Glasses

Body: 

For years, diversity has been nagging at student Zeinab Bouljhaf. It’s like a chronic illness that keeps chasing her, and, every now and then, disrupts her daily routine with its aches. Justify, justify, justify.

Read in Dutch

No, ma’am, I’m not an ISIS proponent. Yes, sir, it’s terrible what happened in Paris. Oh really, ma’am, are you afraid we’ll see a terror attack happen in the Netherlands? Yes, I completely understand, truly. No sir, I’m not studying Islam and Arabic to become an extremist.

Day in, day out, I’m continually justifying myself for what happens on the other side of the world. Ignorant about the fact that every terror attack is also, indirectly, an attack on my own life, I always answer without stopping to think about what it does to me as a person.

My answers – which fit in well with the image of ‘well-integrated citizen’, and give others a sense of security – saddle me with lasting questions. Did I answer correctly? Did I take my explanation too far? Should I, when the next question comes, try to sound less Muslim? Am I being seen as Dutch person? I’m really not even that diverse. I, too, have the dilemmas any other student has. Coffee or tea. Sandwich or pasta.

The difference between you and me is one we subconsciously create ourselves. The glasses through which we look at the world determine the differences and boundaries between us. Sometimes I’ll close my eyes, count to ten and wonder who or what I really am. As the proud owner of two passports, I often don’t feel like myself in either country.

My soul is tired because I pretend to be someone I’m not. Today I’ll leave my glasses at home for a bit, and relax. Today, I am myself

This blog has also been published in our magazine UU fot Everyone
Translation: Indra Spronk

 

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