Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Being Chinese....??!

For as long as I can remember, I always shied away from embracing my Chinese roots. Actually, I don't really think I "shied" away from embracing my Chinese roots because it was extremely clear that I wanted to have nothing to do with my ethnicity. NOTHING. Those who know me personally would find this post entertaining and they might even be proud of me!
I have come a long way to being able to admit that I am, in fact, Chinese. 

I have actually told people that I am Korean and some people nod and say "wow, really?" while others totally believe it and wouldn't even think twice, lol. Then I say, just kidding, I'm Chinese. I don't think I'm lying, because maybe somewhere down that ancestry tree (too bad I can't find out because I don't want to pay $200+ to get my DNA tested by ancestry or 23andme), I have some of that Hanguk blood in me. Afterall, Chinese and Korea did share some serious history back then for a long while, right? PLUS , I do have a Korean last name and in Chinese, my last name means the same thing as it does in Korean! So there must be some correlation there..

......Ok, but isn't funny that my blog is named "One Chinese Muslimah"? 
Sometimes, I feel like I have deceived some of my readers because I have received quite a few e-mails asking me about Chinese culture and telling me how much they love it *lolz*. I apologize to my dear readers if I have deceived you, and my blog name is not clickbait I assure you! I am still on my journey to self-discovery and I will one day fully embrace my Chinese-ness. Until then...let me not get ahead of myself here and go to the extent to say I am proud to be Chinese. lolz. 

And so the search began...

I was born and raised in Toronto (pronounced ToRRono) and even though Toronto is in Canada, it definitely has its own culture. Toronto is definitely somethin' else. The variety of cultures in Toronto is so rich and there are so many things you can choose from! I think this is why I had such an identity crisis growing up. I wanted to be everything but Chinese. I had cornrows like Alicia Keys, I wore Italian jerseys, I owned several pairs of Air Force Ones and Celtics and Raptors jerseys, I would (still do) obsess over ghormesabzi and rice with barberries, I fully enjoyed (still do) eating out of a big pan of rice and meat on the floor with my hands and I still can't say no to ox-tail with rice and peas!! I always loved cute things and I still have an obsession with Hello Kitty (does that make me Chinese? But Hello Kitty is Japanese...) and the list goes on!!

Growing up, I was always surrounded by a diverse group of friends. From elementary up until high school, I was never a cliquey person EXCEPT in grade 9; all my friends were Chinese and then I went through this phase in grade 12 where I would listen to Chinese songs and hang out at bubble tea shops. That was short-lived and I soon went on to explore many cultures in order to assign myself an identity. The only "positive" thing I associated the Chinese culture with was Jackie Chan kung-fu movies and all the Ip Man film series.

I explored the hip-hop culture, the Caribbean culture, the Italian culture, the Arab culture, the Persian (Iranian) culture, and many more. I was never really into the Canadian culture though because I hated hockey, I didn't like beer, bacon was/is nasty, and I never really said "eh" (but I do say "sorry" a lot).  Whenever people told me I looked mixed, it was like music to my ears. Even to this day, when sisters ask me if I am Korean, Japanese, mixed or even Afghani (lol, yes..) deep down a part of me screeches with joy *lolz*. I never wanted to "look" Chinese and I guess you could say this is/was a problem.

The reason I am writing this is not only to address myself but to also address the issue of being ashamed to embrace your ethnic identity.  I admit that I fall under this category of being 'in denial' and being ashamed of my ethnicity but I know that Allah created me this way and whether I like it or not, I need to accept the fact that it is physically obvious that I am East Asian.

All my life, to me, being Chinese was something shameful. I just couldn't fit myself into that Chinese stereotype. Let me make a list for you and let you in on what I did not want to be a part of:

1. Driving rice rockets (modified sports cars with bumpers, rims, full blown exhausts , and fancy paint jobs) - though, shamefully, I did have a short moment where I totally was obsessed with street car racing because of that stupid movie that we all know about *rollz eyezzzzz*
2. Being part of that "rich- everything brand name" club (although I also did have a phase where I became obsessed with brand names *lol*)
3. Going karaoking every weekend
4. Binge drinking while playing card games
5. Being a size -00000.000000oooooo
6. Obsessing over material wealth and always saving face, never admitting shame or having humility!
7. Being a doctor, lawyer (although I do take a great interest in law), surgeon, or accountant
8. Being good at math ( I still use my fingers to add and subtract sometimes...)
9. ALWAYS. SHOWING. OFF ! (wealth, status, material things, and EVERYTHING from the size of your pinky finger to the colour of your grey hair )
10. Stepping on people to get to the top (I guess that is not really a culture though)
11. STINGINESS (audhubillah!)
12. Loud yelling with no shame in public places (i'm loud but i don't yell in public!)
13. Obsessing over what other people think of you (this did become an issue because of my parents)
14. The "if you are rich", you are successful mentality
15. Eating pork feet , pork intestines, pork skin, pork everything (EWWW!!!!?!dutty swine) 
16. Ridiculous feng shui, silly superstition practices.
17. Gossiping (but what culture is not free from this?)
18. Being judgemental (but who doesn't judge?! Let's be real)
19. Only hanging out and accepting Chinese people as your friends
20. SO Superficial & SO hypocritical

These were just some of the things that I didn't want to associate myself with. When I think about the Chinese culture, I can't help but feel a huge culture shock/clash. I don't feel like I belong in their culture. I am a total foreigner when it comes to Chinese culture. I remember the many times I went to Hong Kong and even though I physically looked Korean/Japanese Chinese, I felt like a foreigner from a Western country who was fascinated by the plethora of Hello Kitty things, all the street shops opened into the wee hours of the morning and massage-beaded seat covers in the taxi cabs! Well, I technically was a foreigner from a Western country, but I'm sure you know what I mean.

Disassociation with my Chinese roots continued up until recently. I still prefer to identify myself as South Korean. I give myself Korean pseudonyms. I can cook jjangmyeon (minus the dutty swine). I visit Galleria Korean Supermarket at least 2-3 times a month. I am even trying to learn Korean. I guess you could say, things are getting pretty serious with my South Korean obsession. There are a lot of things in the Korean culture which I can relate to and that I really do appreciate. All the East Asian cultures are very similar and their cultures are very rich in history. That makes me a little bit more open-minded to learning more about Chinese history, I guess..

I am beginning to learn that Chinese culture should not be associated with its individuals. I think because I have seen so many Chinese people (thanks to family members) who have tainted my impressions about the Chinese culture, I was associating the people with the culture. I think they should be seen as two separate things. Just like Muslims, Islam is perfect but Muslims are not

I mean, obviously, there are many flaws in the Chinese culture and there are beyond miles of dirty shirk (May Allah protect us all Ameen!) but I noticed a lot of admirable qualities that the Chinese culture teaches. For example honour, family, modesty, dignity, discipline, and being hard-working are extremely important qualities that Chinese people value. I know these qualities all stem back from thousands of years of rich history and how dynasties upon dynasties and ruler upon ruler caused its people to mould into a certain way in order to survive. Though I don't know too much about the ancient history of China, I do know this much is true: many traditional Chinese people are loyal, modest, honourable, disciplined, and kind.

I think many cultures have a lot of richness to them and once we learn about them with an open mind, I think it is safe to say that we will allow ourselves to embrace and even cherish some of the positive things each culture has to offer.

I know there are many people out there who find it hard to embrace their ethnicity all because of their negative experiences, their upbringing, and of course the media..but I assure you, somewhere deep down inside of you, you want to know more about where your ancestors came from and even embrace their positive qualities! Some qualities may even help improve your daily lifestyle as a Muslim. I know being disciplined, hard-working and having dignity can definitely benefit me as a Muslim. In fact, I think we can all learn a thing or two by how much the Chinese culture emphasizes discipline and hard-work. Even if I wasn't Chinese, I would probably find these qualities praiseworthy.

Allah has created us with such diversity and given us all different kinds of cultures to embrace. I guess it is the time I finally open myself up to that and try to learn more about my culture and appreciate the few many good qualities there are. I may not be fully there yet, but I am taking small steps to reach there insha'Allah.
(Disclaimer: and of course, for those who take things literally - embracing good qualities of a non-Muslim culture obviously means not to embrace their shirk and their immoral, negative qualities! Come on! Use your common sense !! )

"And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colours. Verily, in that are indeed signs for men of sound knowledge." (30:22)