DiversifYA: Fida Islaih

FidaToday on the blog, Fida Islaih! Fida is a college student, poet and writer. She is also part of the editorial staff for New Dawn, a magazine for MYNA (Muslim Youth of North America). How awesome is that?

Even more exciting–Fida will be here for two interviews! So follow Fida on Twitter here. If you want to read more of her writing and her poetry, have a look at her wonderful blog!

1. How do you identify yourself?

I’m a Palestinian Malaysian American. I see myself strongly that. And that is what I say when people ask me. But being with friends of many different cultures I accept myself simply as a human and a Muslim. I’m a poet, too, and in some you can see I write of my three cultures, but call myself global or more lyrical: a daughter of the world.

I also identify myself as sensitive and having a muscle disability. Sensitive as always been with me, but because I never really saw the full affect of my disability until middle school, so I only identified with it recently.

Being from two opposite sides of the world and having a disability is what makes me who I am.

2. What did it feel like growing up Palestinian Malaysian Muslim?

As a toddler I used my Malay dresses as dress-up, and I sometimes wore the hijab for fun. Also, I knew Malay but I forgot it.

As a Muslim I have to wear the hijab. I had it easy. I started it part time in middle school, also a time I was making friends. I decided to wear it full time in junior high. I was able to keep my elementary and middle school friends.

I remember one time my hair was showing and my friend told me. She had my back.

There was one problem in high school, my history teacher gave false information on Islam. It taught me to create a thick skin and to stand up for myself and my faith.

I never really knew about the conflict in Palestine until I was a teen. I’ve always eaten Arab food and still don’t like American food.

3. What are the biggest challenges? Conversely, what are the quirks/perks?

I feel ashamed when I’m asked if I can speak in my parents’ language. As a kid I didn’t really like answering questions about my faith, but now I do.

I love talking about my faith because we get good deeds for it. Also, the smallest things count towards being a good Muslim.

Once I wore hijab I noticed the biggest tan line around my face.

You can tell who your true friends are. And I love the Muslim community. You can tell them things you can’t tell others. Whether you know them or not, when you see someone wearing the headscarf you smile and say hi.

4. What do you wish people knew about being Muslim?

A person won’t always best represent the religion; the religion itself will. If you want to learn, look at the religion and reliable sources before you look at people. Islam means peace and submission to God.

Also you see different ways to wear the headscarf because people adjust themselves to the culture of the specific place.

5. What are the biggest cliches/stereotypes you’ve seen?

People think I know every Muslim in the area. If it’s small enough, then I will. If it’s large, I won’t. I don’t know everything in the news. Don’t think I’ll act like the people elsewhere. We shouldn’t do that. Don’t assume something or let it go under the radar. Always think before you speak. You don’t want to hurt someone.

BONUS: What is your advice for writers writing diverse characters?

If you want to write a certain character you should interact with those kinds of people and their friends, so you know both sides.

We’ll welcome Fida back to the blog in a couple of weeks when she’ll tell us all about living with a muscle disability!

One Response to DiversifYA: Fida Islaih

  1. such an awesome post!I think what you’ve written has been meaningful and you’ve definitely changed my perception on the typical muslim american. It was never negative, i’ve just never met a Palestinian Malaysian muslim before. You’re so beautiful and i’m glad that you have really supportive friends and have such a strong sense of pride for your religion and culture!