Tag Archives: Lebanon

Changing our diets

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They say that to truly experience a new culture you must experience the food and the eating habits of this culture. Some people travel the world in search of new flavors, others purchase cookbooks of international cuisine in search of a new meal to add to their next dinner party. We live in a country where food is precious and each region in Lebanon is known for something, whether it is the “Sfeeha Baalbakiyi” or the “Southern Olive Oil”,there is always something new and delicious to discover. But how much do we really know about each others food and what does that have to do with stereotypes and discrimination?

A recent chat with a friend of mine who works as a dietitian made me realize how important food is in bridging the gap between communities and in making us closer to one another. “For the past 3 years I have been seeing the same patients over and over again, I have literally memorized most of the food they eat. Most of my patients’ culture and background are similar to mine. When there would be a holiday or an important occasion coming up I would know what foods to warn my clients from eating, however all of this changed when I started working a few hours a week in a new clinic where I had the opportunity to meet people who were from a totally different religious and cultural background. With every new patient I began to learn about the foods my patients were eating in different occasions and this made me better understand their traditions and culture. ” 

This idea of simply learning about other peoples food traditions opened my eyes to the simplicity of the solution that could solve so many problems. We do not need books or anthropologists or documented studies to learn about one another . We need food, music, holidays, events, clothing and anything that can bring us closer. We need to change our social diets, not only our food but also our approach to understanding one another.

Esraa 

How do we break the stereotypes?

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The question of how we can break stereotypes has always been on my mind, even before I started this blog I asked myself this question and I have come to realize that doing so requires a lot of energy, patience and time. 

Blogging has been one way for me to express myself and what I believe in but I honestly do  not feel that it is enough. In my journey to change things around me I have made two mistakes which I believe most of us make. When someone would question my beliefs or my choices in life in a tone that I would find a bit provocative I would immediately get in the “fight” mode. Rather than listening to their opinion I would try my best to prove my opinion and why I was right and they were wrong and in return the conversation would turn into a debate where both parties gained nothing. Every time this would happen I would promise myself that the next time would be different, that I would try my best to be in a “listening mode” only to fall in the same mistake again. The second mistake I have been making is that I made my own assumptions about what people thought about me or veiled women in general and I never really had the courage to ask them what they really  believed.

I was recently interviewed in a TV morning talk show to talk about 7ijabi and I was forced to listen to what the “other” had to say, I was forced to be in the “listening mode” rather than the”fight mode” and I had the chance to listen to what others had to say.

For the first time I realized that to break stereotypes we must put ourselves in uncomfortable situations of confrontation were we actually listen to what the other is saying, where we have to engage in dialogue which believe me is much harder said than done.

That TV interview made me realize that to break the stereotypes that surround us we must interact rather than react and that we should initiate the conversation rather than wait for someone else to come and stand up for us. By taking initiatives ourselves we will become  one step closer to truly accepting and respecting one another’s differences and similarities and only then can we claim that we live in a civilized society.

Veiled at 24

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Our first guest blogger Loulwa Kalache talks about her experience of wearing the veil at the age of 24.

by: Loulwa Kalache

On May 20, 2012, I was putting the first touches on my crown. It was a coronation for a new Loulwa.

I was putting the Hijab.

It wasn’t just about a piece of cloth that I merely put, it was an actual transformation of my state.

Why did I become a “Mouhajaba” at age of 24?

In 2011, I was going through a lot of personal hardships. Yet it was during this time, that I found myself kneeling to Allah. I found myself fully submissive to His will only.

Although, earlier I was pious in following almost all basic duties of Islam, praying, saying the Shahadah, fasting, believing in judgment day and the prophets…etc However, I wasn’t feeling Islam properly. I wasn’t actually submissive fully to the will of Allah.  I put a lot of worldly things before Allah.
Thus, I started feeling a tiny growing feeling in my heart that made me create a long forgotten relationship with my God. Until there was a significant day, I decided what I want from this life. It was a day that I asked and prayed for God to guide me through, to show me the way, and to find me a solution to end this dispute and get rid of the worldly attachments. Indeed, a spiritual revolution occurred inside of me.

In that year, I planned to be a better Muslim; to perfect my prayers, to wake up and pray fajr, to read Quran every day, and to deliver the right message about Islam to others. I did my best to do all these. But there was something missing that I was not following. It was one basic element that God asked from women specifically, which was to cover their heads and bodies.
But what was hindering me?

Despite I was raised in an Islamic setting where my parents always wanted me to wear the veil, they never forced it on me. They used to explain to me the consequences of not putting it versus putting it. I never listened to them and I refused to put it at a young age.
Deep in my subconscious, I was afraid of being labeled as mouhajabah. I wanted to be “free” and not chained by a cover over my hair.

I created this mindset believing that mouhajabeh can’t do anything. And that a mouhajabah  is perceived as a “shy”, “behind the man”, and not outgoing persona. And that she will be labeled differently. What was I thinking back then? Indeed, I was blind, and ignorant with these stereotypes. Excuse me for that.

So society or people were never the hindering agent. The only struggle I was facing was my own self. So as soon as I let go of this foolish mindset, I decided to put the veil. I wanted to represent Islam properly. I want to show them what it is to be a Muslimah that can follow religion and at the same time be an activist, a hard worker, and a sociable person …A veil can never hinder me, nor my ambitions.
When I put it, there were no remarkable challenges. I remember clearly the moment I put it: I was walking in Beirut, and I didn’t feel any less different. On the contrary, I felt more confident and proud.

Of course family and friends were surprised and happy. No one criticized me or told me to remove it…They did question my motives and reasons, perhaps out of curiosity. And even if some didn’t like that change, I didn’t really care.
Because it was not something I did between me and my society. It was something I did between myself and the Almighty. Because when someone is doing something purely for Allah, he or she doesn’t wait for the world to approve.

 

loulwa

The New T.V. Set

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For years my parents have had one T.V. in the house. Me and my siblings would always fight over the remote control and what shows we were going to watch. Few were the moments when we all agreed on something and most of the times we would end up watching either a chick flick or a horrifying movie. In both cases no one was happy,if it was the girls turn to choose the show,the boys would make it impossible for us to watch because of their constant nagging and we would do the same to them just to make sure we were even. No one was happy except Makdis.

Makdis has been part of our family for the past two years, she cleans and does the dishes but most importantly she never complains about what T.V. show we are going to watch, what ever is on Makdis will watch and she always seems to enjoy it.

I really never paid attention to Makdis or what Makdis wanted to watch and for some reason I always assumed that she understood  what we were watching whether in English or Arabic. I forgot that she was from Ethipoia, that she barely spoke Arabic or English and that this was the first time she had seen a T.V.

In an attempt to solve all the family disputes my parents decided to buy an additional T.V. set, of course we were all thrilled but no one was more excited than Makdis. The presence of a new T.V. empowered Makdis, now she could watch what she wants,when she wants and was  not confined by our personal choices, instead she  had the ability to hold the remote and control and choose her favorite shows.

Over the weeks I observed Makdis, in the morning she would watch a morning show with her nescafe and in the afternoon after all the housework was complete she would tune in for her favorite Turkish soap opera. Her life had been transformed!

The assumptions we make about people determine the way we treat them. I assumed that Makdis didn’t care about what we were watching but in fact she did, we assume that physically disabled people might be less intelligent so we speak loudly and slowly when in reality they are as smart as we are if not more.

Makdis’s story  taught me a  very important lesson, the basic needs of any human being such as laughter, the need for entertainment and having our own space are universal to all human beings whether they  are from Lebanon or Ethiopia. The idea might seem cliche but in practice I realized that I was not really applying it.

Today Makdis enjoys a variety of TV shows and my siblings and I still fight over the remote.

Esraa