all did.

And so began my descent into ‘otherness’. We had moved to Belfast at this point. The move from London to Northern Ireland was a culture shock in itself. It was a sea of white people, and I was often the only person of color. I was the girl who was exempt from religion class because my parents wrote a note explaining that I already went to mosque on the weekends. I was the girl who didn’t eat pork and always had to take the vegetarian option even though I wasn’t a vegetarian. The girl who didn’t eat for a month during the year.

In hindsight, it wasn’t just my religion that posed a problem for them, it was the culture I came from too, but I didn’t know the difference between the two back then, and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. I was different, and I hated it.

Mosque School didn’t help either. Gone were the days of the friendly Somali teacher and the classmates I loved. It was hell for me. Our teachers were men now; men who usually didn’t speak much English, men who they had shipped over from some country in the Middle East.

They tried to force me into an itchy, ugly hot pink hijab that was so tight I felt like it was choking me. They would sit me down in a room and yell the Arabic alphabet for what seemed like hours. Then they would sit me down in another room and make me recite the same ayas from the Quran over and over again, without any explanation or translation, until they thought that I had memorized them. Rinse and repeat.

At some point, the mosque had a new Imam. He was from Jordan and insisted on teaching us himself. He made me sit on his lap every lesson. I grew wary of his wondering hands. I started refusing to sit on his lap; he didn’t take kindly to that. One day, my father came to pick me up, the Imam made a point of taking him aside to complain about me. He said I didn’t obey and called me a badly raised child. I was taken home and beaten.

Despite this, and despite the Imam, it was break-time that I hated the most. My classmates were either Pakistani or Egyptian. I was the only Algerian. The only Maghrebi. You would think this wouldn’t matter – one ummah and all; but it did. I was beaten more than once, usually for ridiculous things like my “weird Arabic”. I hated Mosque school. I didn’t want to be there anymore. I didn’t want to wear that ridiculous hijab. I wanted to sleep in on weekends. I wanted to be normal.

At the time, there was only one mosque in Belfast. By the time I was finishing up with primary school, a second one had opened. This one was run by a Pakistani man who set up classes to encourage his own (half Irish) daughters to learn about the religion. The students at this mosque were more diverse. The teachers were mostly women who were patient and understanding, but in all honesty, by that point the damage had already been done. I didn’t want to be there either.

Once I started secondary school, I told my parents I was too busy to attend, that I had too much homework and couldn’t keep up. My parents, caring more about my education, stopped taking me. I didn’t want to be a Muslim anymore, so I stopped being one. I identified as agnostic, because I still believed God was real, I just didn’t want to be a part of any religion.

I started to spiral, I was on a crazed quest to be “normal”, whatever that was. I was resentful of the fact that I came from a different religion and culture, especially as I identified with neither and yet, they were responsible for propelling me into “otherness”. Back then, I didn’t understand. I do now.

To be continued…

 

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Father, Father: Justice & Closure

Two years ago, I wrote a piece called Fathers & Forgiveness. It was a vague piece about the troubles I’d had with my father, our estrangement, and my attempts to forgive him. Recently, I reread it and realized how much has changed since then. I remember when I first published it and I got praised by various people about being “real” and “honest” but honestly, I read that piece now and I see just how much it hurt, and how much I had to restrain and repress myself just to write it. The fact that I couldn’t bring myself to talk about what my father is tells me everything I need to know. Continue reading

Bentalha I Randa Aimour

Bentalha

i was born in a country
where the skies are blue
and tangerine
and every color in between

i was born in a country
where women were slaughtered
where markets were bombed
where poets were murdered

i was born in a country
that made martyrs out of families
orphans out of children
widows out of wives
and monsters out of men

i was born in a country
scarred by war
with turmoil still brewing

i was born in a country
where amnesia is self imposed
where traitors run free
and murderers govern us

Spring Cleaning

Every year, I revamp myself. A spring cleaning if you will. I take all the different parts of me, I analyze them, and I decided on how I’m going to proceed to better myself. Which trauma will I work on overcoming next? What kind of person will I be now? How have I been this year? Too mean and bitchy (hey, at least I admit it)? Let’s work on that. How many breakdowns have I had? How many depressive episodes? What triggered them and why? What can I do to work through them, so that I can have less (or maybe none at all) next year? I ask myself all of these questions, try to get to the root of every one of them, and then I figure out what I’m going to do to fix it. And it works, it really does. Continue reading

L’écrivaine

I started writing when I was twelve. I had the most over-active imagination ever, to the point where it had turned me into a pathological liar. I loved telling people stories, even if they weren’t true. The complicated part was when they realized none of it was real, they thought I was an asshole which, I must admit, is understandable. I just wanted life to be as exciting as the books I’d read; real life was so dreary in comparison. Once I realized that my lies weren’t winning me any popularity points, not that I was popular to begin with, I told myself that I absolutely had to stop. I figured, why not put everything in a story? And that is how I began to write. Continue reading

Photo Gallery: Malta I Randa A.

Hiatus

I’ve decided to take a break. I am not quitting blogging or anything like that, but my workload as we catapult towards the end of the academic year is steadily increasing. I have a dissertation that is seriously trying me, and exams are coming soon. Too soon. This coupled with the fact that I haven’t been doing too well in terms of my mental health recently means something has got to give. Continue reading

Pebbles of Resistance I Randa Aimour

Pebbles of Resistance: The Wedding

In a village composed of families whose ties were made long before the earth was ever found to be round, he wanted segregation of the sexes. As if the women who’s presence he was rejecting weren’t the ones who birthed him.

In a culture where music, singing and dancing flowed as freely as the spring water the mountains provided, he said ‘only medahîn’. As if the bearded men who came from distant cities to drum and sing about the prophet could do a better job than the elder village women.

And so, the first pebble was thrown. Continue reading

He Said it Was A Game I Randa Aimour

Surviving sexual assault

When I was younger, I wasn’t allowed to go to sleepovers. My mother had always been worried, especially as most of the invitations I got were from gwer and she had no trust in them. She told me that they came from a different world and culture from us and so they don’t pay as much attention to their kids and what they’re up to as we do. Continue reading

Identity, Self-Love and the Concept of Home

Identity, Self-Love and the Concept of Home

Growing up, I didn’t have much of an identity. I was born in Algeria and left when I was five; I didn’t return until I was almost fourteen. For nine years, my life was the west; it was a place that refused to accept me, but it was all I knew. I come from a family with a diverse cultural, linguistic, and ethnic background but I was never taught any of that. I didn’t know what home was, I didn’t even like telling people where I was from because my country of origin was virtually unknown, and people’s ignorance to its existence made me ashamed. Continue reading