In April, a strange Somali man wrote to me in my inbox and said that I smiled too much. He said that Somali men didnt like Somali women who smiled alot and who showed their teeth. Well I was flabbergasted by this and wrote about it on my Facebook wall and it ignited the needed heated discussion with over a 100 people laughing about it and rejecting the statement. It was hilarious to say the least. Well it seems there is another occasion for laughter, dismissal and for showing some teeth.
On June 1st 2015 Radio Bar-Kulan chose me as the Person of the Month. I’d never worked with or for this radio station. They did their own research on me and I guess on other Somalis as well and contacted me about a new initiative they they had just started. This new initiative aimed at putting a hard-working person, a social activist, in the spotlights every month. They informed me that they’d selected me as the first person for the month June. Well, what can I say, I was greatly honored and deeply appreciative of the noble gesture. I want to thank the team at radio Bar-Kulan for the opportunity and for the interview. I am grateful.
The team at Bar-Kulan interviewed me and I enjoyed the interview very much. They also gathered information about my background, as well as some pictures and announced this on their own website and Social Media. But since that announcement I have received many negative comments. In fact I received the most negative comments i’d ever received at any one point in my life. Some Somali people have been testing my patience and questioning whether or not I am actually worthy of such a title. They wrote to me asking why I deserve the award? They asked me why I write in English? And whether or not I am working for a Christian (gaalo) organization, because i write in English. And whether or not I actually am a real Somali?
So, today I ask you dear friends, what is your definition of a real Somali? What does it take to be worthy of being called a real Somali?
How do I define my Somaliness?
I speak from the heart.
I am not used to hateful reactions. I don’t know how best to respond to this. My friends tell me to ignore it, but that is hard to do when people are inboxing you hateful words.
For a Somali person to insinuate that I am not a real Somali while I live and work in Somalia with Somali people and for Somali people, is just beyond me. I have lived and worked in Somalia since 2008. It is not nice when, people who have never said anything to you in person before or wrote you now suddenly speak and they say something negative about you- like why did you receive this award or what makes you so special to be salected for this?
I consider myself guardian of Somali Identity. It is discomforting when people, fellow Somalis that is, judge your deeds in terms of how good your written and spoken Somali is. That is cheap. It is unacceptable when Somali people with whom you’ve never conversed now are questioning your ‘Somaliness’ and they use as an indicator of measurement how good you write the Somali language. That is hypocrisy. It is frustrating, when people decide to harass you by finding fault in everything you write, small Somali mistakes in spelling or in grammar.
My mother is an Arab from Yemen and I grew up in many places in the world such as Zambia and The Netherlands. I am blessed to have extensively traveled to much of the world and I proudly speak 5 languages. If I find something interesting in any of those 5 languages, I will post it on my wall simply because I find it interesting and maybe others will too. I could never ever be so disrespectful as to go to someone else’s wall and demand from them that they write in a certain language or in a certain way or on a certain topic. Why should one do that to me?
Yet, eventhough I didn’t grow up in Somalia and I had never been to the place prior. And eventhough I have a Dutch passport, I consider myself a Somali. In my world my Somaliness defines many things for me; my identity, my gender, my hobbies, my interests and my passion. I consider myself a hardcore Somali woman and I deeply and unconditionally love my Somali people and would do anything in my ability to support a Somali person or family in need, anywhere in Somalia or elsewhere in the world. I supported and still support many Somali causes in Somalia and worldwide. I do this for Allah’s sake, alhamdulilah. I will not go into details of the Somali causes I have either initiated or supported from a distance. That is between my Allah and me.
Dear haters, I love you unconditionally
Dear haters, It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living or how much money you have. I want to know if you ache for Somalia the way i do and if you also dream big for Somalia. Do you also dare realize what your heart longs for in Somalia? It doesn’t interest me which clan you are from or from which region in Somalia you are. I want to know if you will risk your life in order to assist another Somali person in need. I want to know if you have touched the hearts of vulnerable Somali mothers and children. Tell me how many Somali causes have you initiated? Explain to me, dear haters, how many Somali children you have made to smile, happy? And how many young people’s futures you have shaped? How many of those were not from your own clan? Tell me do you feel pain and cry when you see a Somali person suffering? I want to know what sustains you from the inside and not the outside. How much would you define your Somaliness, dear haters? I have no space in my heart for hatred and for hating people. Oh no, dear haters, I love you unconditionally. I love you for Allah’s sake.
I will not accept to be labelled a lesser Somali than you. I celebrate my Somaliness in every possible way I can and I don’t have to convince anyone of this. I express myself best in poetry and prose and most of my poems celebrate Somaliness in small and great detail such as my poems We have Dreamed Many Dreams in Somalia; or my poem I am A Somali Woman, or celebrating Somali food The Somali Tea, or the one called Ask me not of my tribe which 1000s shared and re-shared or even my most recent In Somalia, Full of Ambitions, We Are Rising Again and a few others.
Perhaps if I killed a few people
Yet I am not yet a real Somali in the eyes of many. I am not good enough for some Somali people. Perhaps if I killed a few people, or stole some ships from the seas or joined a corrupt clan-based group I would then be worthy and eligible of being called a real Somali. Perhaps if I advocated for violence, and made many people become foes of one another I would be seen as a real Somali woman.
I am in the public eye not so much because of bad things I did in this world. No, I don’t think so. But because of the good stuff I do with fellow human beings, fellow Somalis.
My brothers and sisters, I am in the public eye for my big heart which you failed to see.
I have many friends on my Facebook and on my other Social Media outlets. They write in many languages, some write in Danish, others in Norwegian or in German. I see this not as a weakness but rather as strength to be celebrated. I think it is absolutely beautiful that people can express themselves in many languages. I could never question their Somaliness based simply on the language they use to best express themselves. You see I speak 5 languages but I don’t have any identity crisis issues. These languages do not interfere with my identity. I am a Somali. Period.
Sometimes If I am really fascinated by what my friends write on their walls in those languages which i do not understand, I make an effort to try and understand. I try to translate the message using the translation possibility that Facebook offers. But most times I politely ask them for a translation and I always get it….with many heartfelt thanks from the writer. That is how you build and maintain relationships online. I am genuinely interested in my friends and I take time to understand their world and their lived experiences, I engage with them in a respectful manner. Language is not an issue.
Its in my nature, but its also my duty as a Muslima
When I see something beautiful on my Facebook or in any other Social Media feed I honestly comment on it and praise its beholder. When I see a Somali person making an effort, I complement and encourage them to go on and I remind them that the sky is the limit. When I see Somali potential, I nurture it. I give support where necessary and I promote the potential of this individual to expand and mature. Not in the absence, but in the presence of the ones in question. Such is my nature but also duty as a Muslima. I am a strong Somali woman. I am empowered and enlightened by Islam.
To my friends, fans and followers
To my friends, fans and followers who have supported me through the years, I say this;
I asked Allah for a flower, He gave me a garden.
I asked Allah for a tree, He gave me a forest.
I asked Allah for a river, He gave me an ocean.
I asked Allah for a friend, He gave me many.
I asked Allah for family, He gave me you!
I love you all unconditionally and I truly wish you well. I wish you all the best that life can offer in your endeavors.