This is a song on women’s emancipation which became a hit in the late 1960’s in Somalia. I love the feistiness that Maryan Mursal, one of our best singers, portrays. She is very clear on her outlook on life, on morality and free will. Almost 40 years down the line and we’re still debating the same issues.

A bit of context to the song: “This song also takes the form of a debate between a man and a woman, this time explicitly about moral womanhood. To the male, a good woman is a traditional woman: beautiful and well groomed, quiet to the point of being invisible to men, obedient and accepting of a marriage arranged for her by men. Modernity is cultural transgression, characterized by untraditional dress, mobility and visibility in the public sphere, and the rejection of familial authority. But she has other ideas and the songwriter lets her gain the upper hand. Unafraid to couch her ideas in untraditional, modern terms, she asserts the importance of leaving backward customs behind, actively participating in leadership and public life, and getting an education. She suggests that God created men and women as different but not unequal beings and depicts men who marry off girls as thieves handling stolen property. Although in the three songs presented here women’s morality and modernity are not represented as contradictory terms, the conservative equation of moral womanhood with traditional womanhood is powerfully articulated.” – Lidwien Kapteijns (2009)

He: 
In the old days it was custom that a girl perfumed her hair and braided it. 
She wrapped around her waist a wide cloth belt with fringes and an ornamental cord, and wore a white dress. 
But something has changed. Something weird with long horns they wear as hats on their heads and run all over the market. 
[Refrain:] You women have destroyed our culture. 
You have overstepped the religious law and destroyed our religion. 
Girls, won’t you behave? 

She: 
What was custom in the old days and a hundred years ago and what 
has been left behind, don’t make us go back to that well-worn road, for we have turned away from it with effort. 


Now we expect to run and compete for the sun and the moon and to lead people. 

First get some education and learn how to read and write. Don’t try to turn back, you country hick, people who have woken up! 

He:

In the old days it would happen that a girl would not address you for one or two months, and the men who went out looking would not see her for days.

But something has changed. In the evening a whole gang of them goes out, carrying fat purses, wandering about outside like robbers. 

She:

God calmed the waters of sea and river and made them flow together. 
Then he put in order the wide earth and the mountains and created his human beings each in a different way. 


You are a loser. No one is asking you to come along.

 
He: 
In the old days it was custom to pay as bride-wealth for a girl a whole herd of camels and the most exceptional horse, and a rifle on top of that. 
But something has changed. You are self-absorbed and ignore the advice of the family in which you were born.

 
She: 
Girls used to be exchanged for a herd of camels and short-legged goats. 
But the religion we learned and the Qur’an do not allow this. 
Today we have no need for those who deal in what they do not own and for this old-fashioned dividing up of women. 

Sang by Maryan Mursal and Maxamed Jaamac Joof (late 1960’s)

Translated by Lidwien Kapteijns

Hooyo, rest in peace. Your legacy continues, your footsteps still visible, your breath still warm on my cheek and your advice still echoing in my consciousness.

 

 

By Maxamed Ibraahim Warsame ‘Hadraawi’

The world certainly
Would never have left night
Light not been found
People not have trekked
To a star over the Hawd*
Would not have flown
Like birds of prey
To the moon in the clouds
Not have sent rockets
That appear like waves in the sky
Nor reached into space

Oh Mother, you’ve guided
The servants of God
To where they are today
With numbers I cannot
Calculate or count
The number of great people
You carried on your back
That you suckled
That you nourished
From your breast


When you bear a man
With support of his kin
Whose possessions men fear to thief
A steadfast hero
Mother, you are commemorated for it.

When you bear a generous man
Who says ‘Please, take this.’
Who when a visitor
Arrives with nothing
Gives of his wealth
Coming closer to God
A man people wish
Would never die
Mother, you are commemorated for it.

When you bear a man
Who in his intention
Follows a straight path
When he meets one wave
Then deals with the next
Who guides his dependents
Whom all wish to emulate
Mother, you are commemorated for it.

When you bear a man who stands
Against disaster and war
Who understands the law
Deliberates on the truth
Dampens conflict and danger
When it’s set alight
Who prevents bloodshed
Gives order to the people
Leads them all
Mother, you are commemorated for it.

When you bear a famous poet
Who knows the construction and decoration
The composition and the tuneful chant
Tightly forming the words of poetry
Which God has given as a gift
The artist who shapes all this
Mother, you are commemorated for it.

Women are needed in life
The ones sought after
Like a forest of fresh leaves
Men are wanting, and what
Their eyes fall on
Are those women of yours
When marriage is discussed
It is a woman, a tall heego cloud
Like ripe fruit, rich
In strength, maturity and beauty,
It’s Hira, that one marries
Mother, you are commemorated for it.

Oh Mother, without you
Language would not be learnt
Oh Mother, without you
Speech would be impossible
There is no one in the world
You did not bring up
To whom you haven’t sung,
Haven’t calmed with lullabies,
Not one who lacked you efforts
In reaching maturity
That compassion has not covered
In the house of love.

Oh Mother, through you
Peace is made certain
Oh Mother, on your lap
The child falls to sleep
Oh Mother, by your hem
Shelter is found
Oh Mother, the infants
Benefit from your teaching
You gladden the camel calf
You, the rain cloud that cools
You, the essential sleeping mat
You, the clean shelter
You, a heritage all journey towards.

Mother, while you live
I anoint you with congratulations
Greetings and wealth
I cover you with respect and esteem
Mother, your death
Is my disaster
In both body and mind
I hold your memory
I sing still for you
Above your grave
I wear the mourning cloth
Knowing that better than here
Where the birds fly
The animals roam
Where all creation lives
By the gift of God
Better than all this
Is the hereafter

Sung by the late Mohamed Suleiman (Tubeec) and translated by Martin Orwin

Accessed on http://citylore.dreamhosters.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Somalia_Poetry_Hadraawi_Mother.pdf

 

 

I love this poem. It illustrates the disenfranchised status of Somali women in the Diaspora. Powerful verses that sink to the depths of your being. The Somali woman here – all alone in a thankless marriage, struggling and in her eternal prison – is heading for madness. She’s often seen talking to herself, pushing a pram, trailed by several children, dishevelled and heavily medicated. A prisoner of her anguish, her failed dreams. It explains the increasing number of Somali women with mental health problems, the spike in dysfunctional families and the skyrocketing number of single mothers.

What it does not explain is why we choose to endure this nightmare? Why we choose martyrdom over freedom? Why we choose enslavement over love? I applaud the brave women who chose otherwise. The women who chose the well-being of their children over conformity. The brave ones who refused to settle for a boy as a man. Who refused to be chattels.

by Caasha Lul Mohamud Yusuf

These men let themselves down, bask in their guilt,
harm themselves then start griping;
they’ve let judgement and tradition go.

Gums busy with khat, like the poisonous Ganboor plant,
idling in grim flats strewn with litter,
gloating about unreal gallantry,
this man fails to know gifts bring responsibility –
he’s given up his wife and his family,
stopped being the one who gets food and necessities.

As a genuine mother she suffers agonies,
her family torn by the godless, split by social services,
unable to sleep, goaded by worries,
expecting no guidance, no partner by her side,
she feels so shattered and gripped by thoughts
and bad memories, she grieves until dawn
and raises her arms, prays for Allah’s goodwill.

After the school-run, a gruelling list of tasks –
grappling with his duties too, which he’s neglected.
She goes shopping, her cupboards gravely empty,
gets back in her car with just the essentials.

There is always gaping hunger; some days she can’t walk.
She struggles to find a pan or grill some food
and when late afternoon grimly darkens
she must gather her children home,
like the kudu or gazelle she roams alone.
She can’t stop some of her young ones going out –
she is a bustard, caught in grinding groaning rain,
always on guard while others rest,
numbly enduring until a new day glares.

Such gloom could lead me astray. Instead I’ll conclude:
struggling mother who gets no gratitude,
mother with no male guardians,
only Gracious God knows our fate.
He alone can judge this generation –
justice is whatever he wants, and whatever we get.

I cannot order these men gunned down as they deserve
or that their relatives gird them to an ant-infested tree.
I am resigned to wait for that glorious, final day.

The literal translation of this poem was made by Said Jama Hussein

The final translated version of the poem is by Clare Pollard

Accessed on http://www.poetrytranslation.org/poems/327/Recollection

She always appears to me in crowds. Sometimes I am deep in slumber when she pokes me awake. She’s a playful one. When that happens, I say a little prayer for her, tell her not yet, gently caress her smooth brown cheek and turn on my right side.

Pearl.

She’s on my mind. Lately, she is everywhere. I see her on buses, on trains and in offices. These are places we never frequented before. She’s not a figment of my imagination but an ancient past come to visit. She’s gentle yet unrelenting. Her posture erect, black curls perched on her petite shoulders. She hasn’t aged a day since I last saw her. Life goes on uninterrupted. Wincing, my shriveled hands sooth my left knee. Her laughter tinkled like a door bell. Distant memories flood back.

Pearl.

We met in 1990 at a refugee camp. Somalis had just arrived in ‘great’ numbers and taken to camps across the country. Our camp was mostly inhibited by men and so our arrival caused a commotion.

Pearl.

Life was a constant fashion show. We were all in our youth, in good shape, wore the latest fashion and partied like there was no tomorrow. People drank, smoked and entertained their fantasies. It was the height of hedonism, cultural revolution and sexual freedom. It was not uncommon to see unmarried couples dating or living together. We would eat, drink and socialize together endlessly. There was no moral policing, no fanaticism and certainly no cultural restrictions to respect. It is amazing what people are capable of when free of restrictions.

Pearl.

She lived on the second floor with a friend and was outgoing. You would hear her tinkling laughter before you’d see her. She was mild-mannered and cultured. Wherever she went, a mob of Somali men would appear, each vying for her attention. Women, even the ugly ones, had their fair share of the unwanted attention.

Pearl.

Then something happened and she drew into herself. She avoided the crowd, stuck to a few trusted friends and spent her time outside of the camp. She was more comfortable with others than with her kind. The Romanians, grappling with their own exclusion, took a liking to her and welcomed her into their fold. That did not go unnoticed.

Pearl.

Spring came and we moved to another camp. The situation diffused. The camp site was an empty hospital which was in a psychiatric compound. The air was heavy with unease and the fear of what was to come. Would we get to stay or leave? When living with madness, become mad, was the motto. Sanity, which was forcefully locked up in the nurse’s room, escaped and vanished into the night. Summer came and the mood in the camp soared. People stayed awake at night and slept in the day.

Pearl.

Cars driven by all manners of women drove in and out constantly. These were women who came to witness the myth about black men. Some of them would leave their children in the cars  for hours. Even the female patients got in on the game. They would sneak in at night and leave next morning with cornrows. As the women were getting serviced, their men would attack the camp at night, causing hysteria and fear in us. Every event teaches a lesson. I learned the benefits of keeping a frying pan under my hospital bed.

Pearl.

She watched all of this from a distance. Gave water to the kids trapped in the cars. Tended to the needs of the sick patients and cleaned the common rooms. She, along with us, avoided the TV room where men spent time watching porn. The guys later graduated to watching bestiality. The nurse, who had a huge dog, could not understand why she became a fixation.

Pearl.

She got her permit and moved to the city. Dated outside of her race and enjoyed her freedom. She was a skank, said the newly arrived wives of the men from our old camps. They called us, including her, whores because of how we dressed and the history we shared with their husbands. To avoid such occurrences, she moved to a secluded part of the city and vanished. A few years later, I got a call that she was getting married and traveled to her wedding. She looked stunning in her white wedding dress and showed off her baby bump. She was living with her husband and his family on a farm.

Pearl.

She is still beautiful. Her eyes beckon to me. They tell me that all is well. The scar on her chin is no longer there. She has no blemishes. Her heart was always in the right place. It was full yet clean. Her generosity knew no bounds. She’d collect her children’s clothes and ship them to the needy. We could count on her to follow through with her promises. She never harbored ill will and never spoke badly of others. Oppression and fanaticism were her pet peeves. She was a beautiful spirit.

Pearl.

One fine morning, she went to sleep and never woke. As her children wept over her cold body, others refused to have her buried. These religious hypocrites raised doubts about her believes. They neither saw her fast nor pray, they claimed. They not only questioned her believes they also questioned her morality. Their wives, the hyenas, were even more vicious and judgmental in lynching her.

Pearl.

I followed this discussion from afar with great interest. Separated in life and death by two continents. Would I also be in the same predicament? Who gave these people the right to question others believes? To make such hurtful remarks and soulless decisions?

Pearl.

I people questioning her morality were the porn watchers from our old camps. The same ones who entertained strange women while their children suffocated in the heated cars. A battle ensued and the righteous ones won. She was finally laid to rest by her friends and family.

Pearl.

She smiles, flips her curls back and hums. She always liked to hum. The train slowly pulls into ………. It is her destination. I know she’ll be here the next time I roll through.

Pearl.

Her name was Pearl.

Somalia, my motherland, my destiny. Yes, I am a Somali and proud of it. No, I am not supportive of subjugation, of enabling patriarchy, of hiding misogyny in the name of tradition and because it will soil ‘our image’.

I love Somalia but I have a huge problem with patriarchy and its manifestations in our societies. Does highlighting the shortcomings of patriarchy and misogyny take away my Somaliness? Does it make me a traitor? I don’t think so. Does my Somaliness reduce yours? Does it threaten yours? If it does, then that is something way beyond my control.

By the way, how do you even define Somaliness? What criteria are you using? If your criteria were to be used, you would be the first one not to qualify as a Somali. You’re not dark enough, man enough, religious enough, tall enough, skinny enough, fat enough, orally gifted enough, shifty enough, to be a SOMALI.

No one has the right to define who is a Somali and who is not. We are all Somalis irregardless of whether we are in Somalia or in the Diaspora. We are Somalis regardless of whether we are liberals, religious, feminists, agnostics or secularists.

Somalia does not need divisive politics, bickering and sly labelling. We have enough of that going on already.

Not all Somalis who blog get paid. We, including myself, do it because we are passionate about Somalia and believe in its potential. In its greatness. For Somalia to reach that greatness, it needs a fundamental transformation and one way of doing that is through sparking social change.

My contribution to this social change is by blogging. However, choosing to do this does not make me any less of a Somali than you.

Are you contributing positively? Do you get paid for doing it? Good for you.

Are you from the Diaspora but in Somalia and yet enjoying the privilege that label gives you? Good for you. Let me get this. Your family is living in the West, supported by their governments and you’re in Somalia biting the hand that feeds you. Yes, that hand continues to feed you as long as your family is on the dole. It continues to feed you as long as you’re reaping the fruits of their education.

You’re bitter because you failed in the West? Well, whose fault is that?

When did the West become a problem for you? Was it before or after you got educated by their taxpayers? When did Somalis in the West become your enemies? Please take your double standards elsewhere.

But that does not give you the right to insult, label and threaten people on social media. It certainly does not give you the right to invade their FB walls and to frog dance all over it. This behaviour on social media is a disgrace to all Somalis. Especially to the Diaspora Somalis whose identity you also represent.

So yes, I am a Somali and proud of it. I am a Somali even though I have an Arabic name. I am a Somali even if a don’t speak or write a word in Somali. I am a Somali because I self-identify as such.

My kids, all four of them, are Somalis regardless of being born in the Diaspora. They identify themselves as Somalis despite having never visited it. Somalia is in our blood. In our marrow. In our heart. That can never be taken away. That can never be negated. Nullified. So deal with it.

”Comrades… Down with imperialism!
Down with colonialism! Down with neo-colonialism!
Comrades, down with bad husbands! Down with lazy bums! Down with thieves!
Down with shifty-eyed owls! Down with puffed up guinea fowls!
Down with double-shelled tortoises! Down with acrobatic chameleon!
Fatherland or Death, we shall overcome!”

– National Council of the Revolution, 4 August 1983 – 15 October 1987

(This is a living text which keeps on evolving)

“Women’s fate is bound up with that of an exploited male. However, this solidarity must not blind us in looking at the specific situation faced by womenfolk in our society. It is true that the woman worker and simple man are exploited economically, but the worker wife is also condemned further to silence by her worker husband. This is the same method used by men to dominate other men! The idea was crafted that certain men, by virtue of their family origin and birth, or by ‘divine rights’, were superior to others.”

“Her status overturned by private property, banished from her very self, relegated to the role of child raiser and servant, written out of history by philosophy (Aristotle, Pythagoras, and others) and the most entrenched religions, stripped of all worth by mythology, woman shared the lot of a slave, who in slave society was nothing more than a beast of burden with a human face.”

“Inequality can be done away with only by establishing a new society, where men and women will enjoy equal rights, resulting from an upheaval in the means of production and in all social relations. Thus, the status of women will improve only with the elimination of the system that exploits them….”

– Thomas Sankara Speaks

Somalia: Women Shouldn’t Live in Fear of Rape According to this HRW report published last month, ” The UN reported nearly 800 cases of sexual and gender-based violence in Mogadishu alone for the first six months of 2013, although the actual number is likely much higher. Many victims will not report rape and sexual assault because they lack confidence in the justice system, are unaware of available health and justice services or cannot access them, and fear reprisal and stigma. When Human Rights Watch asked one survivor why she did not report being raped, she shrugged: “Rape is a frequent occurrence in Somalia. Here, rape is normal.”

It is troubling to read these reports day in and day out. The government turns a blind eye, the society blames the rape survivors and their communities ostracizes them.

If the survivors seek justice, they will, in worst cases, be subjected to a traditional court and possibly be even forced to marry their rapists. The traditional court is a tea shop for older Somali men who think that marriage is the solution to every problem facing Somali women. Can you imagine that? What kind of justice is that?

Finding the above option unappealing, other survivors opt to have their cases handled by the government. This is a government confined to a few areas in Mogadishu and which is fighting for its existence. These poor survivors eventually end up being imprisoned and possibly even subjected to even more sexual violence.

Either way, they’re damned.

Development Research Day: Inclusions / exclusions? Communities, identities and value systems reconsidered.

I am here today to reflect on being the other, on othering. I am not here as a PhD student from this University but as an activist, a blogger and as your research object.

The previous presenter raised a very important point that activism does not put bread on your table. I concur with her.

In fact, I want to expound further on that point by arguing that one cannot be paid and be an activist at the same time. By that I mean, if I was receiving funding from an entity that is unethical, could I be an activist? Would I have the freedom, the backbone to question their unethical practices knowing the repercussions? What if they claimed to work on equality but never hired minorities? If they claimed to fight racism while having a white board? Could I be involved in these institutions and claim to be an activist? Can a colonialist be an anti-colonialist while still in the colonialist establishment? My answer is no.

I came to Finland, as a fleeing refugee, with a battered suitcase and a chunk of halwa in my kiondo in 1990. While I slept soundlessly in a motel called Matkakoti in Helsinki, dreaming of cardamom tea in Xamar, the Finnish press was busy selling mass hysteria. A man saw the opportunities the newcomers brought with them and quickly sat down to write. As a result, the first descriptive text on Somalis, or rather their invasion of Finland, was penned. That text was aptly titled “Somali Shock”. I stumbled upon it years after I’d arrived, dazed from all the racist slurs but still desperate to belong. I sought answers, comprehension but never got any.

Somalis became an interesting phenomenon to study. Why would all these young, mostly good-looking young men want to come to Finland? Why were they all coming through Russia? Why were they not malnourished, with flies buzzing over their runny noses? Why come to Finland when thousands are migrating elsewhere? These questions woke a few hibernating researchers who then devoted their time to their new pets. After all, the Somalis looked, smelled and acted differently. They mistreated their women, neglected their children, ran away from fighting in Somali, were loud and had a fetish for Finnish women. In addition, they also had a liking for extravagance, shiny stuff, perky breasts, driving in BMWs, and all at the expense of the generous welfare system. This was a phenomenon worthy of a study. I never had the pleasure of meeting these researchers personally but followed their activities through the grapevine.

Fast forward to 1995, a Finnish woman married to a Somali man is in our house, asking questions about death and studying how we deal with grief. She is doing a PhD on Somalis, is dressed as a Somali, henna on her hands, gold bangles jiggling. She is more Somali than I am. You see, this is very important. A researcher must resemble the natives, must eat as they do, must be part of them and must behave like them. After all, this is an ethnographic research. But does that mean she knows what I am feeling? What it is to be me? What it is to be a Somali woman, a Muslim from Africa? No. She is a privileged white woman. The power dynamics are skewed in her favor. No amount of dressing, mannerisms, is going to change that reality.

She shoots her Finnish questions relentlessly, her tongue darting in and out of her mouth. I don’t hear her, my mind is on my mother, the only solid foundation in my life, crumpling under my feet. My mother who is slowly dying in her sterile hospital room. My mother who has always been by my side, is going on a long journey, alone. The persistent chatter from the researcher never ceases. It floats above the community din, overwhelming my dulled senses.

As death went about his business, I tried to negotiate for a few days, hours, minutes. He shook his head, stood above her, and coaxed her soul to depart. I kissed her face, wiping away her sweat and my tears. Death, the only certainty in life, had accomplished his mission. The researcher hovered about, notebook in hand. She asked me something, pink mouth moving silently. I looked away, ear cocked, head turned to the side, listening for any sounds from my mother. I heard someone explaining something to her. No, you cannot take pictures. No, you cannot go to the grave. No, because women are not allowed to.

The next day, she stayed with us at home, observing our grief. As my brother was putting my mother’s head in the grave, kilometers away, her husband came out with his camera and started snapping away. The camera was wrestled from his grip and taken away.

Years later, I read her PhD research and could not place myself in her writings. That is not what happened on that day, at that hour, I fumed. I should know, that is when my mother died. We were never presented with the findings and were never involved with her research in any way. However, her research, her participatory research, claims otherwise.

Now fast forward to 1999, the start of the research avalanche. The Somali communities had research commandos crushing through their front doors, back doors, windows and even through their roofs. You could hire a Somali to open their community for you, rush in and pick your research objects. If you were a feminist, you’d pick the Somali woman with her pregnant forehead. If you were a youth activist, you’d pick her adolescents with their protruding teeth. If you were a social worker, you’d pick her children with their swollen bellies. For some strange reason, the Somali man, the lucky bastard, was never picked on as a study subject. As a researcher, you’d work your way up from a novice researcher to an expert, then to a specialist on Somalis. This was the golden era in Somali research.

Now fast forward to 2002, the research specialists linked up with associations/NGOs and put their drinking straws into the blood of the Somalis. The trend was to publish your research, then set up an EU-funded project and call it a name like “half-an ass”, your momma”, “save a skinny Somali” or something like that. To gain legitimacy, you’d scrawl Somalis on your cover page and disregard any ethical considerations. It did not matter that you did not interview all the Somalis; that you only interviewed a handful. It did not matter whether you consulted your target group, what they thought of the labels attached to them, of your findings. All that mattered was gaining recognition and making a livelihood. Once you had that project which allowed you to overnight in Mogadishu, dine in Nairobi and drink in New York, you were set for at least four years or more.

Now fast forward to 2006, I am a development expert and planning a project for a certain country. I fled Finland as a refugee, fled from xenophobia, to faraway sunny places. Obsessed with doing good deeds, I spent endless hours working on plans, calling meetings the next day and getting signatures from the parties involved by that evening. The plan was given to them for implementation, along with funding. When the reporting time neared, the implementing party sat and churned out a report to my liking. Instead of teaching them how to fish, I taught them how to rely on donors. I bought the ingredients, cooked the food, invited them over, offered it to them and even told them how to eat it. And so life went on. My point here is that I know what it feels like to plan for people, to take away their agency instead of planning with them. I know how it feels to operate from a privileged position.

Now fast forward to 2014, I am a PhD researcher. As I embark on my research, I am mindful of my two roles, of being a researcher as well as the researched. I sit with you, not as an object but as an equal being and challenge you to think outside of the box. As I stand here, I know that there are some here who think that I don’t belong. You’d rather exclude me. Perhaps you believe that exclusion and inclusion are only concepts? You would rather continue seeing me as the other, the exotic, the victim. You want to silence me so that you can continue to speak for me, speak over me. Do you think you can tell my story better than me?

I also know that there are some here who are offended by what I am saying. But as you’re stewing in your indignation, please remember that it is not about you. It isn’t and has never been about you. It is about the other, the communities that have been researched to death. It is about producing the same bull year in and year out.

Then there are those from these communities who cry wolf, who blame others for entering and researching these communities. I understand their views. Like them, I want the researchers to stop focusing on producing disempowering narratives on Somalis. I want them to stop generalizing their findings to all the Somalis: to the Farah and Farhiyo eating peanuts peacefully in Puijonlaakso. However, my response to them has been that as long as there are people among us who let in these researchers, then they should also be blamed. It takes two to tango. The reasons for letting in these researchers are various. Some of us let in these researchers, hoping to get something out of it. But when that does not materialize beyond consultancy fees, salary,  acknowledgement or a career as a used fiddle in the hands of your fiddler, what then?

If your research has nothing new to add, then please don’t do it. It does not help that you recruit assistants from these communities, that the gates have been opened to you, that your team has people from these communities. If the end result is the same as your findings in 2001, then it is time to call it quits. Or is it?

Thank you.

12.02.2014

This is a talk given by one of the greatest Somali poets to grace this earth. Beautiful yet also so eloquent. Simply stunning.

Hi.
You probably didn’t know this at the time but my name is Hamda Yusuf.
Actually…
Scratch that.
My name is
Hamda Ahmed Yusuf Abdale Mohamed Hussein Mohamed Mohamoud.
And before you even say anything,

stop.

Because I already know that my name probably puts up more flags in an airport than a Mexican driving in Arizona.
Know that the deep piercing stares are directed at my hijab
And not my infectious smile.
Know that I’m already judged not for who I am
but for what I wear
and just for the record

It isn’t a towel.

But somewhere in all of that self-pity I realized that it really shouldn’t matter how you perceive me to be.
It should only matter how I perceive myself to be.

And I already happen to know that I’m Hamda Yusuf,
poet.

I’m Hamda Yusuf and my kind of a Friday night is a Star Trek: The Next Generation marathon.
I’m Hamda Yusuf and I’ve seen the Lion King 17 times and I’ve cried every time Mufasa died.
I’m Hamda Yusuf and Albus Dumbledore is my hero.
I’m Hamda Yusuf and I’m a mustache enthusiast.
I’m Hamda Yusuf and apparently I scare Juan Williams at airports.
I’m Hamda Yusuf and I’m Muslim.
Not Moslem
or Islams.
But Muslim.
It’s really not that hard to say.
I’m Hamda Yusuf and I’m sick and tired of hearing about countries banning the burqa to protect women rights when they’re really just taking away our right to choose.
And since when has it become okay to take off the layers but illegal to try and put them back on.
Is it me or is the world going insane?
Threats of burning Qur’ans and protests against building mosques as if we had done something wrong.
Besides fight for the American Dream we were told to fight for.
And you.
Knower-of-nothing-you, every-Muslim-is-a-terrorist-and-every-terrorist-is-Muslim-you, I-get-all-my-facts-from-conservapedia-you,
have the audacity to tell me there’s no such things as Islamophobia in the world?

Well I’m sorry.
Because I’ve been sent on a mission to talk to every single person who has ever called me a towelhead and unfortunately for both of us,
you’re on my list.

So how about you take a seat on my couch,
take a sip of my mother’s tea
and I’ll explain to you as politely as can be,
how my father has told me more times than I can count on my fingers that I can be whatever I want to be.
I can be that lawyer,
be that doctor,
be that engineer.
But I will never
ever
ever be,
just another towelhead.