Women’s Unity Movement presents the second of our TRUTH Series; the focus of the second segment being the struggles we face with finding our identity. In this segment we will hear from 5 diverse women who will each share their own personal stories on the struggles they faced and how they overcame this, in a world where we are heavily influenced by society and social media. I pray this segment is not only relatable to so many but that it also helps give strength to those facing the same obstacle and in turn helps them on their own journey of discovering their truest self.
My intentions for all various segments of the TRUTH series is to educate others who may not be aware of such issues, whether it’s because it has never been a challenge they themselves have faced, to educate those whom are aware but choose to ignore the issue/s and lastly to help encourage others in being brave in speaking out. As we know, knowledge is key.
Today we will be hearing from Nora. Nora is a Muslim – American Egyptian woman that is very proud of her background. Her goal in life is to always use her voice (Soty in Arabic) to represent the voiceless. In the words of Nora, “We all have a voice so why not use it to make this world a better and more accepting place”. Below is Nora’s story.
Defining my identity has always been something very complex for me to do. Being a first generation American and the daughter of Egyptian immigrants with my Muslim faith visible to the world is something not that easy to navigate through. But as the years have passed and I became more comfortable in my skin I’ve learned that I am the only one that has the power to define my identity. But see that journey was not always that easy and it took years and years of searching, growing and learning not to let others influence my definition of my identity.
In order to understand the woman I am today, I need to give you a little history lesson on my background and upbringing. I grew up in Fresno, California, AKA not the sexy part of California. It was a predominantly white town and the only other brown people that looked like me were Mexicans. For a long time I thought I was Mexican, because the only other brown skinned and dark-haired girls in my school were Mexican. Being an Egyptian American and Muslim girl in a small town was not that easy. Fast forward the years, 9/11 came. It was from then I became very aware of my Muslim and Arab identity and learned that clearly, I was not from a Mexican family.
The post 9/11 years were not easy on any Muslim living in the West, especially millennial Muslims. It was a very scary time for me because I loved my faith, but for some reason at that time being Muslim didn’t go hand in hand with being an American. It was a constant battle for me navigating between my American side and Muslim side. But as the years passed, I learned that there is no battle and that the media and society were the ones creating that battle for me. I knew who I was and what I stood for and no one could ever take that away from me.
After coming to a realization that I can be both Muslim and American, a new battle came my way. My parents during my high school years decided to move to Egypt. See small town girl Nora was not mad about that at all. Moving to Cairo, one of the busiest and biggest cities in the world, was a dream come true to me. I felt that I would be with people that looked like me, spoke my language, and understood my culture. No more did I have to battle with what my identity was. But little did I know that moving to Egypt would be one of the biggest identity battles for me and that it would shape me into the woman I am today.
The community I was in in Egypt was a very westernized community that had no pride in its culture. It was very strange for me to see my own people trying to act like they were something else. On top of that, being in touch with your faith was something seen as not “hip” or “cool”. Trust me I was really confused where the hell I was from. But as I learned back home in Fresno to not let others influence my definition of my identity, I sure as hell wasn’t going to let Egyptians define for me either.
Identity is something always complex and everchanging. But knowing your morals and roots is what grounds a person and that is my advice to anyone out there searching for that deeper meaning of what type of person they are. Moving back to California after that global experience really opened my eyes and broadened my perspective. I learned that I need to allow myself to experience different things in life to learn who I am and that I cannot be ashamed of my faith and culture because these are my personal beliefs. My identity is a part of me and no one can ever take that away!