Monday, November 12, 2012

Why choose to stay in Oman?: OPNO's story

This post is wrriten by one of the two OPNO contributers who happens to still hold a Canadian nationality;) and is nonetheless married to an Omani from a very traditional place in a very traditional village. The blog often gets people asking why would one want to give up their Western heritage for a place that might have turned out the same as Yemen but for it having oil. UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, could be spoken of much the same, or KSA. They often say, hey, sure you're happy now but what if you get divorced, and Omani divorce laws, ect. ect.... Or what if the ruler after Qaboos suddenly decides Oman should head another direction.

To that my first thought is often a defense of Yemen which has a richer history and cultural heritage than ANYONE with a European or North-American background could ever dream of.

My second response is always to blurt out that I knew what I was doing in terms of writing up my marriage contract under Omani law in the first place and unlike most Muslim girls in Oman who get married I spelt out the terms of divorce with kids and without ect.... right into that document. I am also proficient enough in Islamic law to know what would void terms in the contract and not to have put things in there that take away from a man's rights in Islam ect.... which of course, would be void in Omani courts ANYWAYS. I feel bad for any women who get divorce and end up married to a man who doesn't care about what Islam guides for women and with divorce they did not take the same precautions I did.

First off, I want to state, I am a Muslim. That means that I do not believe there is any land on this Earth or country that does not first belong to God. I don't believe that means Muslims can go around and take over other countries ect... that's not what it means at all. It just means, that for a Muslim, our nationality IS our religion (and ppl can disagree with me, but they wouldn't be supported by their own religious texts) and our country is the ummah (the population of the Muslims, not a piece of specific land). This is because Islam was sent to rid people of racism which is often based on tribes from a set area and nationalities. Islam states that no Arab is better than a black man or a red man, or vice versa except for in piety and right action.
Of course, living in a modern world, we all HAVE passports. There ARE countries. I don't walk around laddy-da-ing that they don't exist. But to me, they are meaningless. They are nothing but their people, and what their people produce in terms of right actions. So that means to me, where I choose to live and take a passport is valued only on how much I love the land and its soil (its roots and its history and what grows there) and if I identify with the people. To me, anyone is Omani who wants the best for this land and its people, and those who are selfish and just rape and pillage the land and their own people even if they hold a valid passport are less Omani. Their country is their own greed and they are welcome to it.

Of course, when I became a Muslim I didn't loose touch of my Canadian culture. I come from one of the most beautiful places on earth (even for Canada). I miss the foods, the sounds, the movement, the colours, and some of the people. The Muslims there are often better Muslims in terms of right action because they don't just try to look pious to gain the good opinion of others, they do it for the sake of goodness.

But at the same, Oman has many good people and Muslims, and it became my home, its people my people, when my land became unsafe for me.

Unsafe? you ask. Canada?

I can give you a list of the reasons:

1.) Because I was not a terrorist. [And this was not America or anything where terrorism happened].

Yes, I am afraid. Did you know me, (a teenage girl at the time) who just cared about praying and wearing cute-looking abayas, and having tea and henna parties with Saudi girls, was investigated to the point of being followed by some government operation (apparently not even Canadian although they approached me as being Canadian because the Canadian anti-terrorism task force WAS contacted to ask WHY I warranted following.)?! it was soooooooo ridiculous and makes airports a hassle.

And now my poor Omani husband has to deal with the fact that he married someone on that "list" lol, and he gets the hassle too now, poor guy.

It is kind of scary to get followed. Although I thought it was pretty funny at the time to find out HOW crummy anti-terorism task forces are. I mean, they should be experts on Islam right? They didn't even know how to spell "Ayesha" and kept saying "Ashley" instead, and didn't know that Muslim women take their face veils (niqab) OFF sometimes. Which had them counting more women than actually existed at what could have been terorism planning activity but turned out to be a house-warming party for a Syrian lady LOOOOOL. Yeah, the girls who wore heavy make-up to the party veiled their faces going in. LOL, and washed their makeup up OFF so no need for the veils GOING OUT.
2.) I had a hard time finding decent paying work dressed modestly. I wore colours. Even sometimes tight things not abaya and I still could only find a job at a bank. Which isn't halal for a Muslim who doesn't want to deal with interest.

Despite, most of the people at the bank were amazinginly beyond kind and I miss both the staff and the regular clients. Lorenzo, Tracey, Howard, and Royal Bank in general (can't name the clients;), the kindness you showed me went beyond simple human decency. These were people who truly believed all it takes for the world to go wrong is for a good person to do nothing, and they stepped up to the plate when it came to battling prejudice. I will never forget the day Lorenzo closed the bank because one man refused to be served by me, and so Lorenzo declared, "If ----[OPNO] isn't good enough to serve you, then Lorenzo isn't good enough to serve you." And all the other staff followed suit. While I left for religious reasons of wanting to find a job I could surrvive on without working for a corporation that dealt in interest, I will remember everyone there forever.

 I don't mind working and fasting at all. People can eat in front of me, doesn't bother me in the slightest.

I don't even mind the people who say rude things and ask alot of questions and don't like my choices. It is my choice after all, and old people in my city don't like alot of things young people do so I can handle that.

What I don't like is people who refused to "be served by someone like you". As if I was not a person anymore. As if I could be hated and less than human because I choose to cover my body and be modest and valued for what I do and think rather than my physical form.

I don't know... that hurts.



Or the woman who was forced to be served by me when everyone else refused her.

And washed her hands after.

Like I was dirty.

3.) Sometimes people threatened to or tried to hurt me. One more than one occasion.

I got stalked by a neo-Nazi who said, and I quote "Like Princess Diana with that Dodi Fayed, you have polluted yourself and your race by marrying an Arab (he didn't know if I was married or not) and deserve to die. All of our good women are being taken by Arabs!"

He often took photos of my friends and when we were in the city and once grabbed me in front of my own non-Muslim father and sister. I put a restraining order on him, of course. Neo-nazis aren't really anybody's friends.

Someone threw a bowl of boiling water+ noodles (you know, like instant indomei) at my friend from a car as she was peacefully walking down the road.

I got stopped in the middle of a park at night by a group of three guys and one girl. Two of the guys threatened to rape me if I did not take off my scarf while the other guy and the girl asked them to leave me alone. Thankfully I managed to not show I was afraid and nothing bad happened except I told them off for being less local than I.
Women all the time seem to think they had the right to tell me I was sub-human now since I decided to wear a headscarf and thus all of choices and freedoms to choose anything meant I was "brainwashed". By whom, I still wonder, me having chosen this without any Muslims or Arabs around me. No one EVER told me to convert to Islam or taught me anything much about it. It was ALL my own decision after a long careful study.

One of my former bestfriends told me that I "had betrayed all womenkind", which to this day aches, because we spent our childhood together, and she knows how stubborn and independent I am.

A group of guys in a pick-up form my home town told me to "take off that scarf and I'll come f**** you!" while they got a hold if it driving by and dragged me till the scarf fell off . I dusted myself off, took out a second scarf I learned to always carry with me in my bag, and went to the police. You would wonder, but it was never listed as a hate crime.

Someone hucked a pepsi can at me as I was walking home from the Mosque and told me "to go back to Saudi Arabia".

That was really the last straw.

It certainly was one of the least bad things that happened to me, but I think it broke me. These were my people, my nation, and with the ideals I was raised with within their society, I couldn't understand their blind hate.

4.) My own family doesn't accept me as I am now.We love eachother, help eachother, but I am still treated differently than I was before and that change hurts me so I like to be just a little bit a aways so I don't notice as much.

My father is always like "why can't you just do the headscarf thing when you go to the prayer thingie like Queen Rania [of Jordan].?"

Friends are always like, "you used to be more fun when you drank." {I honestly dont know how they think they can remember me when I drank, they were always so drunk I had to watch them so they didn't get arrested ect].

Family point out not-practicing Muslim Arab students holidaying it up in our city and go, "Look at them, they're trying to fit in." As if I should be more like them, never mind how many disceses the guys and girls get from sleeping around, or broken hearts, or attention from nothing but tight fitting jeans and a nice butt in boots.

Is that really what I want to be remembered for? Is that really our society? Is that our canadian culture?: I'd personally like to think that we as Canadians are alot more than clothes and parties ect...

5. Our mosque recieved a bomb threat.


I just want to add, I seem to be the only one most of these things happened to. Maybe because I am very feminine and petite and kind of stick out glaringly as being a non-Arab (great for the neo-nazis to target one) and creepy cowardly dudes in groups like to pick on unthreatening female alone and isolated. And the terrorism thing was probably because I worked at a bank where they did international wire transfers and terrorists launder money through things like that ect... not that my job role ever had ANYTHING to do with money transfers and wire payments but whatever.


So I came to Oman to find a job I could afford to live on (previous to Islam I had financially supported myself and had a good job until I started to wear hijab so then all I could find was the bank that paid well so I'd rather move here) and just be safe living alone as I wasn't married when I came here.

I wanted to just be able to walk down the road and not worry about someone asking me my whole life story, or telling me to go to Saudi (yeah cuz there I'd totally be happy----not), or throwing something at me, or thinking I am dumb or stupid or suppressed, unable to think or do anything for myself.

I like that Oman gives women the choice to cover or not to cover. I hope that never changes. I think the hijab as I have chosen it, loses ALL meaning when it is forced on women. I wear it because it brings meaning into my life, that I am doing it to show something that I believe in, Islam, and like to be judged by my actions, not my appearence.

I found a family here that accepted me, of more than one nation, and more than 10 Omani tribes;). I don't do wasta, I don't do tribalism, I don't even do nationalism. But Oman and its people are in my heart and I want the best for them and this place.

That is why I choose to stay here, over the rights and "benefits" some people percieve in a Canadian passport over an Omani one. Happiness and peace don't have an identity number on a piece of plastic. They can't be confined by a border, or stamp of ink.


❤ αmαℓ said...

Wowwww. I can't believe people can be so cruel :( honestly stuff like this is why I wanted to come to the middle east and was too scared to wear hijab before. I know it sounds like an excuse but I don't think I could have handled being threatened and physically assaulted if it ever came up. :-/

Maymunah said...

Salaamu alaikom! No, you're not the only one. Variations on all of those happened to me too, even though I'm big and grumpy.

I don't know why CSIS thinks converts are such a terrorist threat but leaves Arabs alone (Arabs never believe me when I tell them why I'm not going to go back and live in 'my country'), but apparently I'm on their list too. I was constantly in physical danger, and I don't know if I'll even be able to visit Canada without going to jail.

I didn't mean this to be about me, but you're totally not the only one. That city was extremely racist.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Amal: I'm sure you could, as I have heard you are one tough cookie;). Living in UAE with all the aulad haraam on the prowl one has to develop a thick skin and be kind of tough:).

Maymunah: I never heard you complain so I never knew:(. But you are kind of petite and looked injured back in canada so I am sure that gave any cowards leave to try at you:(.

I pray no one has to go through what we did and the situation gets better. I can't imagine the lives of some of the girls in France or Europe and Russia whose lives are even worse because the government not just the people are against them:).

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Though Boxie is not easy to pick on and she nearly got boiled:(

Omanly said...

Unfortunately there will always be some degree of hatred and ignorance among people. The more we are carried away buy superficial values, the more these will manifest themselves.
Your story is made even more interesting as becoming a Muslim was your own choice. You were not socialized as a Muslim nor grew up like one. For most people religion is not something they chose, it gradually becomes part of their personality. Same as they don't choose their parents, like them or not. For those religion and culture are more or less one system of values (albeit challenged buy post- modernity). I take your pain -at the time- as a sort of pity felt for your mates and peers, who never managed to get beyond appearances and appreciate the person, who culturally had much more in common with them than the difference of clothing and religious belief.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Omanly: Yes, that really was it. I felt pity and couldn't understand the blindness.

Especially with family.

I am obviously still not Omani culture-wise, no matter how many cultural aspects [making Omani bread, embroidering kumas, not laughing in public] I mimic. My Canadian side to be loud, fearless, independent, and apologetic is still there, and Islam doesn't suppress that at all.

Boxie said...

It's crazy what can happen. Alhamdulillah things are getting better in some aspects. The city is getting used to a larger Muslim community, though more are transient as they are students, but needless it has brought change. The biggest is the restaurants popping up. There is a new Turkish place, a Lebanese place, Iraqi or Afghani and something I am forgetting but hearts are changing with there tummies. Also halal meat is now sold in every supermarket (diff type of meat depending on the store).

MJ said...

You are very brave and wise to have gone through all that and made the decision to embrace Oman. I admire you so much, and I love your last paragraph. Your writing is truthful and your story so emotional and real. You deserve the very best that life has to offer. Your faith is so inspiring.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

MJ: I don't think I was brave at all to move. I think I was just tired. :)

MJ said...

lol, no that was a very brave decision to make, and a good one! So many women, especially, stay in unhappy situations because of fear, and not having faith. You are true to yourself, and that is a wonderful quality. Of course, you are a realist, and nothing is perfect all the time. But life is too short to not take action when the time is right. That gave you the opportunity to create your life, to live in harmony with your true self, which is always evolving.

meriem said...

what an insparing story. i lived in oman with my husband for 3 years, i didn’t like it at first but by the time we were leaving i wanted to stay for ever, for me it is al baled al amine ( the safe country) . i have a daughter (4 yrs) and i want her to grow up in an islamic country. i already imagine the challenges ahead for her , in term of being brought up as a muslim in a non muslim country. we might be returning to oman very soon (incha allah). i would love and feel honored to get in touch with you if this happend. good luck in you life and journey as an omani princess.

Anonymous said...

Interesting read. I came also from the west. I also am married to an Omani. I cover and still I'm followed. I'm grabbed. It's disheartening that misbehavior exists everywhere. I'm not too happy with the local population. It has never been my fault. I'm just a girl going about my business. It's happened all over the gulf region. My views are seriously tainted since I've come over. Hypocrisy. Unfairness. Did I mention hypocrisy?