Disclaimer: All non-fiction pieces featured in our web-magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the web-magazine as a whole. Documented Experiences is a platform for expression first and foremost. The ideas portrayed in this piece are representative of the writer only.
I am a Palestinian born and raised in Lebanon. I have never been to Palestine before and I’m not physically allowed to go there because I don’t have a paper that grants me the opportunity to experience my homeland and what it’s like to feel rooted… to maybe, for once in my lifetime, feel at home, at peace: stable. This truth makes me feel less Palestinian, but I try to layer it with the fact that I live in Lebanon and have friends and memories here.
However, I have “no interest in the social reality where [I] exist.” This, in turn, as Ghassan Hage brilliantly clarifies in his Roots Will Be With You Always, makes “reality fail to impose itself on [my] senses and fail to pull [me] in,” rendering me neither Palestinian nor Lebanese, hanging by a thread between the two, pushing me out when I criticize the social reality I’m in, and igniting fireworks of emotions and scenarios inside me.
The society I live in tries to tattoo on my skin, with a prickly pen, the patriarchy inherent in its gendered roles and its extreme worship of a contradictory understanding of traditions, sprinkled with a bit of religion on top to make the former sacred or untouchable that I fall in an abyss; I try to pull myself upward and express my aversion because I am a human who has the absolute right to, at least, believe what I want. As soon as I create a rope built from my exhausted mental abilities and missed opportunities (because it is a time-consuming task) to pull myself upward and feel a breeze of freedom upon my scarred skin, the forces of gravity in this abyss catch me from my left arm and twitch it till I feel the agony of losing not only my present where what I am I can’t be and what I can be I am not, but also my future at the American University of Beirut, which not only my father and mother but also my grandmother and uncles (and the owner of some supermarket) want to abolish if I persist on expressing my “satanic” thoughts on life that influenced me to hate the hijab.
From the day I told my parents that I don’t want to wear it anymore, I was bombarded with rhetorical questions like “is this how you thank Allah for saving you from the chronic disease you had?” and my response was “well, if we’re using this logic then I believe He’s the one who burdened me with it.” Living in a conservative Muslim household, the only idea I felt comfortable expressing about religion is that wearing the hijab is a tradition that precedes the Abrahamic religions. I realized that I didn’t hate it until I was hit with the realization that I now live in a box, the box of hijabi women, which I’m not allowed to get out from. As my hatred towards it grew, so did my criticism of their deeply-engraved traditions and day-by-day I was suffocating more and more (just like this extended soliloquy made you feel while reading it). They, and I call them “they” intentionally, because right now I refuse to acknowledge our biological relatedness. By being fixated on the religious texts and teachings they believe in, they became ignorant in parenting and their dissent became an attempt at erasing my face, my identity, and my separate being that is trying to survive in its own imaginary cloud, silent but saturated with fury…
I can no longer see faces, eyes, lips, or even souls. All I can see now is a rotten ideology, the boots in Mona Hatoum’s art, stuck to the ground, chaining my feet… a delusional freedom to walk…a light at the end of the tunnel that one has to get burnt through to reach… a forced “straight line” path. I do not want to feel rooted. I am out of place and I prefer never being home, where I still think my mother is, over being somewhere that is forcing me to believe it is home, when it actually isn’t.
All this I write on my way to where they live. All this I write on the bus, trying to figure out what to say, trying to find a verb that is not too furious nor too apologetic and victimizing; I see my identity get stepped on to make room for the seeds of a fig tree or an olive tree or a pomegranate tree. I don’t know what I feel anymore. I feel guilty and threatened but also resilient and tolerant of what will come. Am I feeling too much or am I apathetic? Am I making a big deal out of a piece of cloth or is this piece of cloth sizing me down? Even if I find my verbs, I think that staying silent is better, because it will show how huge the gap is between us: how disappointed they feel and how helpless I am as they mold me into a monster. All this because religion is sacred and transcends the them-me relationship. Moving away from the “correct path” means I’ll get disowned from my home, which I can no longer identify with.