Growing up with first generation immigrants as parents who fled a war is an interesting experience, you’re met with a lot changes to how you practice your culture and a lot of stories about when they were younger. My step dad has quite a lot of funny stories involving school and being a rebellious teen, but one thing that we don’t get a lot of is actually learning our countries history unless we ask about it.
It’s tough because in history our education in school is focused a lot on Europe and what’s written – but when your country gone through a civil war and isn’t in Europe, it tends to be ignored from the curriculum, and in all honesty ignored by the white man as a whole. I had an in depth conversation about this with my best friends who come from Bangladesh and how we know the basics about our countries bloody histories, but not as much as we should – it then went on to us realising that it’s our generations responsibility to find out these stories and document them.
I’ve always been interested in how the civil war in Somalia has effected our diaspora, especially when you look into how different sets of us practice our culture and even religion a lot differently. I don’t know what the American and Canadian diaspora are smoking, but they’re extremely different to the UK batch (this isn’t an insult, please don’t take offence). They seem a lot more care free than us Brits, and generally just live their extra life. Whereas the UK diaspora has a hard focus on being different from the ‘West’ and very strict with how religion is practice, which of course does vary from family to family.
Somali identity in the UK has shifted a lot, I remember when I was younger (my parents came in the 1980’s so we were like the first wave) my parents weren’t practicing or religious. In all honesty I didn’t even know what Islam was or why we didn’t celebrate Christmas like all my friends did – I also didn’t ask because I was a weird kid who was happy as long as I was entertained. Sometime happened when the naughties hit and suddenly I was introduced to Islam and the concept of going to mosque – this was also around the time I went to an Islamic school for a year and that was an interesting experience in itself.
From then on every Somali I met was super religous, or at least their parents were trying to, and I never thought the sudden shift was weird as a kid, but now I find it very weird. I think in the past 10 years we’ve gone through another shift of everyone practicing/not practicing their religion however they want so the pressure is a lot less on my younger siblings.
I had a meal with my dad a few months ago and straight up asked why our culture went through so many shifts and he sort explained the evolution of our identity and went back before the war even happened. I learnt for the first time that back home, they went to a lot of discos, night outs and general just did what they want. It might sound weird to some non Muslim readers, but the women didn’t even wear hijabs or skirts and that was a shocking fact to me – and it shouldn’t have been. My mum didn’t even start wearing the hijab until she got remarried, but I guess I just assumed that when they were living in the homeland that they were super religous.
We tend not to talk about these kind of things out in the open, but I think we should, especially those of us who can’t just google our history and find a realistic view. Yes, I can google the civil war and our culture, but the online information is minimal and a lot of it isn’t even reliable. It sounds harsh but if the writer isn’t Somali, I’m less likely to take interest, purely because I can’t expect them to actually ask our people about their own experiences.
I don’t really know how to end this in a clean and tight way, so I’ll just end it here. I’m starting to learn a lot more about my own culture and my family history and honestly it’s a weird and wonderful journey.