Arab Girls and Black Men
My name is Balsam Al-Wahid. And once upon a time, that was all I could tell you about myself. Not anymore. Today, I must reveal myself to the world. I am the daughter of two worlds, though I was born and raised in the City of Ramallah in the Nation of Palestine, the most troubled region of the Arab world. My father Mahmoud Al-Wahid is Palestinian and my mother Gursiman Akashdeep is East Indian, originally from the City of Anandpur Sahib in the State of Punjab, Republic of India. She actually moved to Palestine to be with my father, if you can believe that. When I was younger, my family was forced to move to the region of Ontario, Canada. We lost our house and our livelihood during one of Palestine's many conflicts with the State of Israel. We had nowhere to go so Canada took us in as refugees.
My father, once a policeman, now works as a cab driver in the town of Ottawa, Ontario, and my mother works as a grocery store clerk at Lob Laws near Ottawa Central. I attend Algonquin College, where I study business administration. The life of a young Arab woman in Canada isn't easy. Especially if you happen to be very traditional like myself. My culture and my faith are matters of utmost importance to me. I always wear the hijab and I carry my copy of the Koran with me everywhere I go. I pray five times a day like a good Muslim. I honor my family and my faith by living according to the Principles of Islam, as dictated by the Prophet himself. However, sometimes I feel like a walking contradiction. I occasionally volunteer at a soup kitchen where I cook haram meats ( pork and such ) to feed the downtrodden in the nation's capital. I tell myself that a good deed outweighs anything taboo. I love feeding the poor. Once upon a time, my family and I were starving and someone took us in and fed us.
I won't be the stereotypical Palestinian chick you might hear about on CNN and start heaping blame upon Israel for everything wrong under the sun while looking at the extraordinarily troubled countries of the Arab world through rose-coloured glasses. I see life as a continuum. Things happen, both good and bad, we must all move on. I miss my extended family and my friends in Palestine but Canada is my home now. Has been for the past eight years. I've changed a lot since then. My activities and interests reflect that. I volunteer not just at a soup kitchen where I occasionally handle forbidden foodstuffs, but also at a veterinarian clinic in the Vanier sector of Ottawa. It's where I developed my love of dogs. I bonded with a Jack Russell Terrier named Marquis, whose previous owner abused him. I cared for him for months, slowly nursing him back to health while restoring his faith in humans. The funny thing is that he responded to me and no one else at the clinic. Me, the Muslim chick, whose faith considers dogs to be Haram (unclean). And when a family of Haitians came and adopted him, I actually cried. I loved my Marquis! My boss couldn't believe his eyes. Yeah, I'm definitely different from the rest of my people. Recently, something troubling has come into my world. You see, against my better judgement, I've fallen in love with a young man who is not Arabic, and definitely not of the Muslim faith.
When I first laid eyes on Steven Winters, I knew he was trouble. He was six feet three inches tall, slim, with dark brown skin and curly Black hair. The son of an African-American father and Native American mother, he grew up in the City of Hartford, Connecticut. He was as American as apple pie. At the time we met, he was studying business administration at Carleton University in the City of Ottawa, Ontario. I didn't know there were a lot of American students at colleges and universities across Canada. Interesting. When I look at Steven, I feel...things. Seriously. Things a good Muslim woman shouldn't feel. I found myself checking him out often, and noticing that he had a nice body and a cute butt. Steven visits Algonquin College often and he's friends with my best friend Ashley Henderson, a tall, blonde-haired and blue-eyed Irish chick who goes crazy for Black guys. Ashley plays soccer for the college and she's Miss Popular everywhere she goes. She's heading to McGill University in the City of Montreal, Quebec, next year. Me? I was thinking about attending Carleton University but....that was before I met a certain African-American stud.
Steven Winters was unlike anyone I had ever met. He was so friendly and cultured. I thought all Black American guys were foolish, that they only cared about sports, rap music and chasing women. Well, Steven proved to me how wrong those stereotypes were. Growing up in the racially diverse City of Hartford, Connecticut, he was exposed to a lot of different cultures. Also, his own background caused him to develop a certain affinity for other cultures. As a half-Black, half Native American guy living in the United States of America, he was definitely not something every day Americans saw daily. Native Americans and Blacks simply didn't mix in America. The Native Americans were sometimes very racist toward African Americans. Yet Steven's Sioux mother, Harvard University professor Sonya Tashina Sapawin fell in love with his father, U.S. Army Sergeant James Winters, and they got married. From his Ivy League-educated Native American mother Steven Winters learned to speak several languages, including Arabic. I was amazed. This young Black American guy who was raised Catholic actually spoke fluent Arabic! I was stunned when I saw him speaking Arabic with Ahmed, this young Saudi Arabian guy I knew from one of my classes. Wow.
My best friend Ashley Henderson couldn't stop ranting and raving about Steven, the handsome Black American guy she hoped to seduce. I was smitten with him but kept my feelings to myself. As a hijab-wearing Arab woman living in North America, I'm both conspicuous as hell and totally invisible at the same time. People see Muslim women in traditional garments and they assume we're sexless, repressed and submissive wenches. They don't think of us as normal women. They don't even realize that we have desires and needs just like all other women. This truly frustrates me. I was used to having handsome men, including Arabic men, completely overlook me and chatting up Ashley as if I were invisible. Now, I do date. I'm not as conservative as some young Muslim women you see in Canada. I have had sex, and I date guys occasionally. However, I've decided to fly solo until marriage. And also, my faith and my culture are important to me. I am a Palestinian woman living in Canada. Even though I recently became a Canadian citizen, I know where home is. Home is Palestine, the country of my birth. Palestine is my homeland and Islam is my religion. Canada is my home too but it's not the same thing!
I'm a complex woman. I despaired of ever finding a man who would understand that. The Arab guys in Canada came in two categories. The first was the category of totally debauched young Arab men. They partied hard, drank lots of alcohol, went to strip clubs, occasionally slept with other men, and mainly dated women of other races and cultures, particularly white women. They paid lip service to the religion of Islam around their parents, but in private, they were all a bunch of sex-hungry maniacs. The other category belonged to the angry, ultra-conservative Arab guys who saw the western world as an abomination and viewed Arab women as their private property. Awesome choices us Arab women have for mates in Canada, eh? We get to choose between sexual libertines and super conservative control freaks. No middle ground. No in between. No compromise. Sometimes I wonder how come more Arab women don't date and marry outside our culture and religion? Seriously. Arab men take us for granted. We shouldn't sit around waiting for them to wise up!
Steven Winters was respectful, cultured and friendly. He treated me far better than any of the Arab guys I knew. Sex hounds and control freaks, all of them. One day, he stunned both Ashley Henderson and I by asking me out. Yes, the tall and handsome Black American stud asked out the shy and mild-mannered Arab woman over the sexily dressed blonde-haired white woman. This was definitely one for the ages, eh? Well, I looked into Steven Winters eyes and told him that yes, I wanted to date him. And he found me a really interesting gal. For starters, I was an anomaly to him as well as my people. I AM A MUSLIM GIRL WHO LOVES DOGS. I've always loved dogs. For you see, a dog belonging to a Jewish settler saved my life when I was young, after our house was felled by a shell. Steven was thrilled to discover that I wasn't like the others. For he loved dogs too. We were made for each other! I'm a Muslim girl from Palestine who lives in Canada, I also love dogs and I've fallen in love with a handsome African-American who's a devout Catholic. We're crazy for each other. And guess what? The world isn't ending. We're together, and we're happy. Tell that to the haters.