Connect with us


Identity vs. Nationality vs. Ethnicity


Being half Pakistani, half white, raised in America and living in the UAE, I’ve long ago learned that when people ask me where I’m from, they don’t want to hear ‘Chicago.’ They want to know why I look like an Arab, sound like an American and hang out with a brown guy who bears striking resemblance to my Turkish-looking children.

That’s why I have no problem presenting my pedigree at the drop of the hat, because I know that there is no short answer. I’m Muslim, I was raised in America, but have also lived in Pakistan for eight years, my mother is American, my father is Pakistani. My father is Muslim, my mother is Mormon.

No, they are not divorced.

Made in Dubai, just like my marriage!
Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Made in Dubai, just like my marriage!

“Ah, yes yes,” people nod, as things start to make sense. Then the next question comes:“And your husband, he is local?” When people here say local, they mean local Emirati, and they ask because any foreign Muslim woman wearing a black abaya must to be married to her local counterpart in the white kandoora, right? (salt and pepper, yin and yang?)

“Actually,” I say, “My husband is Pakistani.”


“Yes…” I try to explain, because the brown guy in the Blogger t-shirt with the standard Midwestern accent who says things like, “Hey, howyadoin?” does not fit inside of the box traditionally reserved for Bakistani. “Well, his parents are from Pakistan, but he was born in Kuwait. And raised in Oman. And went to school in the UAE, and college in the US. And, he’s never lived in Pakistan, but I’m sure he’s visited a few times.” People nod uncertainly. “So I mean, he’s Pakistani, but he’s not really very Pakistani? I mean, I’m more Urdu-literate than he is! But he looks brown, so his Urdu comes off better than mine, and his accent is better too.” And then people start to get that polite look of panic in their eyes that is usually accompanied by a sudden urge to rush home and see if they left the iron plugged in.

I think it’s easier for me to explain myself than it is for him, because I at least was born in, and brought up in, the country of my nationality. He was born in country A, raised in countries B and C, educated in country D, and has a passport from (but has never lived in) country D. And in this country, your salary and your renumeration package is directly connected to your nationality.

[Yes, it’s racist, idiotic, and unfair. No, I can’t do anything about it. US, UK, Australian, and South African Nationals get top dollars, top benefits, and more prominent positions. The rest of us are on a much, much lower pay scale, with much fewer benefits.  And remember, Brown Guy #237, don’t like it, there are 67,409 other Brown Guys standing in line behind you who are willing to work for what it a humungous salary back home, though a paltry one according to the expenses of Dubai.]

The office, who is legally obliged to give employees tickets “home” once a year, wants to give my husband tickets to a home he’s never lived in, because his passport is Pakistani. So, to get tickets back to the “home” he actually has family in, he says he’s American. That also explains the way he talks, but not the way he looks. But then he has to deal with people on both sides of the fence who say things like: “American? You’re not an American, you’re a Pakistani national!”

If he says he’s Pakistani, people say things like, “Oh, where from?” and he says “I don’t know, I’ve never lived there….”

“So where did you live before this?

“Umm, America?”

In some ways this is very typical of what I call “The International Muslim.” Yesterday we went to the barbeque of another “Pakistani” family, born in Saudi, raised in Connecticut, moved to Dubai last year. We had steak and barbecue chicken, we played Scrabble and we’ve invited them over some time after next week. We’ll make sushi.

A dear friend of mine, once told me a story about her young brother, Ismail. Ismail, then seven or eight, brought a friend over from school to play, and she overheard the following conversation:

“Hey, what are you? Are you Muslim?”

“Muslim? I don’t know.”

“Well, do you eat rice?”


“Then you’re Muslim.”

We wish you a merry Iftar, we wish you a merry Iftar, we wish you a merry Iftar and a nice Ta-RA-WEEH!

We wish you a merry Iftar, we wish you a merry Iftar, we wish you a merry Iftar and a nice Ta-RA-WEEH!

I often remember that story when people ask me what “I am.” This is a different question from ‘where are you from’ or ‘what is your nationality.’ This is not a question of ethnicity or nationality, this is a question of identity. They want to know what my culture is. Do I make Nihari? Yes. Does that make me a Pakistani? I don’t know, do Pakistanis traditionally bake gingerbread men for Ramadan?

Does my husband eat Pakistani food? Yes, does that make him Pakistani? Not any more than eating sushi makes him Japanese, and we roll our sushi at home. I don’t think that the food you eat determines ‘what you are,’ nor does the way you behave neatly define what your culture is. Do I respect my elders? Yes. Is that an exclusively Asian thing? No. Was I an obnoxious teenager? Oh yes. Is that an exclusively ‘American’ thing? Unfortunately, no.

I long ago realized I was too brown for the whites and too white for the browns. My first language is English but I have a funny foreign name. My Urdu is awful but my father is Pakistani, and my freckles are part of my Irish heritage. My passport is American but my wardrobe alone scares the bjeezus out of most Americans. My accent may be as American as apple pie, but my abaya most certainly isn’t.  So what am I?

What is the determining factor for one’s identity, if it is not nationality or ethnicity? Vague ideas of what ‘culture’ is differ on regional and ethnic levels, as well as the passing whims of popularity and generally accepted social norms. You can argue that certain things make you American, but a hundred years ago, those same behaviours would be shocking, outrageous, and very un-American. Cultural practices are not standards, they’re just a sign of the times.

Even if I were to choose to be American, and to abide by the generally accepted principals of what being ‘American’ means, there are no principles of American-ness. Having a passport alone doesn’t make me an ‘American,’ it only makes me an American national. I could choose to be Pakistani, but again, there’s no documented process. My father is Pakistani, and he identifies with the culture and was born within the borders of the country, but guess what- he’s an American national too. Being born in a certain country doesn’t mean they’ll teach you the secret handshake either- my husband was born in Kuwait, and he is most definitely not a Kuwaiti, even when he does wear a kandoora. Ethnicity alone doesn’t convey identity either, because I’m not an Irishwoman any more than my mother is. Without an agreed-upon standard determining the requirements of identity, the only thing left to fall back on is choice.

I did not choose to be born in America any more than I chose to have a Pakistani father and an American mother. My ethnicity was set before I was even born, and my nationality can be changed if I decide to say… apply for Canadian immigration. My identity is the only thing I exert any control over. I choose to be Muslim, I identify with Muslims of all colors and countries, because we have an agreed upon standard of Muslim-ness. If you believe in Allah, and His Messenger, and the Qur’an, and you try to follow it- you’re Muslim. These elements of belief are all matters of choice as well, and someone can easily choose to NOT be Muslim if they wanted to, and that choice alone would be sufficient for them to no longer be considered part of the Ummah anymore.

The food I cook is not determined by what my ancestors cooked, but by what is halal. The clothes I wear are not any specific national dress, they are pieces of cloth arranged in such a way that they fulfill the Islamic requirements for modesty; abaya, shalwar qameez, or skirt or whatever. I don’t dance at Mehndhi parties just because ‘I’m Pakistani’ or go to prom just because ‘I’m American.’ I do, however, pray salah, fast, give zakah and wear a hijab because ‘I’m Muslim.’ My traditions and rituals are not specific to any tribe or cultural legacy, they are a follow-through on the Qur’an and the consensus of the scholars on the Sunnah, and I would be an arrogant idiot to say everything I did was 100% Islamic, but I can honestly say that the only defining culture I have is what has been given to me of Islam, or passes the litmus test of acceptable practice within the boundaries of halal and haram.

So what am I? Culturally, and consciously, I’m a Muslim. Alhamdulillah. My nationality is American, and my ethnicity is Irish-Pakistani. I’m married to a lovely man whose ethnicity and nationality are Pakistani, but whose upbringing is as crisscrossed as international flight patterns. He’s a Muslim too. My children are also Muslim, and inshaAllah, may they live in the state of Islam and not die except in a state of submission. They are American nationals born in the UAE who are ethnically 25% Irish, though they have never been to Ireland, and 75% Pakistani, though they have never been to Pakistan. Allah is the Lord of the East and the West, and the whole earth is a place of worship. Who knows where my children will live when they grow up, or how many strangers they’ll scare away when asked what they are?

Oh, and I think you left your iron on.

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Zeba Khan is the Editor at Large - Special Needs for, as well as a writer, speaker, and disability awareness advocate. In addition to having a child with autism, she herself lives with Ehlers-Danlos Sydrome, Dysautonomia, Mast-Cell Activation Disorder, and a random assortment of acronyms that collectively translate to chronic illness and progressive disability.



  1. Shuaib Mansoori

    May 19, 2010 at 1:03 AM

    LOL! Assalamu Alaikum Sister, that was an enjoyable read. I will make Du’a that Allah brings your mother to Islam.
    Insha Allah, seeing the borderless nature of Islam, strangers will be attracted to Islam when they ask your kids “what they are” :)

  2. Sis

    May 19, 2010 at 1:51 AM

    Interesting read. I too can identify with you somewhat. I am a Dubai born-raised-educated-married- based muslimah of Pakistani origin. Never lived in Pakistan but visited it during school vacations. I simply can’t identify myself as a pakistani & neither can i call myself an emirati. Just a muslim.

  3. Ummezaynub

    May 19, 2010 at 2:05 AM

    Really enjoyed reading this- I am a Muslim Alhamdulillah. Pakamericarabian- Pakistani by birth, American by marriage and Arab by lineage- raised in Africa and the Middle East , educated in the US. In school we used to call each other third culture kids.

    You know you’re a TCK when …

    – “Where are you from?” has more than one reasonable answer.
    – You’ve said that you’re from foreign country X, and (if you live in America) your audience has asked you which US state X is in.
    – You flew before you could walk.
    – You speak two languages, but can’t spell in either.
    – You feel odd being in the ethnic majority.
    – You have three passports.
    – You have a passport but no driver’s license.
    – You go into culture shock upon returning to your “home” country.- Your life story uses the phrase “Then we moved to…” three (or four, or five…) times.
    – You wince when people mispronounce foreign words.
    – You don’t know whether to write the date as day/month/year, month/day/year, or some variation thereof.
    – The best word for something is the word you learned first, regardless of the language.
    – You get confused because US money isn’t colour-coded.
    – You think VISA is a document that’s stamped in your passport, not a plastic card you carry in your wallet.
    – You own personal appliances with 3 types of plugs, know the difference between 110 and 220 volts, 50 and 60 cycle current, and realize that a trasnsformer isn’t always enough to make your appliances work.
    – You fried a number of appliances during the learning process.
    – You think the Pledge of Allegiance might possibly begin with “Four-score and seven years ago….”- Half of your phone calls are unintelligible to those around you.
    – You believe vehemently that football is played with a round, spotted ball.
    – You consider a city 500 miles away “very close.”
    – You get homesick reading National Geographic.
    – You cruise the Internet looking for fonts that can support foreign alphabets.
    – You think in the metric system and Celsius.
    – You may have learned to think in feet and miles as well, after a few years of living (and driving) in the US. (But not Fahrenheit. You will *never* learn to think in Fahrenheit).
    – You haggle with the checkout clerk for a lower price.
    – Your minor is a foreign language you already speak.- When asked a question in a certain language, you’ve absentmindedly respond in a different one.
    – You miss the subtitles when you see the latest movie.
    – You’ve gotten out of school because of monsoons, bomb threats, and/or popular demonstrations.
    – You speak with authority on the subject of airline travel.
    – You have frequent flyer accounts on multiple airlines.
    – You constantly want to use said frequent flyer accounts to travel to new places.
    – You know how to pack.
    – You have the urge to move to a new country every couple of years.
    – The thought of sending your (hypothetical) kids to public school scares you, while the thought of letting them fly alone doesn’t at all.
    – You think that high school reunions are all but impossible.
    – You have friends from 29 different countries.
    – You sort your friends by continent.
    – You have a time zone map next to your telephone.
    – You realize what a small world it is, after all.

    Teach me how to roll sushi ;)

    • UmmeAmmaarah

      May 19, 2010 at 7:11 PM

      RFLOL! ‘you think in the metric system and celsius’ :)
      So true!

    • Farhah-Til-Faarihah

      May 23, 2010 at 8:17 AM

      – “Where are you from?” has more than one reasonable answer.
      – You own personal appliances with 3 types of plugs, know the difference between 110 and 220 volts, 50 and 60 cycle current, and realize that a trasnsformer isn’t always enough to make your appliances work.
      – You fried a number of appliances during the learning process.
      – You have the urge to move to a new country every couple of years.
      – You realize what a small world it is, after all.

      Story of my life…Well childhood anyway… =D

  4. Sadaf Farooqi

    May 19, 2010 at 2:26 AM

    Very entertaining read. :)

  5. naeem

    May 19, 2010 at 2:53 AM


    Very thought-provoking article. I can relate somewhat to the writer’s frustrations, being of Pakistani descent, born and raised in the US, married to a Palestinian, currently living in KSA. And for a long time, I too took the stance that my culture was dictated by Islam. But I’ve begun to see through the hollowness of such a sentiment.

    “I can honestly say that the only defining culture I have is what has been given to me of Islam.”
    “Culturally, and consciously, I’m a Muslim”

    What do those statements even mean? Sr Zeba, while writing an excellent piece on the frustrations of being an ‘international citizen’, fails to delve into what it means to have Islam as your culture.

    IMO, there is simply no such thing.

    There is no Islamic cuisine. There is no Islamic dress. There is no Islamic language. And to suggest otherwise is merely deluding ourselves.

    Yes, Islam plays a major role in what we eat, how we dress, how we communicate, how we think, etc. But it is not a culture in and of itself.

    Dr. Umar Faruq Abdullah stated it best:

    “In history, Islam showed itself to be culturally friendly and, in that regard, has been likened to a crystal clear river. Its waters (Islam) are pure, sweet, and life-giving but—having no color of their own—reflect the bedrock (indigenous culture) over which they flow.”

    Now, I’ll admit that in this day and age of globalization where situations such as Sr. Zeba’s (as well as that of my children) are getting more and more commonplace, the conundrum of self-identity is very tricky and sensitive. But let us not sugarcoat it by slogans such as Islam is my culture.

    • another white brother

      May 19, 2010 at 8:14 AM

      To ignore 1400 years of culture that has come about through the Islamic movement is, in my opinion, deluding yourself though. Just throwin it out there.

      • Bushra

        May 19, 2010 at 8:36 AM

        Not really. There’s no such thing as ‘culture through the Islamic movement’.

        Islam is Islam. Orthodox Islam is still being practiced the way it was back in the Prophet(saw)’s time. Nothing has changed. The only thing that has changed are other factors, such as how far Islam has spread across the world, the people, the time and, with them all, the culture.

        Islam is a religious way of life…culture is just what makes us who we are in our little habits.

        Everything we do in accordance with Islam is for the sake of Allah(swt), but we don’t choose to wear jeans and t-shirt or a kandoora to please Allah, do we? We do it because it’s what we’re used to wearing…what we’re culturally inclined to, as long as it’s within the boundaries of Islam.

        I think I understand what Br. Na’eem is trying to say.

        If people say that Islam is their culture, then what they are saying is that they speak Arabic, dress exactly as the Prophet(saw) did and eat exactly what he ate. That’s not strictly true.

        I’m pretty sure there are White British Muslims enjoying a halal English breakfast (minus the bacon) wearing their comfortable jeans and speaking their regional English dialect. Does that make Islam their culture? Not really. It makes Islam their religion, their faith and their way of life. They live and breathe Islam, they follow the Qurán and Sunnah, but they do what has always been the customary to them WITHIN the realms of Islam.

    • Khaled

      May 19, 2010 at 11:17 AM

      as-Salaamu Alykum,

      It seems you didn’t actually read the article, she mentioned exactly what she meant by Islamic culture.

  6. Sally

    May 19, 2010 at 3:04 AM

    Great read!

  7. Mohammad

    May 19, 2010 at 3:11 AM

    “But let us not sugarcoat it by slogans such as Islam is my culture”

    What does this mean? I tend to find that when one delves too much into culture and nationality, it leads to pride, division etc amongst the ummah, especially in our times. I don’t think it’s sugar coating to use the above statement and in fact, it prevents all these divisions occuring in the first place. Of what benefit is it to delve too deeply into one’s culture when Islam already covers the same areas and tells us what to do etc etc.

  8. Mohammad

    May 19, 2010 at 3:13 AM

    And just to clarify, there is an example cuisine- anything which is halal. There is islamic dress- something which covers your awrah and there most certainly is an islamic language- arabic..

  9. Mr Yusuf

    May 19, 2010 at 4:01 AM

    I was travelling through Dubai for a connection flight to Australia when one official noticed my passport was British although I looked like a Somali. He kept me behind asking me whether I was Somali or British until I had to physically smack his head reading him the riot act with my little Arabic. The stupid guy turned out to be of Yemeni origin himself :)

  10. Zeba Khan

    May 19, 2010 at 4:15 AM

    AssalamuAlaikum Brother Naeem-

    Well, one could argue that man-made culture is defined by a limiting set of practices, etiquettes, and accepted morals. It is exclusive of anything outside of its norm. Islamic culture, on the other hand, is the inclusion of any practices, any etiquettes, any foods, any clothes- from any country- that fit a few basic requirements. So Islamic culture encompasses, but it not limited to, certain regional traditions.

    And Allah knows best. :)

    And Umm Zaynub- I have checked off *every* single item on that list- SubhanAllah! And if you’re in my part of the day, you’re welcome to me house for the Sushi tutorial that my Japanese-Australian neighbor once gave me. :)


    Sis. Zeba

  11. wanluqman

    May 19, 2010 at 4:48 AM

    بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيْمِ

    A nice read but a challenging life , of course you are a muslimat,
    be guided by the Quraan & sunnah.

  12. amad

    May 19, 2010 at 4:59 AM

    To be honest, I find the entire situation a bit troubling myself.

    I am a lot like your husband, except that I did grab on to a bluer passport :) Born in Pakistan, raised in Dubai, 17-adulthood in US, American citizen, returning to Middle East last year… what am I really? I hardly relate to Pakistan except its a great blast when I visit (always been a visitor since the age of 3), hardly relate to Dubai (it’s now a different city anyway and I have no permanent connections to it), relate a lot more to US (passport and some belonging), and now back as an “expat” (alien) in the Gulf.

    When I am asked where I am from, I am Pakistani for the bazaar (otherwise Western price premium applies), American for official paperwork and salary (otherwise the Eastern discount applies), and when I try American in front of the locals, they want to know my “asal”… You can’t blame the GCC Arabs. They relate to each other from a very tribal perspective, they want to know which “tribe” you are from, so that they can relate to you. I don’t take it as offensive anymore once that was explained to me.

    Too often, I end up having to tell my entire “international” story, in order to almost justify that I am more American than Pakistani, which is the way I see it. Had I lived in Pakistan the first 17 years instead of Dubai, then one could argue what defines me better :)

    To be honest, I do wish that I could just say “X” for where I am from, instead of these deep conflicts.

    As for my kids, I am giving them none of this mental dilemma. They are Americans, born and bred. Their mother too is a mixed-breed like me… If their father is this far removed from their grandfather’s “country”, then how far are they? There’s of course nothing wrong with being American, despite some people’s desire to make it sound dirty! All the earth is Allah’s earth… including America.

    Anyway, that’s enough of rambling. The topic touched me in many ways.

  13. amad

    May 19, 2010 at 5:01 AM

    any foreign Muslim woman wearing a black abaya must to be married to her local counterpart in the white kandoora, right? (salt and pepper, yin and yang?) “Actually,” I say, “My husband is Pakistani.”


  14. ummfatima

    May 19, 2010 at 5:57 AM

    Mashaallah.Very interesting.

  15. s ahmed

    May 19, 2010 at 6:39 AM

    salamwalaikum sister,
    i come across the identity questions quite a bit too. ive lived all my life in dubai but unfortunately can’t speak arabic. once attending to an arab lady customer i told her i dont speak arabic. so she said you are not arab but you are dressed as if you are arab [ referring to the abaya and sheila]. i regret not explaining to her that i am muslim and as long as i am covered it does not matter who i look like……although it does get a bit frustrating because i feel as if some arabs do not like other nationalities being mistaken for arabs….inshaAllah may Allah unite all the muslims…ameen.

  16. Hassan

    May 19, 2010 at 6:45 AM

    I find it disturbing that your husband has not tried to acquire American citizenship to boost his salary.

  17. Zeba Khan

    May 19, 2010 at 7:01 AM

    Hassan, why would that be disturbing?

  18. Bushra

    May 19, 2010 at 7:29 AM

    Fantastic article, masha’Allah! I thoroughly enjoyed this. I can only slightly relate to your situation when people ask me why I look Arab…it’s a LOOOOOOOOOOONG story! Technically, I’m Indian. My parents were born in actual India…as in what is still known as India today, not the part that became Pakistan. But I say I’m British-Pakistani, because I’ve always visited Pakistan and to this day, have never visited India. My husband has the same predicament, though not the Arab genes.

    Having said that, we are still very culturally Indo-Pak. We do the typical things that out ethnic community also does, i.e. buying in bulk when there’s a ‘Buy One Get One Free’ offer :P

    On a more serious note, we identify with the Pakistani culture more than anything else, but then we have certain upper-class British habits, such as enjoying high tea with sandwiches, pastries and English tea. We enjoy going for walks in the park, and observing nature, going to health spas, etc. These are not common characteristics of Muslims in Britain. Hence we identify ourselves culturally Pakistani-British…in that order (even though we were born in the UK).

    But there is one sentence in your article that I disagree with:

    Culturally, and consciously, I’m a Muslim.

    I agree and disagree. Consciously, we, too, are Muslim. But culturally? I don’t think so. You see, there is one thing that I have observed as a Muslim who is Pakistani-British (again, in that order). Any culture goes with Islam. I don’t think it’s possible to be culturally Muslim, but I believe it is possible to be a culturally halal Pakistani-British.

    For example, I want to adhere to Islam in every aspect of my life…so I ensure that the lamb in the biryani I cook has been slaughtered in accordance with Islam.
    The clothes that I wear alternate between shalwar kameez/jeans and t-shirt, but only if I’m at home, amongst mahrams, or at a ladies-only/segregated function. Otherwise I wear, at minimum, an abaya on top of my normal clothes to ensure I’m doing what has been prescribed as fardh in Islam.
    My wedding was your typical Indo-Pak wedding, with the bright clothes, make-up and typical rituals…and a 3-course meal. But we halalified by segregating it, removing the bid’ah, shirkified rituals and no music. It was a tad extravagant though, but what can you do when parents are paying and want to fulfil certain wishes of their own? I had a mehndi party with ladies only and my sisters and cousins singing and aunties feeding me sweets and fruit.
    And of course…I speak Urdu, English and Paklish (a combination of English and Urdu occasionally adding an English suffix to an Urdu verb), as long as I am speaking good things, remembering Allah and not swearing, etc. Arabic is something I am trying to learn, purely for Islamic educational purposes.

    So what does this make me? Essentially, a Muslim Pakistani-British. What I am trying to do is embed deen into my culture. I have rejected the haraam cultural practices and have incorporated things from the Sunnah into my life whilst still cooking my Pakistani food, wearing my comfy shalwar kameez and speaking to my parents in Urdu on the phone…simultaneously. But this does not make Islam my culture, but my way of life.

    • shiv

      November 19, 2016 at 11:00 AM

      All so called past Generations of muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh and Kashmir were all born here in india not in Middle East and America they were sons and daughters of grand parents who were once Hindu indians , our muslim brothers and christian brothers can say anything or argue anything about India and Hinduism .One thing they cannot refuse to accept or forget is india was a total hindu nd Bhudists country for many many centuries until these unforgivable Muslim and Christian invaders came form the back door just like the British coming to India as Tradesmen and later cunningly took advantage of Hindus who lived in Harmony never went to war with anyone cause Hinduism teaches to love and respect other religions and accept anyone who came to india.but what did the Christians and muslim invaders do they forcefully threatening the poor innocent unsuspecting Hindus some even bribing by showing money managed to crepe in with their strange believes and excel]pt for the brave remaining Hindus and punjabis who fought back and refused to convert to Islam and christianity rest simply converted because of their creed for money and power became traitors to the same blood who were once brothers and sisters of the same Christians and Muslims say its the biggest sin to change ones Religion even muslim will kill you.Then what about they dropping Hinduism just like that it was their own mothers blood and bone (hinduism) it was great sin there fore fathers did by changing ones Religion of the family for money and what ever immoral reasons we don’t know.But those who stood up to fight the mass conversion we are really http://proud.So (http://proud.So) these Pakistanis,Bangladeshis are all our blood but refuse to accept that cause they think they are now arabs and the christians think they Re white?? Its so funny they do not look like them at all and if you check their DNA there us nothing to do with Arabs or Americans europien whites.Its disgraceful converting from ones region but has no shame attacking Hinduism which was their blood.Ypu went away so be it but shut up cause you are making fun of urself by saying bad things of your own grand parent life cycle for generations.some who know history ket quite and don’t say anything but the converted many stupid muslims and christians are so proud by saying they are ancestors of evading Moguls and christian s.its so stupid cause it makes you a son and daughters nothing but Rape and greedy for money and wealth picked bones thrown at you like a dog you piked their regions and their strange ways of living.our fore fathers were too kind if it had happened now all of us would have taken stern action not to allow foreigners come here and create division amoung us.its so sad india after winning 3 wars against Pakistan help create Bangladesh now regret why they didn’t listen to Sir V.Pate and just take over Pakistan and Bangladesh which are parts of india when they were so weak and forced them back to their original region by force or by the same whenlth they changed their Religion.many are so angry at ghandi and Nehru who didn’t care fir the future generations specially Nehru a big traitor who gave away parts of India to Pakistan which then gave away to china for again money.these people will sell anything for money???Hindu brother of India this is the time to rise and defend the only country which after Nepal has so many Hindus,rest shame on you forgetting your roots .Young Pakistanis,Bangladeshis go ask about how you and your country was India and Hindus.and ask them why they converted and why talk bad about your own blood and once home???And now all around the nonmulsim world the word Muslims means Terror,Shariya Law,Unfaithful and troublesome.This is creating doubts of rest of us in the western mind and call us Pakis too they are all spooling our name when we vista those countries The entire E.U countries are regretting why the let in muslims who oppose anything an everything no islamic.they even forgot the countries who gave the safe shelter money a living.

  19. Arshada

    May 19, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    Awesome post. Felt like you wrote about exactly the same feelings and situations I experience being an International Muslim.

  20. tuwaylib

    May 19, 2010 at 9:29 AM

    masha allah, good read and i can for mr. yusuf, that could have been an isolated incident, last time i was in the uae, the immigration officers gave me so much respect, although i think its because i started with alsalamu aleykum wa rahamtullah

  21. Sami

    May 19, 2010 at 9:41 AM

    masha’Allah! so many of us can relate to this Sr. Zeba.

    I myself am ethnically from Gaza, Palestine, born in the US, raised in Saudi Arabia in international English schools, moved to Dubai, studied in US and now currently working in the US.

    I think the international school component of living as a foreigner in the gulf countries really does add to this confusion. I identify with Saudi the least, although I’ve lived there the longest. But I guess, this foreigner in gulf phenomenon is a culture in itself!

    Maybe we should call ourselves the Foreign Gulf-ers.

  22. UmA

    May 19, 2010 at 9:44 AM

    Loved the writing! Maybe I’ll share this with my kids who beg their Islamic school classmates to speak to them in Urdu, they’re like, what you want to talk like a fob?

    I wonder if this international-ness applies more to non natives who have grown up in the the Gulf where even living arrangements are segregated by nationality. It used to blow my mind when I’d meet people who walk and talk Pakistani but have lived in the UAE their whole lives. Now I’m more surprised when I meet a Pakistani from there who actually knows Arabic.

  23. Jamal

    May 19, 2010 at 10:10 AM

    Allow me to say this but before I was born to a set of parent who are from the same culture, same city. So I have none of this bogus identity issues. But we immigrated to America when I was very young. So I have had some experiences with identity problems. But I never had to fit in anyone culture. I never went around asking what am I, a Pakistani or an American? I was just me. And for the most part when people asked where I am from, they were genuinely interested to know where I am from and how I moved from one country to another.

    I read these Muslim blogs and you people talk about this issues and that issues. You speak about identity crisis. And I wonder where am I not affected by these issues? Why is noone racist to me when clearly I’m an olived skinned person? Why are noone deriding me even though I have an accent and refuse to let my accent die even after years of being in America.

    The only answer I can come up with is that generally speaking I don’t try to impose myself on people. I don’t try to make people accomodate me. I don’t get in people’s face with my identity. I don’t have “Pakistani Pride.” I don’t have “Muslim Pride.” And for this very reason I have no isssues where ever I go. Either I am quite lucky or I am brilliant. You all should emulate me and my behaviors.

  24. Farhan

    May 19, 2010 at 10:46 AM

    Wow, not to this degree, but I can DEFINITELY identify with this article.

    I look white, but am 100% Pakistani.
    I speak Urdu with an accent, Arabic without an accent (I don’t know why?) and English just fine and dandy!

    The “religious” people think I’m to “liberal”, and the “liberals” think I’m too “religious”.

    People used to call me ABCD (American Born Confused Desi), so I made up another term: PBCA. Pakistani Born Confused Americans :-)

  25. Yus from the Nati

    May 19, 2010 at 11:02 AM

    From one American perspective:

    Why don’t the people who lived in UAE, KSA, etc (but are not ethnically Arab), just say “I’m children of expats” or something of that sort? I’ve noticed that the people (desis specifically) coming from these areas have a culture on their own, that they share, that is different from most definitely American culture?

    I don’t feel the need to define “who you are” but a “country” but, why not just the culture? (I don’t mean by saying I’m Muslim…). I mean in terms of, I’m from the desi expat culture, or I’m from the burbs of America, etc.

    Also, the unwritten rule that some of my friends used to say, is that “you’re from, where you completely went to highschool”. It has some weight for most of the people I’ve met, as that’s when you’re cognitive of many sociological issues, interaction, culture, etc.

    و الله أعلم

    • amad

      May 19, 2010 at 2:28 PM

      highschool in Dubai… if I say i am from dubai, it will be like saying I am from China… a weird look and then “i mean where r u really from”….

      we do have a “gulf desi” culture of sort… but it really isn’t very particular to be honest… I think the culture I most relate to are young migrants to America, esp. those that came for college there… neither too ABCD’sh, nor too FOB uncle’sh… whether Arab, desi or whatever, actually matters much less.

      In fact, even back in the Gulf, all my friends are either Brit Pakistanis or American Arabs… I haven’t gotten into a social circle with a single “pure” Pakistani yet… even if he was raised in the Gulf. Having lived in the West gives you a completely different perspective on life and priorities…

      • Yus from the Nati

        May 19, 2010 at 2:53 PM

        neither too ABCD’sh, nor too FOB uncle’sh


        hahah that’s a very good description of the one’s I’ve met.

        I was more saying for example if someone said where you from….for you (not putting words in your mouth) but would say raised in expat community in Dubai, ethnically pakistani. done? (the raised in = going to highschool theory).

        Also the friends that I met that went to highschool in Dubai were pretty amazing ما شاء الله. One of them HARDCORE Pakistani accent but cool as hell, and can be described as your quote above. Then his best friend from Tanzania with exact same qualities but just a different ethnic decent. Both experience exact same culture of the English school in Dubai, but just a different ethnic background. It was pretty cool. Both then went to undergrad with me.

        So I say that quote above denotes enough weight of a culture within itself.

  26. Babar

    May 19, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    gave me a slight headache reading that, too many variables :P

    however, this is something we will need to figure out. My family is sort of in the same boat in the sense that I am originally pashtoon from my dads side. hydrabadi from mom, born in karachi, and lived in NY almost my whole life. All my schooling from kindergarten has been in the one small suberb of NY state.

    I am not the pashtoon of my dad’s side, my urdu gets me through dinner conversations at my uncles house, and I haven’t yet assimilated with American dress customs. I love my shalwar khamees!

    This is where being from Ummat Muhammad should be just enough!

  27. Dawud Israel

    May 19, 2010 at 11:50 AM

    I am…confused. Oye vay! :)
    Fun read alhamdulillah. I just settled for parading around as a Jew lol. It’s fascinating because the most interesting people I have met, I never could figure out their background- they just were all over the place and thats what was so cool about them.

    I don’t like borders, they are too artificial. I think Muslims should be like the characters in Star Wars– no one asks where they are from, even though they talk like Jar Jar Binks or Bubafat, even if they are in the wrong galaxy they just go with the flow and somehow they know what everyone is saying despite their being thousands of languages.

    I think that’s what the old Muslim world was like…

    Think like a Jedi, my brejren! :D

  28. Sayf

    May 19, 2010 at 11:51 AM

    I would have to disagree with some of the comments and strongly agree with the article. Islam is definitely a culture. What is a culture anyway? Tadaa!:

    3. a particular form or stage of civilization, as that of a certain nation or period: Greek culture.
    5. the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group: the youth culture; the drug culture.
    6. Anthropology . the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.

    Islam really is the defining point when it comes to our entire sphere of life, and that’s how it should stay. The fact that it engulfs different people with different flavors doesn’t change the base structure of everything. It’s like ice-cream, it goes with a massive variety of different toppings. At the end of the day, you’re eating ice-cream and it comes with sprinkles, not the other way around.

  29. ali

    May 19, 2010 at 11:52 AM

    love the writing style, makes it very easy to read…

    identity… other than being muslim, its such a confusing topic, i generally try to simply ignore it and when asked I pick and choose whichever one is easiest for me at the time

  30. Cucumberr

    May 19, 2010 at 12:03 PM

    Great read! :D

  31. Moona

    May 19, 2010 at 1:27 PM

    Can TOTALLY relate! Awesome article – very well-written.

    Born in saudi, lived in US, paki parents

    I have a hunch that sometime in the near future, “where are you from?” will become an obsolete question because everyone will be so mixed up.

    • amad

      May 19, 2010 at 2:22 PM

      welcome total globalization!

  32. Zuhaib Alam

    May 19, 2010 at 2:45 PM

    Very well written. JAK.

  33. Zuhaib Alam

    May 19, 2010 at 5:03 PM

    A Muslim dad and a Mormon mom must be an interesting upbringing. I currently live in Utah and have a few Mormon friends. Good people, especially on the morality side. Good article btw, being saudi-born with pakistani heritage and a us passport, all I can say is — word! Haha.

  34. Amatullah

    May 19, 2010 at 6:38 PM

    wow, can I relate to you sis Zeba! I’m glad to see all of these positive reactions to your article, jazaki Allahu khayran. My family is VERY mixed up in terms of culture, nationalities and races. I think we have just about every race in our huge family, only missing a few heh :) mashaAllah. Alhamdulillah it’s definitely a blessing.

  35. F

    May 19, 2010 at 7:27 PM

    In my experience, I’ve noticed that the overwhelming number of people confused about their identity from a ethnic/nationalistic perspective tend to be Pakistanis. The Arabs, regardless of where they are from, have a strong connection not only to the country but even down to their tribe!

    It’s quite common for a person of Lebanese descent born and raised in the West to unhesitatingly reply they are originally from Lebanon. I know a Palestinian who was born in Jordan, spent time in Kuwait and then moved to Canada and yet when asked firm replies, “I’m Palestinian.” Though the Palestine case is unique and perhaps not completely applicable to the argument. What also adds to the strong sense of attachment to being Arab also stems from the notion of being blessed because of the line of Prophets from Ismail (as) and the Arabic language.

    That brings us to the Pakistanis and their displaced diaspora around the world traveling like nomads from one land to the next. See, the Indians are becoming quite content with who they are thanks to their emerging superpower status and increasing influence of Bollywood making it quite fashionable to be Indian in this day and age. But the Pakistanis don’t really have any of that. A country only 60 odd years old with not many accomplishments to be proud of and now known as the terror central of the world doesn’t help the case. I recall reading a survey last year of Pakistan having the largest respondents of people who identified with their religion before nationality. So I can imagine how those born or raised outside would even have a weaker sense of attachment to Pakistan.

    Is it any wonder then we find many of Pakistani descent happily claiming they don’t have many connections to Pakistan, subconsciously letting the other know not to associate them with what Pakistan stands for. While the phenomenon exists in other Muslims too, it is the most apparent and commonly found among the Pakistanis….errrr I mean those of Pakistani descent ;-)

    A cursory glance at the rest of the comments testifies to my theory (though admittedly, it is not a big sample size nor does it have any scientific merit). Just an observation of mine which could be completely off the mark.

    Allah knows best.

    • Hassan

      May 19, 2010 at 7:50 PM

      I recall reading a survey last year of Pakistan having the largest respondents of people who identified with their religion before nationality.

      Thats the best trait i have seen in Pakistanis, religion comes first, while for Indians (hindus specifically) India is their country and religion. Infact many (not all) muslims from India are astonishingly patriotic.

      • F

        May 20, 2010 at 9:43 AM

        There definitely is a strong sense of pride in being Muslim, much of it stemming from the creation of Pakistan. Though the lack of action and knowledge among the masses doesn’t correlate with the passion often exhibited. But in the end, it is indeed a great accomplishment to have a nation identify with Islam before anything else for if I remember correctly, they were the only Muslim country with a percentage higher than 50%.

        Yes, I was also quite surprised to meet Indian Muslims who are fiercely patriotic. But then again, there is nothing wrong with loving the land you live in (with conditions of course).

        • F

          May 20, 2010 at 10:07 AM

          Coming back to the original point though, it is rare for an Arab to say he is part Malaysian or part American just because he/she spent some time in those countries. Infact, they will try their best to convince the other they are indeed Arab to the core.

          But those from Pakistan or of the descent will go out of their way to convince the other that their connection to Pakistan is actually not that significant (if they mention it at all).

          • Yus from the Nati

            May 20, 2010 at 10:16 AM

            That is very interesting.

            I am realizing now after reading your comments that it depends on the place too as many places are no where near as diverse as the West? like UK Canada and USA.

            As an example an ethnic Kenyan in Malaysia, or a an ethnic Thaildander in KSA would identify differently if they lived in the west (I think?)

          • F

            May 20, 2010 at 10:50 AM

            Yes, it does make a difference where the individual is from. There is a stronger sense of religious identity when we are minorities or spent time in different countries. An expat growing up in the Gulf will not identify to the country they are living in as much as an immigrant growing up in the west.

      • Amal

        May 20, 2010 at 10:03 AM

        “Thats the best trait i have seen in Pakistanis, religion comes first, while for Indians (hindus specifically) India is their country and religion. Infact many (not all) muslims from India are astonishingly patriotic.”

        Are you kidding? Have you ever MET a Pakistani? If anything, they are MORE concerned with patriotism and keeping themselves “pure” from outside influence (ever see what happens when a Pakistani wants to marry a Bangladeshi?).
        They’re primarily concerned with ridiculous CULTURAL traditions, mostly Hindu leftovers, like demanding dowry FROM the bride, obsession with status and social order, and conspicuous consumption.

        If anything, Pakistanis practice the most culturally polluted form of Islam in the world.

        • F

          May 20, 2010 at 10:13 AM

          While I agree with much of post, it is a tall claim to say Pakistanis are the worst in terms of cultural pollution. i’m sure there are many contenders to the throne these days.

          As I said earlier, on surface level majority of Pakistanis in Pakistan will identify with Islam first but their actions don’t always back up the claims.

        • Hassan

          May 20, 2010 at 11:24 AM

          I have met many including myself. my family, my relatives and many of my friends are pakistanis, and most of them are deeply religious.

          • F

            May 20, 2010 at 11:31 AM

            My apologies if I implied that no one from Pakistan is religious. I was referring to the masses in the country and their general knowledge/application of the deen.

            By knowledge, I mean at least a solid understanding of our basic duties and obligations as Muslims instead of rote memorization of the Quran and by application I mean at least following the five pillars and abstaining from major sins. I find that majority wouldn’t measure up to these minimum standards. Was your experience different?

          • Hassan

            May 20, 2010 at 11:51 AM

            I was replying to Amal though

    • Fatima

      September 1, 2010 at 12:50 PM

      It is sad but true what you say however I think it is because of two things:

      1. Most arabs do look down upon non-arabs especially in the Gulf Areas. This looking down upon is usually felt mostly by Pakistanis as they relate to arabs because they identify as being muslims and proud of being muslims. Their identity is threatened.
      2. It becames an arrogance issue too. If you wanna look cool or be accepted be anything except Pakistani sad to say. What we should remember is that Allaah SWT loves those who are humble and the people who are the poorest and most looked down upon might be in the highest ranks of jannah.

      i remind myself and others please lets stop being arrogant: identification of onself and preoccupation with this notion leads to arrogance. May Allaah cleanse our hearts and let people think whatever they want.

      in the end, Allaah SWT landed us wherever he landed us, gave us our skin color, our parents, our background. and if we think it is not good enough to be mentioned then we are really faulty Allaah SWT when in fact He is the source of perfection and would not create any junk.

      • Mansoor Ansari

        September 1, 2010 at 1:39 PM

        It is true that most Gulf Arabs look down upon non-arabs esp those frm the sub-continent. The biggest reason for this is not race but the fact that these non-arabs can’t speak the local language. Even here in America, many immigrants from South America r looked down upon if they can’t communicate in English. Those who speak English r much more accepted. Most desis in the west speak English but those in the Gulf can’t even put two sentences together.

        And it’s not like Pakistanis & Indians r any better, they look down upon those from Bangladesh & Africa. Can’t really complain discrimination, arrogance, etc when they indulge in the same.

  36. PakistaniMD

    May 19, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    Great read! As an American born + raised Muslim with a Pakistani background I can also relate to many on this site.

    Are you by any chance THE Zeba Khan, runner-up of the Washington Post’s Punditry contest?

    I can’t tell, but her articles are also quite good and informative. A connection :) ?

    • Zeba Khan

      May 19, 2010 at 11:09 PM

      Sorry, that’s not me, though congratulations to her!

  37. Ahtesham

    May 19, 2010 at 8:27 PM

    A huge wave of youngsters are hitting and age at which it bothers them to identify themselves. This perspective could give them a defining option…
    Good read..

  38. Z

    May 19, 2010 at 9:28 PM

    :) This was beautifully written. I loved it.

  39. Umm Reem

    May 20, 2010 at 1:17 AM

    nice read!

    and like many other i can totally relate to ur situation…

    my dad migrated from India to Pakistan, my mom is a Paki born, I was bron in Saudi, half raised in Sauid and half in US, a US citizen, now living in middle east…

    When i was in US people always thought i was an Arab, some specifically used to ask if i was a “saudi” (may b because of the niqab)…
    here in the middle east, when i say I am from US, they ask me if I am a convert!!!

  40. abu Rumay-s.a.

    May 20, 2010 at 4:43 AM

    very nice article which I can relate to like others above…

    our profile is as follows:

    afghani born/US raised American/married to Pakistani American/living in Saudi…

    our children, subhanAllah, cross cultural marriages can be amazing….one of them can speak four languages (thanks to the grandparents )…. It’s a bit difficult to explain to people, specially the locals because there are major cultural stereotypes…. I have a hard time convincing people I’m Afghani because of my position, what I drive, how I dress, and perhaps because of complexion…note that most Afghani here are laborers, shopkeepers, and drivers…

    one time I met an old poor afghani man, (perhaps in his 80s) and when I told him i’m afghani he said to me, “your a driver, right”, I said, Yes, I’m a driver (out of respect to him), I am a driver for my wife and kids…(smile)..I also like it when we finish executive meetings with CEOs and they ask me, “so where are you from Tamim, I can’t figure it out”…I smile and say, from Kabul….they turn red and say , but your accent, your complexion, how could you be Afghan (and maybe your position)? hahehhehe..

    Also, I found that there is a strong affinity between what nationality a person feels close to and his first language, as one the scholars would say that anyone who spoke Arabic is Arab…

  41. Um Nuh

    May 20, 2010 at 6:11 AM

    Asalamu alaikum,

    Masha’Allah, you’ve described my family and almost all the families we know here. I love our Muslim global village, where ever we go we take Islam with us insha’Allah, Alhamdulilah :)

  42. Sister

    May 20, 2010 at 9:35 AM

    I can TOOOTAALLLYY relate to this. I was born and raised in Dubai, my father is Egyptian, my mother is Pakistani with Indian roots and she was raised in Bangladesh. I came to the US when I was 17 and now I’m married to an Indian American. I went to high school in 3 different countries (Egypt, Pakistan, and UAE). When people ask me where I’m from, I usually just say I’m Egyptian to avoid a long story. Then they go, “Ohh but you look so desi!” So that’s when I say, “uuuhhhh yeah….I’m half!”

  43. another white brother

    May 20, 2010 at 9:54 AM

    Just as a side: this is why the convert has so much trouble. None of this exists with us and, frankly, it seems strange to us.

    I mean, I know Paki dudes I went to college/grad school with who definitely are squarely in the “circle of confusion” and I have had long talks with brothers who were on the verge of breaking because of it.

    However, it is rather disheartening to me to see people striving so hard to assert their “Americanness” while we are just looking for places to assert our Islam.

    Nobody speaks for us. Some Imams honestly try but its just not happening.

    I’ve been to these al maghrib courses too and try to address these issues but its glossed over completely.

    I posit that those amongst the muslim youth and scholars who “understand” the culture here simply don’t. They understand American culture from within their particular ethnic community and their interactions with the white liberal crowd. If they were dropped in my home town in the mountains of West Virginia or into Harlem, Philly, or SE DC, they wouldn’t know what to do/think.

    Not trying to call anyone out, just giving observations.

    • Yus from the Nati

      May 20, 2010 at 10:06 AM

      I posit that those amongst the muslim youth and scholars who “understand” the culture here simply don’t. They understand American culture from within their particular ethnic community and their interactions with the white liberal crowd. If they were dropped in my home town in the mountains of West Virginia or into Harlem, Philly, or SE DC, they wouldn’t know what to do/think.

      I agree. I am extremely hesitant to accept specific knowledge on ‘urf makan and related issues from our scholars in America as many are not “American”. However, people do definitely exist, i.e. Suhaib, Hamza, Zaid, etc حفظهم الله

      I really believe that the scholars who do mention these issues in regard to the cliche “American Islam” (I have no problem with the term btw), should have a caveat in each instance and mention “this is from a desi-American middle-upper class perspective” or “this is an American working class perspective, etc” when giving rulings/fatawa on modern issues here as that is what in essence, they might be representing/familiar with. الله أعلم

      • another white brother

        May 20, 2010 at 10:36 AM

        To some extent those shuyookh try and may they be rewarded for their efforts. However, what they say out in Silicon Valley amongst the yuppie crowd doesn’t resonate to a lot of us and that is real.

        p.s. Figured out who I am yet, Yusuf bhai? ;)

        • Yus from the Nati

          May 20, 2010 at 11:09 AM

          Ya but الحمد لله. every people should have someone of knowledge, and for the most part they exist in all the cultures and sub cultures that exist in America. So it’s not too much a big deal.

          I think I know? Is your name written like a culinary herb?

          • another white brother

            May 20, 2010 at 11:27 AM

            It assuredly is.

            I will say this, there is a particular khutbah from Shaikh Hamza from around 1996-97 I believe and the stuff he talks about is just so real. Like he actually addressed communal/societal issues in a manner that I have NEVER heard about from muslim or non-muslim. It makes me scratch my head and wonder what happened?

            I’ll have to get you a copy of it.

    • Amal

      May 20, 2010 at 10:06 AM

      Why not get off the “blame the white liberals” kick and return to your own blog, where you can ramble all you want about how much you “identify” with black converts and how you’re the only white convert EVER to be working class.

      • another white brother

        May 20, 2010 at 10:33 AM

        Excellent adab, I appreciate it.

        I am not saying I identify with anyone. Nor am I bashing any white liberals. I am stating facts. In the late 90s it was the Conservatives that the muslims identified with. Now, it is another group. Neither of which has the best interests of muslims in mind.

        However, it is clear that there definitely exists much classism and, to an extent, racism that needs to be eradicated from many muslims in this land.

        • amad

          May 20, 2010 at 10:57 AM

          “another white brother”, even though I don’t agree with you many times, esp. on some of the contemporary issues of the day, I do appreciate your perspective. It helps us see each other better for who we are. You are not the first one who feels like you have described. I just hope that the children of immigrants will be much more closer to your kids in culture, than we were to you.

          • another white brother

            May 20, 2010 at 11:22 AM

            Thats cool bro, I’m not blaming anyone. Its just the reality of things. I have very dear friends who are immigrants and I know as a matter of fact they don’t consciously do anything to create a divide. Its just there.

            I’m not even amongst the working class crowd, so to speak. My demographic is probably the same as most of you all: engineer, mid 20s, university educated, competitive salary for a guy 4 years out of school.

            My family is though, the overwhelming majority still are, and I was raised that way. Thus, I sympathize with and bring attention to a lot of that sentiment in this regard.

            I also am working closely in some work projects and dawah efforts with some brothers who came in to the deen through NOI and that has opened my eyes to a lot of issues that we should strive to address.

      • amad

        May 20, 2010 at 10:55 AM

        Apologize if I am incorrect, but nearly every time you land on this blog, you come with your guns blazing, firing off shots in all directions.

        I don’t know if you get a kick out of doing this, but would you really act like this if we were all sitting in a group in real life, outside the anonymity provided by the internet? I certainly don’t hope so.

        Each of us has his or her own reality, own background, own social and religious perspectives, each shaping us differently. If you don’t like someone’s perspective, blame yourself first for not understanding it, and then appreciate the differences amongst us.

        This is my polite way of telling you, chill out sister. Strong personal remarks are not part of our modus operandi, and will get you off this blog. We appreciate your company, but hope you can appreciate our rules and other readers.


  44. Mariam 3:36

    May 20, 2010 at 10:52 AM

    I too am a TCK from a mixed background (25% of which is also Irish), and your commentary sounds so familiar. When I was young I thought the extent of my “mix” could only be traced back to the marriage of my mom and dad (and to this day I generally only explain my 50% X 50% Y mix), but I’ve found, if I trace my family history back beyond my parents marriage, even their ancestry is mixed (my maternal grandparents come from two different ethnic backgrounds, and my paternal grandparents come from two different ethnic backgrounds), so my hunch is that being a “pure bred” is actually far more rare than we assume.

    I didn’t hear this voiced in your article, but, as a TCK mix, one of my biggest pet peeves has always been when people try to put me into a box or attach a label by declaring me to be from one place or another–and EVERYONE loves to do it, and you know a whole slew of stereotypes come with that label! As bizarre as it may sound, culturally, I’ve often found that I have more in common with someone who is from a mixed background than someone who identifies with only one background–and that seems to be true no matter what the background is (and how much it differs from my own). I can relate to someone’s life experiences when they too are a TCK, but from a cultural/identity perspective, a mixed background wins out every time.

    Interestingly, I’m noticing a lot more mixed marriages in younger generations of American Muslims, and I have high hopes for the ummah at large and, if Allah chooses to bless my husband and I with children, then for our children as well–as they will be even more mixed than me! That hope is that one day a Muslim American can be just that, a Muslim American, without any further explanation of ethnic heritage. I think it will help our communities embrace the diversity that we have, rather than segregating by ethnic origin (even if it’s an unspoken segregation of X mosque being primarily Arab and Y mosque being primarily Southeast Asian). Plus, the make-up of American society makes it that much easier for us to be an integrated component, as America itself is composed of a grand mix of people from all over–just think of the days when the Irish immigrants and Italian immigrants only married and lived within their own communities! Although I would like to add that I hope there can one day be a unified expat Muslim identity, considering what I’ve seen of expat life, I feel like such a wish would be unrealistically hopeful–perhaps a unified expatriate Muslim American identity sounds more achievable? Allahu a’alem. In any event, jazaaki Allahu khayran for sharing your story, and I think I echo your underlying tone in saying alhamdulillah for the identity Allah has given us all

    “…He[Allah] has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty. [It is] the religion of your father, Abraham. Allah named you “Muslims” before [in former scriptures] and in this [revelation]…” (Quran 22:78)

    and whatever mix of backgrounds we come from , may He make us of those who live up to that name. Ameen!

  45. AnonyMouse

    May 20, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    I love this, masha’Allah! Excellent article, barakAllahu feeki…
    Oh dear, whatever will my daughter be? Canadian, Egyptian, Kuwaiti, South African, or Indian?!

  46. Siraaj

    May 20, 2010 at 3:11 PM

    Gen X ABCD (from Canada). Word.


  47. Middle Ground

    May 20, 2010 at 3:51 PM


    Nice story, Mashallah. I thought I was in a funny situation… born in UK of Pakistani parents but living in USA for 17 years. Interestingly, before I was too religious, I always considered myself pure Pakistani, more out of blind patriotism. After I became more committed to Islam, I didn’t feel it that necessary to identify myself as Pakistani – I think I’m going to get killed here for saying that, and have already suffered for feeling this way! So one day, my father is talking with a German guy who asks my father where he’s from, and he says Pakistan. So he asks me, and I say I’m from England. So my brother hears about this, and goes mad with me. So a few days later, having learnt my lesson, I meet a Pakistani Imam who asks me where I’m from. This time, I proudly say ‘Pakistan’. And he asks me if I can speak Urdu, which I barely can. So I say ‘No’. And he goes ‘how can you not speak Urdu, it’s the national language of Pakistan!!!!’.

    • F

      May 20, 2010 at 4:58 PM


      Funny story :-)

      If you were born and raised in the UK and have the British passport, then you are British of Pakistani origin.

    • sabirah

      May 21, 2010 at 5:37 AM

      lol. so how come you have a pakistani accent? WHY???

      I’m somewhat glad that i’m not very attached to my german heritage. It’s just so difficult to make a halal pork roast and dumplings (people think that I’m from Austria or South Africa anyway, don’t know which is worse, lol)
      I was attending a lecture by Zacharia Mathews the other day and he said funny if you ask a somali (or lebanese etc) kid born in Sydney what he considers himself, he’ll 95% answer that he’s somali, although he’s never been in Somalia and probably doesn’t even speak the language properly. They never really say muslim

  48. SA

    May 20, 2010 at 6:35 PM

    I can totally relate to this.I love telling my story to my white co workers.Secretly I am telling them “Hey you may think that we Muslims/Pakistanis are segregated and so not integrating but we are definitely globalizing.Beat that!!!” The Bakistan part totally cracked me up.I do miss the Bebsi!!!

  49. elham

    May 20, 2010 at 8:22 PM

    SunbhannAllah! How many people were actually born/lived in Dubai on here? Its amazing. I dont know but I thought most people leave and go ‘back home’ right after, not go live in some Western country like I did! :)

    Born and bred in Dubai,had Indian/pakistani friends therefore got the funny English accent/dialect,visited Somalia occassionally,now living in the Uk (no accent! lol).

    I consider myself Muslim,then Somali second, though at home we say our sentences -half Arabic,half Somali and half English, like:

    ”Ma shaqaynayo(Somali) Because(English) Wa(Somali) Kharbaan (Arabic)!”

    Translation: ”It doesn’t work because its broken!” People go wide-eyed at things like that,its hard to think in one language at times its funny. AlhamduliLah.

    • sabirah

      May 21, 2010 at 5:44 AM

      lol. I asked some of the sisters at the masjid to teach me some somali sentences, i gave that up pretty quickly. I know now why.

      • elham

        May 21, 2010 at 8:36 AM

        Hahaha… its a secret conspiracy we made against the ”other” side,You’ll never learn *an evil look*

        • sabirah

          May 21, 2010 at 5:50 PM

          ah. that might also explain why i can’t get the chicken rice like they do. a secret ingredient.

    • Ummezaynub

      May 21, 2010 at 10:13 PM

      Haha shoutout to Dubai people- E M School anyone?

      @elham Thats like us Yalla Yalla how many times do I have to samjha-ofy you, hum late ho jayainge? Hurry hurry, how many times do I have to explain it to you, we are going to be late.

      (Love urdulish. you marofy, torofy tutofy)

      Dageega Apa coming- Khartoum slang for wait a sec, older sister in Urdu, coming.

      @zeba inshaAllah Ill take you up on the offer

      • Amad

        May 22, 2010 at 3:55 AM

        E M School… that isn’t English Medium, is it? If yes, then you got one right here– me.

        • Maryam

          February 5, 2011 at 9:01 AM

          yayy im an EMS graduate too! so good to see so many productive ones from there mashaAllah!

          btw was going through the comments of this article. lol another good thing about MM are the comments mashaAllah- theyre so interesting.

          loved the article the first time i read it though :)

  50. Asma

    May 21, 2010 at 5:30 AM

    MashaAllah that was an interesting read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  51. Maryam

    May 21, 2010 at 6:22 AM

    lol. cute mashaAllah <3

  52. Andrew Purcell

    May 21, 2010 at 6:53 PM

    An excellent article, well written and witty, made even better by virtue of being true. Many excellent comments too.

  53. Pingback: Inaugural post « It Makes Sense in my Head

  54. Shoeb K

    May 21, 2010 at 11:43 PM

    What is the fuss? You be the person of the adopted country. And dont hyphenate , be an American if u r in US, be a French if u r in France –not Muslim_American or French Muslim..
    We Muslims go crazy with this stupid Ummah concept that we are nowhere!

  55. Farhah

    May 23, 2010 at 7:58 AM

    I never thought so many people could relate to such err… ‘confusing’ situations. One would probably think it’s something not many people get to experience…

    Anyway.. I recently also had a clash with some egyptian ‘officials’ (mere!)
    About a year ago, trying to catch a plane back ‘home’ in England, I walk into the Cairo airport fully covered including my hands and eyes – so its fair to say nobody had a clue where I could be from. Trying to find directions around the building I was speaking the fluent arabic-egyptian dialect, so many thought I was egyptian.. Later.. I tried speaking to a sister who was also having trouble and she had no mahram with her, so me and my husband decided we’d accompany her… One official who was ‘following’ us (..??) wasclearly surprised with my english…
    After a lengthy wait, I get to the passport control office where im presented to two female officers.. I was asked to remove my veil for security reasons and when i handed over my passport… i turned out to be of Danish nationality… With a somali origin..
    The looks on their faces were priceless and looking back at it.. I WISH I HAD A CAMERA AT HAND!

    Ya neve know… I might do it just to get it on tape someday..;)

  56. The Muslim Kid

    May 23, 2010 at 9:23 AM

    I’m jealous.

    I’m sure my sisters wouldn’t mind having Arab blood in their veins. Nor would I, instead of being short and tan, I could’ve been tall and broad shouldered :). But then again, I’ve got years to grow. Inshallah i’ll become taller :)

    This reminds me of a post my friend / adviser had as her status or something: “In America I’m Pakistani and in Pakistan I’m American”

    I think we can all relate to that, at least if you or your parents are immigrants to this country.

    Nice post.

    -The Muslim Kid-

  57. BrownS

    May 23, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    Interesting post and fascinating comments :) It’s a good thing I read this on a Sunday afternoon ..
    I can totally identify with the TCK sentiment – born in Arabia, brought up in Indonesia, college in India and grad school in the US.

    I’m surprised no one’s brought it up yet – isn’t it interesting that a large number of these multi-cultural identities have been facilitated by living in non-Muslim countries? I mean in a lot of the cases above the cross-cultural marriages happened because of mixed communities in the US and UK.

    It’s cool that as a result we can claim to have a Muslim identity and an Islamic consciousness and know through personal experience what that means, but I find it odd that this criss-crossing of cultures would most likely be inhibited in Muslim lands today what with the hierarchies and stereotypes and insulation.

    Or am I completely off base here and are there mixed communities in the Gulf comprised of people from all over and where people connect first as Muslims and then as Indians/Pakistanis/Arabs/Africans?

  58. Asad

    May 24, 2010 at 7:23 PM

    I had just put on a paratha (flatbread) on the pan for lunch as I started reading this article. As soon as I read the line “Oh, and I think you left your iron on.” I was like oops I forgot something. This article was so written for me, even it reminded me of the burning paratha (actually burnt). lol.

    Identity can be a double edged sword for some people. People of ones own ethnicity (desi/arab/african), think you are not ethnic enough to belong to them, while the people of the adopted place(West) dont consider you adopted enough to belong to them. So basically you end of belonging to nothing or there are too many things you belong to but dont belong enough to associate yourself totally with.

    The first time I flew from India, I had to change planes in Amsterdam around Fajr time. Being the only brown skinned person in sight, travelling for the first time to west and trying to find a place to pray Fajr (post 911) can be fun. Thats when I noticed a group of brothers and sisters (from Kenya) praying in Jamaat in an empty terminal. Alhamdulillah Islam has provided some relief for a lot of people during times of global identity crisis.

  59. Just Another Ayesha

    May 25, 2010 at 9:05 AM

    Interesting =) pretty cool to know such people like you exist….great thoughts, mashAllah.

  60. huda saleem

    June 14, 2010 at 4:15 PM


    Imagine a world with no borders and no labels put on everyone. With increased ease of travel people’s identity will become a list as long as the posts on the end of this very thought provoking article…maybe it’s time we just identified ourselves as either muslim or non muslim….so much easier!

  61. huda saleem

    June 14, 2010 at 4:18 PM

    ps. its 2010 guys…about time people stopped referring to themselves as brown or white and started noticing all the beautiful varying skin tones Allah created.

  62. tanya

    August 12, 2010 at 5:06 PM

    Salaam to all,

    Great discussion.
    First of all, we can’t say that Arabic belongs to “Islamic culture” b/c there are Arabic speaking Christians, and at the time of the Prophet (saws), the Arabic speaking population were polytheists. And since Jews also lived around the same area, then it is safe to say they also knew Arabic.

    And yes, today our Ummah is torn apart by ethnic, cultural and racial division, not to mention sects. Masjids in areas today tend to cater to certain ethnicities. For example, we don’t just have masjids, we hear about, “oh, that Somali masjid,” or “oh, that Arab masjid” and “oh, that Egyptian or Pakastani masjid.” (My experience in WA state). We band together through our ethnic similarities, but then those ethnic similarities end up taking precedence and cause disunity.

    Problems of identifying where we come from seem just as complex when other Muslims ask, “what type of Muslim are you? Sunni or Shia?”

    And one question: Why are we attempting to turn Islam into a culture?
    It’s a religion w/ a set of practices that includes social, political and community aspects to guide mankind. Issues develop when we incorporate cultural practices into Islam that are not Islamic. Halal is not Islamically cultural – halal refers to what is right and acceptable. Nor does halal define what type of food is halal – a wide variety exists and we can eat anything as long as it’s not pork and the meat is slaughtered according to islamic law. What else is needed?

    Islam stands above culture for the very reason that it doesn’t have all this nonsense about specific food and dress, for example. Islam doesn’t cause disunity like other cultures, but culture that causes disunity in Islam.

  63. Pingback: Ethnicity vs. Nationality vs. Race vs. Heritage vs. Culture

  64. mazhar

    February 10, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    MasHAllah alaich…..very interesting and eye opening article, it raised questions on us as a muslim ….why do we everything emphaises on nationality rather than faith, our religion is not particular for specific region its universal.Why then we givemore importance to our compatriot ….all muslims are our brothers and sister whatever region he /she belongs and it is our foremost obligatory duty to help eachother we all binded by Islam and that should be our identity

  65. desert rose

    January 23, 2014 at 4:15 PM

    My parents are from Pakistan. I’ve lived in the UAE all my life. I look like a local girl. I have an American accent and I’m married to a local guy.

  66. David

    April 12, 2015 at 7:38 PM

    I’m a convert to Islam, I’m white from the UK, I have lived in the Middle East for 17 years. I’m 35 now. Personally, I like the way the Arabs do things. Nationality should only be passed Dow through the father. I the that us, the ‘international exceptions), should recognize the uniqueness of our situation and deal with it instead of trying to change the majority for the sake of the minority. Regarding a comment about pay, well, I have to pay a lot more for a house in the UK than someone from India does. Also, my country provides a lot of technological know-how to other countries and our pay packets reflect the entire political/fiscal relationship and not just the service that I provide. Please stop using whites as punching bags when trying to get a payrise!!! If you do want to claim racism when comparing your salaries, then please compare it with the locals of the country you work in. Finally, I believe in multiple paths to modernity and I don’t think Islam is adversarial towards ideas of nation state nationality, or different pay scales. And please remember, we, the international Bedouin of this world are the exception!

  67. Cindy

    September 24, 2016 at 12:38 PM

    Wonderful reading! I don’t care what some people seem to have a problem with, they are just the words in her personal story, stop picking them apart.
    I am an American, born and raised here. My nationality is many but I am considered “white”, I am a Christian and I found your story immensely helpful, entertaining and informing. Thank you for sending this message and I pray to God that many more read it and get out of it what I did.
    Thank you again and have a blessed day ???

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *