Navigating The ‘Tug Of War’ Between Two Cultures: How Growing Up In A ‘Mixed Message’ Society Impacts Women Of Arab Descent
The Greater Freedom by Alya Mooro gives readers an unique insight into what can happen when a woman grows up between two cultures.
It’s a story that many Arab diaspora in Europe and the US can relate to, as they often find themselves in the middle of competing cultural messages and expectations.
In this book, Alya recounts her own struggles with media representation, beauty standards and gender roles.
She talks about the pressure to conform and how it affects her identity and her relationship with sex, Islam and ultimately to herself.
And through her journey, we’re able to see how we can learn from our differences, accept them and hopefully use them as gateway for personal growth.
Alya’s inspirational story is a must-read for anyone looking to gain understanding of the struggles faced by those of immigrant background.
The Struggle Of Defining Arab Identity And Finding Representation In A Predominantly White Society
As an Arab girl raising up in Britain, Alya often felt caught between two cultures: that of her authentically Middle Eastern identity and the predominantly white Britain she was immersed in.
Alya suffered from other people’s lack of knowledge about Arabs and would oftentimes be confused with other girls from different backgrounds.
Not only did this experience extend to her own peers mistaking her for someone else, but it was also compounded by mainstream media’s obliviousness about Arabs.
The most common depiction of Arabs in television shows was as terrorists or tyrants, a misrepresentation that can have damaging consequences on children’s sense of identity.
The segregation in schools only amplified this issue, since Arabs are often forced to choose between identifying as white or black – “Arab” is rarely seen as a correct option.
And this limited understanding distorted the public image of what an Arab looks like – Alya noticed her neighbor bonding over their culture while standing out among the “British norm.
Alya thus felt a strong need to proactively define her own identity instead of letting others do it for her.
She found solace by looking around for Arab role models but found them hard to come by – even UNESCO and Wikipedia listed different numbers of Arab states.
This led Alya to actively search for true representation of Arabic culture so she could break through these stereotypes and celebrate the freedom that came with being locked between two cultures.
The Uphill Battle Of Arab Women To Find Acceptance And Beauty In Their Natural Form
Arab women are subject to intense societal pressures when it comes to the way they look.
European physical traits are held up as the ideal and those who don’t conform often suffer very real consequences.
This is especially true in the Arab world, where physical beauty is given a significance that goes much deeper than just superficial judgements.
For many Arab women, this means conforming to physical traits that would be considered fine for someone of any other background, but for them is considered unattainable or simply wrong.
For example, curly hair is treated with harsh chemicals in an attempt to make it straighter, which can cause scalp burns and even hair loss in some cases.
They are also subjected to frequent waxing from a very young age, experiencing extreme pain in order to “fit the mould”.
Because of this intense pressure for conformity to European standards of beauty, any woman who doesn’t conform can experience ostracization and shaming from society at large as well as their families.
However, slowly but surely more role models such as Kim Kardashian have emerged who embrace their different features and have inspired others like Alya to embrace themselves too.
The Pressure Of Oppressive Societal Attitudes On Young Women’S Sexuality
Alya was forced to experience two sides of puberty.
On one side, she felt the stifling regulations placed on her as a young girl in Cairo and the burden to remain “sexy” yet abstaining from sex.
And then on the other hand, she was exposed to London clubs and house parties with carefree attitudes towards sexuality.
When her family had moved back to Cairo for a year when Alya was 13, she felt like an outsider until she finally struck up a sense of belonging with the kids at school who were all related by extended family ties or already knew her grandparents.
She learned that this feeling of safety and community could also be restrictive – especially for women – because everyone was effectively the jury when it came to socially accepted behavior.
The unexpressed expectations weighed heavily on Alya’s shoulders, so much so that her first kiss happened in an elevator between floors since that was their only chance for privacy.
Coming back to London saw Alya rebel against her parent’s relatively strict curfew, but underneath it all lay a battle between her two cultural identities: Arab girls are taught that sex is shameful while Western girls do not carry such a stigma around casual sex; leaving Alya in limbo with an internalized jury deciding what was sensible and accepted behaviour.
Thus Alya went through puberty in both Cairo and London, attuning her to the unique contradictions faced by young Arab women as they navigate through adolescence in different societies shaped by various expectations and norms.
The Difficulty Of Navigating Sexuality When Society’S Standards Are Impossible To Live Up To
Alya had grown up believing the message that her culture was telling her: that women’s sexuality must be repressed and kept hidden.
This shame and taboo around sex permeated her entire life, to the point where it felt almost tangible when she thought of expressing it.
It set her up for years of traumatic or uncomfortable sexual experiences due to Alya not feeling comfortable asserting herself in such situations or understanding her own desires.
The problem became especially apparent when, at the age of 15, she met a guy that she calls ‘Satan.’ Despite Alya’s discomfort with their interaction and the questionable consent in their relationship, she felt compelled to remain quiet about it because of this deep-seated belief that sex was wrong in any form and must always be withheld or hidden away from others.
As a result of staying silent, excruciating judgement from peers and family members followed her.
Eventually this got to the point where Alya believed she couldn’t enjoy consensual sex as an autonomous adult until hypnotherapy helped to dissolve some of these beliefs around womanhood instilled in her by culture and society.
After this shift happened though, Alya found it more difficult to remain mindful amidst newfound sexual liberation; being mindful of who is worthy enough to share intimate moments with vs simply taking part in casual hookups for pleasure’s sake.
Arab Women Face Unattainable Expectations And Cultural Stigma As They Navigate The Path To Marriage
In the Arab world, marriage is another minefield of stifling expectations for women.
Young women are often pressured to marry at a young age to someone who is thought to “look like them” and share the same beliefs.
They are expected to endure any wrong doings on their husband’s part, and receive blame if a marriage fails.
This can include extra marital affairs or divorce, where women are judged harshly by their families and communities when it falls apart.
Women may face further discrimination when they enter interracial relationships due to racism they encounter from family and friends.
Additionally, if they decide to marry outside of their religion, their union may not legally be recognized in countries with laws that only recognize interfaith marriages.
For these reasons, more Arab women are choosing to remain single until they’re old enough that people no longer question their choice or assume something is wrong with them for not being married yet.
Thus, young Arab women must choose between facing unfair criticism for conforming and risking judgement for not conforming.
Muslims In The West Need More Representation To Fight Islamophobia
Living in Britain, Alya had always identified as a Muslim — but the post-9/11 Islamophobia had left her feeling the need to downplay her identity.
She was constantly worried that she’d be judged for not being ‘Muslim enough.’ To make matters worse, she was coming from what felt like an entirely different context — the Middle East.
Specifically, where religious identity is far more fluid and much less restrictive than here in Britain.
Even locals in places like famously devout Saudi Arabia have habits and pastimes that may surprise outsiders — six out of the top ten viewed YouTube channels there are comedic and satirical shows produced by young people.
Alya herself was painfully aware of how much stereotyping and Islamophobia can hurt innocent bystanders.
In fact, when terrorists attacked Manchester Arena it sparked a 500% increase in Islamophobic attacks against British Muslims.
And on a flight one time Alya panicked at seeing what she thought were dangerous assailants aboard the plane—only to realize it was her own racist generalization taking over her mind.
It’s no wonder then she feels powerless sometimes when faced with such daily bigotry.
What does exist is an endless dismissal of “moderate” or “secular” Muslims as if they weren’t real people or their voices should not be heard just because of how they look or believe.
That’s why Alya’s story and experience matters so much: to bring about visibility for all kinds of Muslims who don’t fit into any labels or categories—and ultimately push back against this pervasive cultural bias weighed heavily upon Arab diaspora Muslims living in Western countries today.
Gaining Control: The Fight For Gender Equality In The Middle East
When Alya realized that sexism was all around us, she made the decision to become an advocate for women’s rights and embrace feminism.
Alya’s journey towards this epiphany started with her own troubling experiences in both the West and the Middle East.
In a club in Miami, she felt like a “disposable vagina” when a rapper refused to remember her name.
To further illustrate her point, Alya looked at the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report which showed that six of the worst countries for gender inequality were in the Arab region.
It reinforced her view that Islamic countries kept women out of sight and viewed them as nothing more than their body parts.
But despite these negative experiences, Alya argued that gender equality meant women having control over their own lives; meaning being able to do what they please without judgement or oppression from society.
With that thought in mind, she concluded by looking at how all three major monotheistic religions are products of their times – although they are rooted in patriarchy, it is something that can be challenged and changed.
This revelation inspired Alya to become an ambassador for gender equality and enabled her transformation into a proud feminist.
Navigating Emotional And National Borders: How Immigrants And Third Culture Kids Find Home In A Globalized World
Alya Mooro is a prime example of how immigrants adapt and create a home no matter where they choose to live.
She grew up both Arab and British, never completely belonging in either environment, but has come to realize that making a home for oneself is all about perspective.
Her experience in Cairo made her feel like she had to act English around her peers, while in London she felt like an outsider because she was one of the few Arabs—even struggling not to be seen as someone who parks their Lamborghini on the sidewalk or buy out entire stores.
Even with her legal status, Alya still feels like she must maintain good behaviour inside and outside of her new country in order to remain accepted.
The UK’s revocation of citizenship for Shamima Begum—who had never been to Bangladesh where her parents were born—enforced that notion among those from non-white backgrounds that they would never truly belong here despite what their paperwork may say.
Canada, by contrast, offers more generous policies such as family reunification grants and credits to help international students settle down permanently.
And although Brexit has brought race-related tensions between natives and immigrants, surveys have shown that most people still agree immigration has enriched British culture and livelihoods.
Perhaps it’s because so many have gained exposure to different perspectives through their interactions with different cultures, races and religions.
For Alya in particular, it’s been the little things in life that make her feel at home–knowing which underground train car leads to the exit closest to your destination–that have given her the confidence that she can find home anywhere if she puts enough thought into it from her own perspective.
In her book The Greater Freedom, Alya Mooro lays out her story of self-discovery as an Arab girl growing up in the West.
Through introspection, conversations with other women from the Arab diaspora and finding strength in her blended background, Alya ultimately discovered the freedom that comes from creating a true home for yourself.
The key message in her book is that it’s not easy to create a home for yourself, but it’s especially difficult when you find yourself caught between two very different cultures and sets of expectations as Alya did.
But through determination and resilience she overcame this obstacle and found peace in her identity.