The Challenge of Words

For me, words exist to tell stories. Simple stories and complex ones. Sad stories and happy ones. Beautiful stories and ugly ones.

Many times, people ask me: in which language do you think? And each time I have the same surprised reaction. Each time, I promise myself to pay more attention to the language I am thinking in and each time I forget or may be my mind plays tricks on me and makes me unconsciously forget.

Words are confusing exactly like identities. When I go out in the public, do I really think of who am I? A Canadian? A Muslim? A woman with a scarf or hijab? A mother? A wife of a torture survivor? An immigrant? How to live with all these identities at the same time? Emphasizing one, dropping another, keeping a low profile one, boasting about another or amalgamating and juggling all together and try to be at peace?

I grew up in a Tunisia. So when I tell to people around me I am African, people frown at me with dismay thinking of a bad joke… So why am I not black? And then I quickly add I am North African and that slightly makes it more credible but nevertheless confusing. But even being a North African is problematic today. Especially in France. But that is another story.

My mother tongue is Arabic but my family name is Berber. The Amazigh are one of the indigenous tribes of North Africa. So when I meet North African with Berber origins, their first question to me is: do you speak Amazigh? When I sheepishly respond no, I am immediately considered as a false indigenous. A traitor. A culture failure. An assimilated one, someone with just a name but not the strong beating heart of a Berber. Something like the Islamness or blackness of Barak Obama…

But even for Arab speaking people, I can barely pass the test. I am Tunisian and the Arabic dialect I speak is filled with French words. So for the purist Arab Middle Eastners like my in-laws, I speak French, and for the purist French people, I speak Arabic.

As you can see, I can never win. I am a linguistic bastard…

Arriving in Quebec, as an immigrant didn’t make my life easier as I didn’t have the Quebecois accent and that was considered a problem for my integration.

Not only my accent was problematic but my appearance with a hijab is considered as a sign of women oppression and alienation. Apparently, I have some para normal powers: wherever I go my hijab shatters years of women struggle. No matter how hard I worked to prove the opposite and join the “us”, I kept always considered to be the “others”.

So finally, I moved to Ontario and discovered the genius of multiculturalism as introduced by the father of our “cool” Prime Minister. I thought that my multiple identity crises would be buried forever. Unfortunately for me and for the world, 9/11 attacks happened and since I have been judged and looked upon through the deforming lenses of terrorism.

Fortunately, words saved me. They saved from oppression, they saved me from depression, they saved me from victimhood. In a world, where it became so easy to loose one’s own sanity, words are my saviours. I attack with words and I defend with words. Dictators and extremists are certainly scared of arms but no wonder they are even more scared by ideas and words.

Today, I write to better understand the world and myself. I write in English, a language I started learning in high schools while listening to Madonna. You can understand that even Shakespeare would distance himself from me. I write in French, not the one my in-laws think I am speaking, but the real French. Well, hopefully! And I keep reading a lot in Arabic and guess what: I still don’t know in what language I think of…

I wrote this text and read it in a panel at Stratford Festival, Ontario, organized by CBC Ideas program.

 

 

 

Banning the Burkini in Cannes: Continuing Oppressing Women Under the Name of Liberation

So recently, the mayor of Cannes in France issued a ban on burkinis. Burkinis is a made-up name for special full-body swimming garment: a hybrid between Burqa and Bikini. In reality, a burkini is a swimming suit composed of leggings and a sort of a short dress worn on top of it. Some burkinis have a hoodie attached and with some other you add a hijab that would cover the head.

I didn’t grow up knowing burkinis. I used to go to the beach and wear a bathing suit. Later, when I decided to wear hijab, I used to put a long dress and hijab. In water, this can be so uncomfortable and heavy and when you go to sit on the beach it collects tons of sand and you feel you instantly gained extra pounds of weight.

At some point I decided to stop swimming, as I felt so much annoyed by the sand and the curious looks. An experience that was supposed to be fun and joyful turned to become itchy and embarrassing. I had the impression everyone would like at me.

And then, I started hearing about some nice suits that modestly cover the body but are made of appropriate fabric that wouldn’t keep the water and would dry as soon as you are out of the water. At that time, no body called these suits burkinis. We didn’t have a specific name for them. We just called them bathing suit for hijabis.

I think they first appeared in Turkey and Malaysia ( I also read somewhere that it was originally designed by an Australian designer of Lebanese descent, Aheda Zanetti) and I remember one of my friends borrowed a suit from another friend who bought it from Turkey and took it to a seamstress and asked her to do something similar.

In Tunisia, Burkinis made their appearance in beaches in the early 2000s. Before then, many women swam either in bathing suits; some others in bikini but many women would wear long dresses or didn’t swim at all. The contact of the long dresses with water and by the effect of pressure and water, they inflate like balloons so women have to keep burst these bubbles of air each time they stand up in the water. Needless to say, that with a long dress, you can’t really swim and move fast. You just dip in the water and stay there. Moreover, once outside the water, the wet dress becomes so tight on the body revealing the shape of the woman and thus defeating the purpose of modesty that a full body suit is supposed to achieve.

Burkini came as the ideal creation. It gave women the opportunity to enjoy water, beach, swim with her friends, kids and family without necessarily looking like an alien.

I remember the first time I went to buy a burkini in Tunisia, it was like trying to buy alcohol in Canada when you are underage. It was in 2008, the dictatorship of Ben Ali was still in place and all sign of religious symbols were suspicious to say the least. Burkini, like hijab, was of course considered in Tunisia as a sign of affiliation with Islamic groups and thus selling them would mean for the regime encouraging women to join these mouvements. So I went to the souk and I asked some store about them. The seller would look at me and assess my real intentions and then once I passed the “test”, he would bring from, literally under the table, one or two packages with a burkini inside them so I can see the models.

But after, the Arab Spring, burkinis were freely sold even in large supermarkets and women who whished to buy one, could freely do so.

It is interesting to note that Tunisian beaches today are full of women wearing burkinis. Even some women, who are not wearing hijab, would go for a burkini.

(It must be mentioned here that women in bathing suits are not harassed but it is very common in these societies that men would stare at women so burkinis is a way to keep some of these unwanted stare away or limited. By no means, burkini would become a way to control to opposite sex attitudes, as this is a matter of education that has never been tackled)

Of course, for people who still consider women covering their bodies as a sign of oppression, burkinis joined the list of words and clothing that linked Muslim women to the world of darkness. For many Muslim women who didn’t want other people commenting on their bodies or showing off their skin for public consumption, burkini achieved the total opposite. It combined liberation with modesty: the best of two worlds!

The recent decision of France to ban burkini from the beaches in Nice is another example of anti-Muslim attitudes wrapped under the disguise of women liberation and combatting religious extremism. All what it will do is: to alienate French Muslim women furthermore and of course prevent them from a nice refreshing swim in the Mediterranean Sea.

What bothers me even more is the total silence of Western feminists. Their silence is disappointing for this is a perfect example of male interference with female choices.

When women are banned from driving in Saudi Arabia, all western feminists would mobilize and stand up (rightly so) to denounce the arbitrariness, abusive and patriarchal nature of such decision. When women in Iran are punished for showing more hair in public or going out with make up, the outrageous reaction of Western feminist is so intense ( and yes we should be outraged) but when Muslim women are banned from going to the beach wearing a burkini, all you hear is silence or whispers. The burkini ban perfectly fits the old equation, so why bother?

Islam= Women oppression

How can a country, considered as a beacon of rights and freedom go so low and do this to its won citizens?

In France, it isn’t a secret that women are allowed to go topless on beaches. There are even some beaches especially designated for nudists. But to prevent women to swim because of the length of their swimming suit is a silly and a simply revengeful reaction. Once again, one of the most vulnerable groups of a society have to pay for the incompetence and failures of the politicians.

At least, and for a small temporary confort, we have some powerful words from Arundhati Roy who commented about the banning of burqa in France in 2010:

“When, as happened recently in France, an attempt is made to coerce women out of the burqa rather than creating a situation in which a woman can choose what she wishes to do, it’s not about liberating her, but about unclothing her. It becomes an act of humiliation and cultural imperialism. It’s not about the burqa. It’s about the coercion. Coercing a woman out of a burqa is as bad as coercing her into one. Viewing gender in this way, shorn of social, political and economic context, makes it an issue of identity, a battle of props and costumes. It is what allowed the US government to use western feminist groups as moral cover when it invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Afghan women were (and are) in terrible trouble under the Taliban. But dropping daisy-cutters on them was not going to solve their problems.”

 

The evolving meanings of “hijab”

About 25 years ago, I decided to put on “hijab”. It was one of the most difficult decisions in my life. From the camp of the “modern”, I switched to the camp of the “backward”.  From  the group of “normal”, I jumped to the “abnormal” one, I became a social embarrassment, an extremist, a “khowanjia”( a member of the Muslim Brotherhood), or a “khomeynist”  ( a supporter of Imam Khomeini and by extension of the Islamic Iranian Revolution). Wearing a “hijab” became my new identity, whether I liked it or not.

I was always a spiritual person, growing up going to the mosque with my father, reading Quran, reading history books about Islam, prophets, religions. My surrounding was not particularly religious. Rather, I would say my friends were culturally Muslims, not very much observant. At school, the worst subject was “Civil and Islamic education”. The professor usually affected to teach these subjects lacked the passion, the knowledge and the pedagogical tools to do it. Everybody waited for the teacher to finish his or her rant and most of the students cheated on exams by writing little notes to memorize the verses or hadith. This is all to say that my “islamic identity” wasn’t forged in school. My family wasn’t also particularly religious. We were practicing but nothing deeply conservative. My father never asked me to cover my hair. He wasn’t very happy when I told him that I am going to start wearing hijab but he told me that it was my decision and that it is up to me.

Tunisia was in the midst of “cracking down” on the Islamists. Immediately, after deciding on wearing a hijab, I became considered by the authorities as one of them. Even though, I never belonged to any political party in Tunisia. The hijab became to be the “banner for political Islam” as they claimed. I became that banner.

Wearing a hijab was for me a deeply religious act. Before wearing a hijab, I had a double life. I explain myself: from what I was wearing and how I looked nobody have thought that I was religious or that I would go home and pray for example. Being one person at home and leaving all this behind me to become another person outside and show that I fitted in the “modern society”, that I was a liberated girl who can do whatever she wanted, didn’t make me at peace with myself. I call it Schizophrenic Identity Syndrome. Outside, I was tempted by fashion, make-up, boys… Then in my moment of privacy I would think about all of it and found myself not really interested and not really ready to embrace those things. They didn’t fit my personality and they didn’t fit my spiritual component. Nevertheless, society won’t leave you alone. Social pressure, peer pressure, culture, traditions, everything question your choices and want you to behave like the norm. Being normal. But I wasn’t normal. I questioned cultural expectations about the role of women, I questioned the cultural expectations about how we are supposed to dress and please boys and men. Why do I have to do my eyebrow, why do I have to straighten my hair, why do I have to be thin, why do I have to show my “boobs” in a nice tight dress or shirt? Islam, as I understood it, allowed me to be myself and to be accountable to God only and not to society or the surrounding culture. For some, Islam was oppression, for me it was liberation. And indeed, I felt a sense of relief after starting wearing hijab. A relief from those boxes waiting for me to be fitted in them. Boxes that are usually bigger or smaller but never fitted my questions or my opinions.

With the sense of relief, came also the sense of “defending my choice”. I was always asked, question after question about the reasons that pushed me for wearing hijab. No matter how well I answered and how sophisticated or how simple were my answers, they were rarely met with conviction or satisfaction. There must be a brother hidden behind my back forcing me to cover, or a despotic father brainwashing me, or a poor mother, trying to make me look like her or a cheikh whispering in my ears. My choice was never accepted as it was: an adult decision with strong desire to follow islamic faith and teachings.

Today, many things changed. I am older, I live in Canada and hijab went through many trials and several political battles. With time also, the meaning of hijab evolved. Yes, it is still about modesty but it is an identity symbol and a sign of resistance to all other temptations. Not necessarily sexual temptations, but consumerism temptations, hyper sexualization temptation…In other words, the new boxes prepared for me when I was 20 by an Arab, secular with Islamic inspiration society, were replaced 25 year later by other prettier boxes but still as hollow and superficial: middle aged women should die their hair, should be fit, should wear tight cloth to make sure that they are still in fashion and attractive, should be financially independent, should shop and have fun and show her friends on social media that she is happy and fulfilled…Obviously, I didn’t want these boxes and my hijab came to symbolize this resistance.

Ironically, I look around me and many of the young and older women wearing hijab are not bothered by these new boxes. Even if hijab was for years wrongly described as a sign of women oppression and is still so, some smart “businesses” are embracing hijab, not ideologically but for business reasons. “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade” that seems to be their motto. Hijab became a lucrative opportunity for many businesses. Muslim youtubers are becoming so famous teaching young hijab fashionista how to do wrap their scarves, how to make their head look bigger, how to do make up, how to be a modern hijabi. Hijab became a brand, and hijabi, another potential customers, a market to be conquered.

Gone are my naive ideals of resistance, social justice, equality, that came along a deeply religious feeling about hijab. Gone are those ideals, taken away by a globalized world, where even modesty became a traded good that can be bought and sold.

I am not trying to say that there exists only one meaning to hijab and that I hold it and have the monopoly over it. Not at all. I am just trying to convey this feeling of evolution on how we are and how some symbols can seem radical at one time became later one accepted or  emptied from their first meaning at another time. I am not also saying that hijab is today better accepted than before. It is still perceived as a sign of oppression and rejected by the main stream culture, however, there is some change in attitudes among Muslims and Non-Muslims alike and that should be taken as an opportunity for a better understanding of hijab.

 

What Does it Mean to be a Muslim Woman in a Secular Democracy?

This is a dangerous and ambiguous question. Why?

 It implicitly assumes that there is one definition of “Muslim’, one understanding for “woman” and one sort of “secular democracy”

 In reality, all theses words are evolving today very fast. They can have not one particular meaning but several.

 I met many people who drank wine, don’t pray, don’t fast and still consider themselves Muslims.

 On the other hand, when you hear in the news that “Muslims” commit terrorist acts, very often, the perpetrators abused their wives, drank wine, were not particularly religious. But still, they are associated with Islam. Their violent actions come to represent Islam.

 So who is Muslim and who is not? Is it a question of rituals? Is it more about actions and attitudes? Is there a typical Muslim model that all Muslim should adopt and embrace? I don’t know.

 As far as I am concerned, I consider myself a woman. But today, there is an ongoing discussion about gender. What is to be a man and what is to be a woman? Does the sex only define femininity and masculinity? Some people consider themselves “gender neutral”.

 For years, women have been calling for equality and for more rights. We still live in a society where women are still behind compared to men in terms of pay equity, job promotion, political representation…

 So how can Muslim women fit in these discussions?

 Muslim women are only “visible” when it comes to the “scarf” issue or the “veil”. As if they live to represent “oppression” that the rest of the society fought to overcome. But they are rarely included in these discussions affecting women in general.

 Our vision about Muslim women in “secular democracy” is still fixated around the hijab as a symbol of oppression.

 Meanwhile, Muslim women, at least from what I know from them, in Canada and in North America, who decide to wear the hijab, went beyond “the symbol of oppression”. A hijab is a fashion statement, a political statement, an identity statement, a feminist statement, or all of that at the same time! So why can’t we go beyond the hijab when it comes to Muslim women?

 And now, what does we mean by “secular democracy”.  Do we really live in “secular” and in “democratic” societies? It is not a secret that the mainstream culture in Canada is influenced by Christianity and Christian symbolism and references. Statuary holidays are inspired by Christianity. So are we really secular? Why is secularism is used today as the saviour of Islam?

 Take the example of France, a country that considers itself the champion of secularism or rather “laicité”. France came to ban the scarf to preserve the “laicité” of the school institution. That means restricting individuals rights to save the right of the state.

Is this democratic?  A majority imposing laws on a minority, under the name of “laicité”? Is secularism, or laicité, becoming the new “religion” of modern times? I am still wondering.

More and more cracks are appearing today in the meaning of “secular democracy”.

Movements like “Idle No More”, “Occupy Wall Street” or “Black Lives Matter” are showing today how these cracks in the system are growing and becoming fault lines, evidence of “democracy” failure.

 Muslim have been accused and constantly put on the defensive by “Orientalists” commentators and pundits to apologize about the actions of terrorists groups.

This is never done to other faiths. Buddhists in Burma who kill Muslims. Israeli who kills Palestinian. Christians in Africa who kills Muslims. No religious communities are held accountable for the actions of what violent groups associated to their faith have committed. Except for Muslims.

We often hear that there must be something inherently violent in Muslim DNA or religion that make Muslims incompatible with democracy.

But, most often these voices tend to forget that all the recent attempts by some Muslim countries to use democracy instead of dictatorship have been defeated by “western” countries. Example: Algeria (1992), Palestine (2006), Egypt (2013) and even as of yesterday Turkey (2016).

 Leaving it for most of the Muslim countries to choose either between “ terrorism” or “dictatorship” both experience filled with violence and oppression.

 So to go back to the initial question: what does it mean to be a Muslim woman in a secular society?

 This means to be constantly looking for answer to all these words. To reflect on all these definitions and not simply accept on side or the other. “Good” versus “bad”, “black” versus “white”, “us” versus “them”. Truth is somewhere in between.

Finding an answer is an act of balance that keeps changing with time, with gender, with economic and social situation, with spirituality.

 I shouldn’t be the only person asked to reply to that question. Rather, we should ask ourselves the following question:

 “What does it mean to be a secular democracy today?”

Orlando Shooting: Using tragedies to push for Anti-Muslim agenda

In 2004, I run as a federal candidate for the New Democratic Party in the Ottawa South riding. I run in the midst of the same-sex marriage debate in Canada. My position was the following: as a religious person, I couldn’t vote for the same-sex legislation but as I human right advocate I couldn’t oppose rights to other groups who have been persecuted and oppressed. So I decided that in case I will be elected, I would abstain from voting.

My decision was harshly criticised from both sides. Within some party supporters, I wasn’t “progressive” and “liberated” enough. I was just a conservative Muslim wrapped in a scarf, some of them even said Burqa, trying insidiously to impose my backward Muslim views to the party and to Canadians. On the other side of the spectrum, for many Muslims (who anyway voted for the Liberal party and forgot that same-sex marriage legislation was introduced by then Prime Minister Paul Martin) I was a traitor to my religion and beliefs, an opportunistic who simply wanted to get elected.

And I wasn’t elected and both sides were relieved, I imagine.

Today, after the gay nightclub shooting in Orlando, once again Muslim religious beliefs are on trial by some media and by some politically motivated groups pushing for their Islamophobic agenda. It seems that each time, there is a violent attack organized by individuals, who happens to be Muslim or have a Muslim name, the whole Muslim religion is on the bench of the accused. After 9/11, the trial was “Islam is inherently violent. It is against freedom and liberty”. After, the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in 2015, the trial grew even bigger to include this time “Islam is an angry religion against freedom of expression” and recently after the killing of 49 people in the gay nightclub in Orlando, the newly brought accusation is “Islam is a religion that incites for hate towards homosexuals”. These narratives built on centuries of ignorance about Islam and on deeply entrenched orientalist attitude, quickly become absolute truth and unchallenged especially in some media. As a result, one Muslim representative after another is invited on TV or radio to defend Islam from these stereotypes but the more these defensive reactions are made the more people started to believe the opposite and thus perpetuating the stereotypes.

After 9/11 attacks, the invasion of Afghanistan was made legitimate on the back of Muslim women wearing Burqa. Georges Bush, his wife and Cheryl Blair, wife of Tony Blair, the UK Prime Minister, all of them used “feminist arguments” to justify the war in Afghanistan. Everyone became feminist over night when it came to liberate Afghan women from Burqa. Even the most misogynistic groups and individual in the US came to agree with the liberation of women. Not totally, as long as it isn’t affecting some American internal policies like abortion for example. And the US troops were sent to Afghanistan. They killed, women, children and men. They arrested, imprisoned people and tortured them. But definitely, they didn’t liberate women.

After Charlie Hebdo attacks, the hypocrisy of the world reached some unprecedented peaks. In a show of solidarity to the French government and to the sacred French values of liberty and freedom of expression, many dictators attended a solidarity rally to show that they support freedom of expression. It didn’t matter if back home these leaders crushed their own people and whether they restrained their freedom of expression of their own. Once again, higher values like freedom of expression is used to divide the world between the “civilized” and the “barbaric” with Islam on the side of the barbaric. Thus, brushing aside centuries of colonialism and post colonialism. Also, feigning to forget that Muslim communities in France have never been accepted in the mainstream media or political circles and that the ongoing marginalization of the Muslim youth, especially boys and young men, is in big part a reason for them to reject French values and join violent ideologies.

With the Orlando attacks, the acceptance of homosexual rights, which is a legitimate mouvement, became the litmus test for Muslims to pass from the “bad Muslims” camp to the camp of the “good Muslims”. Even if those tests are conducted by groups who have been long time fighting LGBT rights with money and policies and guns. As for women’s rights, many discovered themselves overnight pro-LGBT rights as long as the issue, make Muslims and Islam look homophobic and violent.

Islam is not the only religion that doesn’t accept homosexuality. So why are the calls today are directed exclusively to Islam to re-examine its attitudes? Why aren’t we talking more about the extremists white supremacist Christian groups celebrating the killings of homosexuals or the heavy presence (in numbers and in funding) of US evangelical Christians in Uganda for instance, and their role in passing the “Kill the gay Bill” in 2014?

Using women rights, freedom of expression, LGBT rights, as wedge issues to demonize Islam and Muslim should be questioned as this will serve to only to make some bigots more confortable in their bubbles and speeches and won’t help us to see and get to know all the ongoing discussions and diversity of opinions of Muslims on these issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being an Activist and a Leader

Being an activist and a leader

I grew up in an environment where neither activism or leadership skills are encouraged by the society, or families or schools. Especially when you are a woman and especially if you have different opinions than the ruling party.

I discovered activism and leadership in books. Reading stories of women from different backgrounds taught me a lot. Reading also taught me to be confident and to learn how to argue and how to defend my opinions.

Being an activist in Canada can be seen differently. Depending on what you are advocating for. There are not issues better than others but there are issues that can be easily sold to the public than others.

Defending the rights of individuals accused of being terrorists in an 9/11 aftermath environment is a difficult sell, if not an impossible one.

Defending the right of women wearing their headscarf isn’t an easy sell, even among the liberal feminist circles.

Being an activist and a leader require that you have a platform or to build a platform. Being an activist and leader require also that you have support from groups and other activist. We can’t become an activist if we are isolated and we can’t become a leader if you don’t have moral and financial support from others.

In today’s understanding the word “activist” has sometime a derogatory meaning. Activists are hippie, sometimes accepted but not taken seriously. In mainstream media women activists are depicted like angry woman as if it is not OK or normal to be angry when faced with injustice.

Many women activists are usually depicted as angry, hysterical, utopic and rarely as serious, hard worker, smart and passionate.

Whereas, the word “leader” when it is not used for men, it is used to describe women who are exceptional, like Hilary Clinton or Cheryl Sandberg, the author of “Lean In”.

It is rare when women working hard in their communities or juggling between work and family or Walmart worker, or stay at home mothers are called leaders.

So how can we be at the same time activist and leader and woman? How can we be angry, hysterical, strong, smart, hippie, classy, and continue to be strong and committed to the issues we care about?

Two simple solutions:

  • Solidarity among women: this is an old principle but up to today we lack behind in finding the capacity to work together. We all know The old rule of: “Divide and conquer”, right?

 

Well, it still applies to us today. The rule is applied on several socioeconomic groups, but I can see a lot directed towards women. Many of us keep working in silos. Each one pushing for her own agenda but unfortunately each one ignoring the other. The result is unfortunately that we are all ignored at different levels.

Solidarity doesn’t mean that we have to love each other or not criticize each other. But solidarity means creating bridges when it is very unlikely to have one. Solidarity means partnership and networking with each other. Women know how to build partnership better than men. Even in Afghanistan, the Americans after they justified the war on the back of women pretending to liberate them, they came to admit that the presence of women in the peace negotiation tables bring a different dynamic other and more productive than having only men. Women are not looking to satisfy their egos. Women look for pragmatic solutions so the kids are fed and the country is safe.

 

  • Passion: as women, we are usually accused of being emotional and less rational. We defend ourselves of not being emotional. We define ourselves as the opposite of what our attackers accuse us of. But instead, we should be proud of who we are. If we emotional, why not, let’s be emotional. That means we care, that means we are strong that means we won’t give up. Let’s us define ourselves and not let the other define us. Passion is the best thing that can happen to an activist and a leader.

The path of activism and leadership are so full hurdles and obstacles that only passion can help. But don’t get me wrong here. Passion is not simply caring about an issue. Passion is reading, fighting, advocating, educating others about a particular issues. Passion is not just a job. Passion is long-time involvement and commitment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salon du livre de Genève

Je viens de passer des journées magnifiques à Genève. J’ai visité pour la première fois le Salon du livre de Genève dans sa 30è édition, en tant qu’auteure canadienne. Des auteurs québécois comme Marie Laberge ou Patrick Sénécal y sont des habitués. Ils avaient leur fans qui les lisaient et qui en demandaient plus. C’était des stars du Québec.

Evidemment, personne ne me connait là-bas ni comme auteure ni comme militante engagée pour les droits de la personne. Toutefois, en tenant des séances de dédicace, j’ai fait la connaissance de certains lecteurs suisses qui m’ont paru trop ouverts et très intéressés par ce que j’avais à leur dire sur mon experience personnelle mais aussi en tant qu’écrivaine immigrante et qui parmi ses multiples identités se présente comme musulmane.

J’ai aussi l’occasion d’avoir eu une discussion avec un auteur français sur “la philosophie de la migration”. En fait, c’était plutôt un monologue. Mr. Hédi Kaddour qui est apparemment un écrivain connu en France, n’avait pas l’air du tout intéressé à parler de migration mais certainement passionné et animé pour parler de son livre “Les prépondérants”. Je n’ai pu établir aucun dialogue avec lui, c’est comme si je n’existais pas ou presque.

Bref, tout ça pour dire que mon expérience avec “M. et Madame tout le monde” était plus chaleureuse et plus humaine qu’avec un auteur, intellectuel qui a en fait tout pour partager avec les autres mais chez qui je n’ai pas détecté beaucoup de curiosité, du moins à mon égard…

Je comprend de plus en plus que porter un foulard peut créer des obstacles, pas chez moi en tout cas, mais chez les autres. Moi, qui ai décidé, de porter un foulard pour qu’on me prenne au sérieux au lieu de s’attarder sur mon maquillage ou sur ma coupe de cheveux ou sur la mode de vêtement que je porte, me retrouve aujourd’hui toujours ramenée à la case de départ: mon choix vestimentaire et tout ce que cela représente: l’oppression, l’intégrisme, l’obscurantisme…

Je reste cependant déterminée à écrire, à réfléchir et à partager mes écrits avec ceux qui sont curieux et ceux qui veulent apprendre, connaitre et découvrir, et non pas ceux qui sont imbus d’eux mêmes et qui pensent avoir tout compris sur le monde ou posséder la vérité ou la lumière unique qui les guidera dans cette vie.

Certes, les gens en Occident ont peur de l’islam et des musulmans. Mais, les gens ont aussi besoin d’un discours intelligent, nouveau et innovateur. Les gens ne croient plus toujours à ce que leur disent les médias ou certains pseudo-intelectuels ou experts en l’islam. Ils veulent autre chose. Ils veulent des explications honnêtes et personnelles. Ils veulent des histoires et c’est là où réside le travail. C’est là où nous avons besoin de nouvelles voix pour parler, discuter, échanger des idées.