By Farah Shah
A few weeks back, a close friend of mine and I got into a conversation about the problems that her Muslim family, and mine faced in Canada as immigrants.
She told me about certain racist incidents that took place with her family that shocked me – not because racism is new to me, or because it is shocking, but because I sometimes forget about the racism that my own family and I have had to face.
When people see me, they automatically assume I adhere to some strict and conservative traditions, sometimes even going as far as asking if I ever used to wear the headscarf.
It seems as though those with brown skin and a Muslim name are assumed to be conservative, strictly following to tradition, and all women must have adhered to the hijab at some point.
None of this is true, the Muslim community is diverse.
It has people that identify as queer, people that adhere to liberal interpretations of the Quran, women that do wear the hijab and women that don't. It has people that also identify as atheists.
As my friend went on to talk about the problems her family had faced, I told her she was not alone in this.
She said she is often surprised by how many successes her family has had in Canada despite any systemic racism/bigotry they have faced as part of a minority. Her father is a successful entrepreneur, and her mother is a successful engineer, while she herself, is completing her PhD in Psychology at the University of Toronto. Others, including my own relatives with PhD's and professions like lawyers and doctors have ended up not using their education to drive taxis and work at gas stations.
This friend of mine is a woman who grew up in an environment that was far from conservative, which is why she has been able to have so many successes in her life.
She was not told to get married, or have kids the minute she graduated with her Bachelor in Psychology. That was never a priority or part of the equation for her parents, similar to mine.
I know another Muslim friend of mine who is queer, and while his parents definitely struggled to accept it at first, they have, over the years, come to embrace him for who he is.
Do not get me wrong, this is not me trying to trying to trivialize the homophobia and sexism exists in Muslim cultures (as it does in so many others), this is me saying the Muslim community is much more than just a sum of its stereotypes.
We have problems, and we have our triumphs.
The Muslim community in Canada faces many challenges, and racism is a big one. The policies of Stephen Harper did not help much in that respect.
A lot of Muslims come to Canada with high hopes for a better life.
Financial struggle is a reality for many Muslim immigrants, but if we were not consistently fighting to prove stereotypes to be wrong, perhaps the struggle of being a minority in the country would hurt a little less.
Farah is an aspiring Public Relations Professional and an aspiring writer, and she moved to Canada with her family in 2008, she also has a bachelors degree in Sociology from McMaster.
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