Choosing not to Choose


By Raghda Butros

When I was four or five, I was plagued by a question that Arab adults love to torment children with: “who do you love more, your mother or your father?” This is a question for which there is no right answer, and one which, it would seem, is only intended to make you squirm. I would opt for the safe and truthful answer, that I love them both the same. But that never really satisfied anyone. “No,” they would say, “you must love one more than the other, now which is it?” And so began a life filled with similar questions intended to force me to make impossible choices.

When I was in first grade, the teacher asked us to divide into two groups, Muslim and Christian, for Religious Education classes. I was one of several kids who was not quite sure, and so I went to the class with most of my friends in it, which happened to be the Islamic studies class.  With a surname like “Butros”, which to those of you who don’t know, translates into “Peter” in English, I was soon caught out and sent packing to the other group. I went home crestfallen; to tell my mother I had been pulled out of class. Having been a troublemaker from prior to my birth it seems, she immediately retorted with the usual “what have you done now?” To which I could, for once, respond with an innocent shrug.

We moved to London several years later, and when I would came back to Amman on holiday, I would be confronted with the inevitable question: “which do you like better, Amman or London?” This was an easy one. By the time I had finally arrived in Amman after several months away, I was full of longing for my city of birth and the place that was always home. “Amman, I would proudly say” only to be faced by looks of dismay and disbelief. “Who could possibly prefer Amman to London?” they would say. There is no doubt, though, that as much as I love Amman, I also loved London, and still do.

In London, I went to an Arab school, where I met and interacted with a wide mix of people from different Arab nationalities, and formed lifelong friendships. This contributed both to my love of diversity, and to my identity as an Arab, of which I have always been proud. When I meet other Arabs anywhere in the world, including a chance encounter with a group of Moroccans and Algerians in Kobe, Japan – of all places – I always feel an instant affinity as we launch into heated discussions, heaping praise and expressing our woes about our home countries and the Arab Nation as a whole.  Lately people have begun to ask me: “why do you care so much about Egypt or Yemen, or Tunisia or Syria or Libya?” You’re Jordanian, they say, and you have to choose!

When I lived in the States as an adult, people would ask me: “what’s it like being an Arab Christian?” I would say “it feels normal,” which it does. Another choice question would inevitably arise: “but which are you more, a Christian or an Arab?” Again, I felt no urge to choose, because in fact this is not a matter of choice. I am both, and I am more. I would tell people, partially to challenge their mindset, but also because it is true: “I’m Christian by religion, Muslim by culture, and secular by outlook.” Islam is a part of me. I have lived, breathed and experienced it in ways that are intrinsic to who I am. Brought up by wise parents as I was, they never believed in any form of segregation. Our lives were mainstream Jordanian middle class, which meant we lived in a neighborhood that was primarily Muslim, went to a school that had predominantly Muslim kids, and spent our free time at the Al-Hussein Sports City, a dream park for every Ammani child.

I make references to being middle class. I do so because it is part of who I am, but it is also no longer solely who I am. Growing up middle class in Amman in the eighties and early nineties had a certain undeniable charm. Those of us who lived these times remember playing for hours in the city’s streets, and being welcomed into neighborhood homes for meals and drinks. We remember feeling completely unafraid. We had simple lives that were rich with community, discovery and a deep sense of freedom. Amman was not exciting then, and as we grew older we often complained that there was little to do, but I always say Amman became exciting just about the time that I found myself longing for the simplicity of its past.

This sense of nostalgia for community, and a deep desire to alter my somewhat myopic middle class view, has shaped my career. Spending many days, months and years in some of Amman’s oldest neighborhoods, for work and socially, has been nothing short of life altering. Having consciously chosen to burst my own little bubble and challenge all my assumptions, misconceptions, and habits, I gained not only a new perspective, but a whole set of friends and acquaintances that I would have otherwise never have had. I found the sense of community I was looking for, and much more, but I also discovered a new aspect of myself – a person who now chooses, as much as possible, to exist beyond class boundaries and imposed identities. Inevitably I have been asked: “which do you prefer West Amman or East Amman?” I tap into the wisdom of the younger me and say “I love all of Amman the same.”

At various points in my life, I have been asked another impossible question: “do you consider yourself Jordanian or Palestinian?” For me, this has never been a matter choice. I was always both, and felt privileged to be the proud possessor of two homelands, rather than just one. Granted one of these homelands was not really mine to live in or even see, but it was nonetheless one I had learnt to love through the stories of my parents and their parents which were woven through my memory as if they were my own. In fact, when I finally had the opportunity to visit Palestine, I sent a text message to my sister to say “it’s as if I never left,” and had to be reminded by her that I had never been. Jordan, on the other hand, is my home, it is part of who I am and in my mind our identities are inseparable. I love Jordan with a passion that it is purely my own, and will work for it with every ounce of my being. As a child, I adopted what what would become a sort of epithet of sorts, and became known as “Raghda the Jordastinian.” It was cute when I was ten, and people laughed, though still often insisting, that I really ought to make up my mind.

Several years ago, I met and fell in love with Baker, who is Muslim. We debated what our families would say or think, but were confident they would be fine with our decision to get married. We wondered what our extended families or society at large would think and say, and to our pleasant surprise, there was barely a rumble. In fact, when Ammon News announced our engagement (don’t ask me why), we received hundreds of messages of congratulations from people we did not know, and only a couple of unpleasant remarks – and we all know how outspoken Ammon News commentators can be! Now, almost three years later, we are often taken aback by how much of a total non-issue it has been. We share so much in common by virtue of our upbringing, that we are almost too similar at times. A choice question has still arisen though: “will you remain Christian or will you convert to Islam?” I’m safe with this one though, because regardless what my ID card has embossed on it, or whether anyone else agrees, I feel that I am both.

Baker comes from a big tribe in Salt, which has added yet another angle to my life. We visit often to spend time with the family. This is an aspect of life in Jordan which I missed out on growing up. We did not have family outside Amman and though we often took drives to see the rest of Jordan, I was always curious as to what my friends got up to when they spent weekends and holidays with their families in other parts of the Country. These visits truly are a window into another type of life, and I look forward to every visit to learn more, to laugh and to explore yet another dimension of what it means to be Jordanian. Thanks to my new family, I can now claim to no longer be a purely Ammani Jordanian person, which I had always previously felt I was.

There are others, like me, who have grown tired of all the choices they have had to make along the way – and choose instead to call themselves global citizens. I share their desire to cut through the tangled labyrinth of nationhood and ethnicity, and openly embrace all the world has to offer. I think, however, that even that definition is somehow too narrow. I quote Amin Maalouf “identity cannot be compartmentalized; it cannot be split in halves or thirds, nor have any clearly defined set of boundaries. I do not have several identities, I only have one, made of all the elements that have shaped its unique proportions.”


So here I am – An Arab Christian Muslim Secular Jordanian Palestinian citizen of the world and other galaxies.  I am this, and a multitude of other possibilities, and I will never be made to choose.

 

 




  • http://www.bloomingjasmine.com Yasmine_At

    Thank you for a well-written post.

    After hello, you are constantly bombarded by questions: “Are you this or that?”, whatever your answer might be it leads to more and more of these profile-building inquiries. You are given two options, so don’t try to explain your third non-existing theory!

    At times, it even gets worse; when people criticize an official decision, a political party, a social trend, or religion based on reason, observation, personal thoughts…etc,  they are automatically labeled be it traitor, stupid or unpatriotic. Maybe people should start considering the fact that there are many options out there, and no one should be forced to choose one.

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Hello Yasmine_At, You’re right. We have not been accustomed to accepting and respecting a wide range of opinions, but it is really up to each of us to insist that the third and fourth and fifth options, whatever they may be to each of us, are indeed heard and given their rightful place. 

  • kinzi

    Raghda, excellent. Much to think about.

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thank you Kinzi, tell me what you come up with! 

  • http://twitter.com/ramseygeorge ramsey george

    Edward Said used to say that he was a “Christian wrapped in a Muslim culture.” That has always stuck with me. 

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      I had not heard this one before Ramsey, it’s a great way to put it. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/aref.farra Aref Al Farra

      Ramsey, good to read you here!
      Edward Said- May God/Allah rest his soul

  • Shams

    Thank you Raghda. I come from a Christian family too and the idea of marrying a muslim has always been totally inacceptable to both my parents and extended family. I could never comprehend how they would be more likely to accept a non-Arab “christian” as a husband for me, but not an Arab muslim, with whom I would share so much more in common. I’ve always felt the same as you do; christian by family religion, muslim by culture, agnostic in belief, and secular by lifestyle.

    • some random guy

      Thank you Shams for sharing.
      I may have an opinion of why your family is opposing you marriage to someone from a different religion or background.

      Marriage is more than the union of two individuals, it is two families or two comunities (particularly in this region) coming together.
      so while you may be “christian by family religion, muslim by culture, agnostic in belief, and secular by lifestyle”, I suspect your family is not or at least they are worried that your husband’s family is not.

      just my two cents…

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Shams, it is not, nor was it for me, an easy decision to marry someone from a different faith, and I know many families who would never approve of such a decision. I am lucky to have parents who respected my choice and stood by me. I think, however, that we all need to negotiate through these kinds of difficult decisions with our families in a way that does not deny us our own voice, which may be quite different from theirs. This is not to say, by an means, that their opinion should not be respected, but that we may be more aware of shifts in societal norms that they are. In fact, this is our time to shape and change these societal norms, much in the same way as they did when they were our age. 

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Shams, it is not, nor was it for me, an easy decision to marry someone from a different faith, and I know many families who would never approve of such a decision. I am lucky to have parents who respected my choice and stood by me. I think, however, that we all need to negotiate through these kinds of difficult decisions with our families in a way that does not deny us our own voice, which may be quite different from theirs. This is not to say, by an means, that their opinion should not be respected, but that we may be more aware of shifts in societal norms that they are. In fact, this is our time to shape and change these societal norms, much in the same way as they did when they were our age. 

  • Lara Zureikat

    Superbly thoughtful and well written!

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thanks Lara :)

  • Pingback: Best of the Rest: Choosing not to Choose « Caledoniyya

  • Madian

    Raghda…we need more of you, and more of these discussions to unite us all as Jordanian citizens and lovers of Jordan. After all, it’s love that unites people, and loving every diverse angle to Jordan is the road to a United Jordan.

  • Madian

    Raghda…we need more of you, and more of these discussions to unite us all as Jordanian citizens and lovers of Jordan. After all, it’s love that unites people, and loving every diverse angle to Jordan is the road to a United Jordan.

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Madian, we definitely need as many discussions as we can handle at this crucial time in the development of our country and of our individual and collective identities. We have avoided honest and painful discussions in the past, to our detriment, and cannot afford to do so anymore. 

  • farah

    tis is one brilliant and interesting article to read i really did enjoy it though it is simple but it holds so many thoughts and emotions and and…etc i salute u for this and interested in reading other articles by you … love & respect :)

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thank you Farah. I think writing this piece was a way for me to express many thoughts and emotions that are key to my growth as a person. I wrote it initially for me, not to publish, but then thought I would share it so that others also might be encouraged to do the same with their own stories. 

  • Danadaoud

    Goosebumps and tears. This is the story of many so perfectly and brilliantly told by Raghda. Thank you.

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thank you Dana. It meant a lot to me to write it and I’m glad it meant something to you too. 

  • Anonymous

    تحية و سلام لك يا رغدة و لكل من يؤمن بخيار عدم الإختيار

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      تسلم يا نيوسفنش – ممكن نكون تيارعدم الإختيار :)

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      تسلم يا نيوسفنش – ممكن نكون تيارعدم الإختيار :)

  • Hala Zureiqat

    Raghda this is a superb article like you, I just love it 

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thank you Hala :)

  • Taghreed

    What a great thought. You are a role model person and I will use this article in one of my classess. Please allow me to do so

    • Anonymous

      Thank you Taghreed. It would be my pleasure. 

      • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

        Sorry Taghreed, the above comment was from me but ended up being sent through by work account. Please feel free to use it as you please, and thank you for your kind words. 

      • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

        Sorry Taghreed, the above comment was from me but ended up being sent through by work account. Please feel free to use it as you please, and thank you for your kind words. 

  • Hala Hijazi

    Well written and said Raghda.

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thank you Hala. 

  • Faten

    Raghda, I enjoyed reading your article very much. One should always be courageous to choose what he wants and what makes him happy.

    Marriage between a Christian and a Muslim is a very complicated issue – not everyone can do it with the consent of their families, and it’s really a matter of principle.
    It’s much easier for a Christian girl to marry a Muslim guy, because after all, her children will not carry her family name, and hence it will have no effect on her family and extended family.

    However, it’s a different story if a Christian man chooses to marry a Muslim woman. He won’t be able to do that unless he converts to Islam. His children will carry his name which will definitely affect the immediate and extended family as well. That’s where choosing becomes critical. Every person is a part of the whole community, whether he likes it or not, and should always keep this in mind when making choices.

    As much as we like to think that we are global citizens, the ties to our immediate society where we are raised cannot be overlooked. We are part of our local identity that shapes our opinions and perspectives.

  • Lena Touqan

    Great words Raghda. Expressed my thoughts too on being part of many things and not being ashamed of embracing all within my identity. It’s true that Amman in the eighties and nineties had a rich community feel however freedom of expression wasn’t so readily accepted. Alot has changed now,and I really look forward to my annual visits and observing this transformation in society which is long overdue.

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Hello Lena,

      We’ve definitely come a long way in terms of freedom of expression. It’s even more noticeable when you speak to children, who seem to make the shift much quicker than we do. I interact with kids in different areas of Amman as part of my work, and they’re becoming a lot more outspoken. As a result, they’re also a lot better informed, because they realize that having an opinion means you need the knowledge to back it up. 

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Hello Lena,

      We’ve definitely come a long way in terms of freedom of expression. It’s even more noticeable when you speak to children, who seem to make the shift much quicker than we do. I interact with kids in different areas of Amman as part of my work, and they’re becoming a lot more outspoken. As a result, they’re also a lot better informed, because they realize that having an opinion means you need the knowledge to back it up. 

  • Hipster Ahtiest

    Islamic culture?
    What we have in Jordan and the Levant is an Islam affected with Christianity,Christians were being the dominate scholars for the past 100 years with their schools and institution and high population mostly in major cities making up the levant countries

    Marriage from a Christian dogma is between two baptized Christians,period
    If you don;t agree with this or many other dogmas you find “too strict or medieval” for you,feel free to call yourself atheist or start a new religion
    just don’t cherry pick

    How many Muslims-Secular Jordanian will agree to convert to Christianity to marry? Almost in all cases it is Christian girls converting to Islam citing love as their God,only to discover the truth and reality after the honeymoon is over

    Please stop calling yourself Christian,unless you start a new Christian domination where u have loose teachings and whatever suits you,otherwise just declare it you are ahtiest and against religion,period.

    Is Islam your culture? So as a women,you will feel ok not inheriting the same as your male sibling? I don’t think this is a culture of Christian communities

    Maybe you just didn;t get a Christian bringing up,grow up in an athiest home,mostly a communist father,cursing religion and God 24/7 and getting high over desert stories of /Qays and Layla because he is an Arab nationalist

    Is there any secular girl of Muslim background willing to convert to Christianity for the man she loves anc can;t live without? Oh wait,under the Islamic culture and laws, I think she should be killed,no?

    • Maysun Butros

      Have you not the courage to reveal your true identity?

    • Nabih Bulos

      What a ridiculous response. It is this very insistence on a “correct” way of being Christian that has repelled so many people from religion as a whole. Raghda, in her acceptance of others and embrace of them, is more Christian than you are. Grow up.

  • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

    Thank you Faten – there is no doubt that we are affected by, and should be sensitive to our local culture. This is a very personal piece about my own sense of identity and I am not suggesting it should be applied to or that it is necessarily applicable to anyone else. It is up to each of us to navigate through his or her own identity, based on what is most meaningful to each of us. 

  • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

    Hipster – it is precisely these types of attempts to dictate to others, make unfounded assumptions and intimide, that usually prevent people form speaking their mind. Add to that your absurd attempt at painting a portrait of my father, which is clearly meant to provoke me into argument - and we have a total non-starter. You’re simply barking up the wrong tree. 

    Please feel free to define your own identity in any way you please, and leave it to the rest of us to do the same with our own. 

  • Dr Mohamed Moolla

    A most beautiful story I would urge all to read and contemplate how one can mature in multi religious multi cultural communities and still. Have your own identity

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thank you. Having our own individual identities is what makes the world such an incredible place to be in and explore. Ultimately, these unique identities are the key to our shared humanity. We need to individuate to become part of a vibrant whole. 

  • Mona

    That was probably the most inspiring thing I’ve read in a long while. Like you Raghda I always felt great belonging to and love for both Jordan and Palestine, and having grown up very closely with other “Jordanistinians”, I can vow that 99% of them felt and feel the same. I now live in England and am often asked about what it’s like for Christians living in predominantly Muslim Jordan; I should probably send them a link to your article! Absolutely love it, completely respect your heart and mind.

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thanks Mona. My sister lives in England, you two should meet :). 

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thanks Mona. My sister lives in England, you two should meet :). 

  • Erin

    Just want to say thank you so much for this absolutely beautiful post. I spent two months in Amman studying Arabic (I’m originally from Chicago) over this past summer and was so blessed by some of the friendships I made. Truly fell in love with Jordan and its people and will come back next year, inshallah.

    Since returning to the US, people often ask me well-meaning but simplistic questions about these many different “Arab identities.” I always do my best to explain just how diverse and complex they are, but this post says it so much more eloquently than I can! So thanks :-)

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Erin, let me know when you’re back in Amman, I can take you on one of my off the beaten track excursions :)

  • Faten

    Raghda, I respect your choices. I was discussing interfaith marriages in general. While I agree with Hipster’s points of view about interfaith marriages, I definitely don’t agree with him judging your upbringing or your father, who is a very respectful and well known person in his country.

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thank you Faten. I also respect your views and understand where you’re coming from. Marriage is a very personal choice, and not everyone will agree on how to approach it. 

      • Hipster Athiest

        Marraige is indeed personal choice
        but once you choose it according to non-Christian terms,then it was not a Christian marriage,and one should stop calling themselves Christians

  • Mudanddough

    Beautiful and so true. The issue of split identities need not be as problematic as politicians and clergy often want it to be 

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thank you Mudanddough. Nothing ever needs to be as problematic as politicians and clergy want it to be! 

  • Guest

    Thank you Raghda, you have expressed what I have in mind. Growing up middle class in Amman in the eighties and early nineties had a certain undeniable charm.  Amman became exciting just about the time that I found myself longing for the simplicity of its past. I found the sense of community I was looking for, and much more, but I also discovered a new aspect of myself – a person who now chooses, as much as possible, to exist beyond class boundaries and imposed identities. I love Jordan with a passion that it is purely my own, and will work for it with every ounce of my being.…I am this, and a multitude of other possibilities, and I will never be made to choose.

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Guest, which neighborhood of Amman did you play sab3 7jar in? :)

  • Azomama

    Excellent commentary on Jordanian society.  Thank you.

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Hello Azomama, I had not thought of it in those terms, but you’re right, each of our stories is a commentary on our society. We should be telling our stories more often and in as many ways as we can, so we can better understand our individual and collective experiences and what makes us who we are. 

  • Zeina AlKaraki

    I am so impressed Raghda, your words just hit the spot, I wish you the best of luck

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thank you Zeina :)

  • Razan_3moush

    Having a “free mind” was the best choice! Brilliant post

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Razan, I know for a fact that you have a free mind and it will take you to places you can only dream of. 

  • Hania Maraqa

    Edward Said would have loved this!

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      I suppose he would have :)

  • Yacoub Shomali

    Thank you Raghda for this post. I relate to this as I am constantly bombarded with the same questions, specifically in regard to which city/country I prefer. Having lived both in Italy and the US my friends keep asking me why do I prefer Jordan to Italy and the US?  I always answer that I prefer Jordan, and my answer is still the same when they ask me where do I want to eventually live. I guess there are some things about Jordan – my home – that I learned to appreciate being distant for a few years.

    Again thank you for a great article!

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thanks Yacoub. There’s no doubt that being away makes us a lot more appreciative of Jordan. I have found that whenever I’m away for a long period of time, I come back full of passion, energy and excitement to do more and learn more about my own country. In fact, it was after a year in the US that I came back wanting to explore the different parts of Amman I never knew. Perhaps had I stayed in Amman, I would have remained comfortable in my own bubble and not taken the time to discover a whole new world I had never previously known.

  • Laila Abdul Majeed

    Raghda, I loved the way u transform ur emotions into words…very sincere article that I really enjoyed reading :) I guess we are all just a little bit of everything and that what makes us who we r…

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Hi Laila, thanks, I’m happy you liked it. I am not used to writing personal pieces of this sort, but I felt it was important to speak from the heart if I wanted to be heard. This is an issue that I believe is vital for us to discuss openly and without fear of being judged.

  • Ghalia

    Great article Raghda!! a breath of fresh air! 

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thanks Ghalia, I’m glad you enjoyed it. 

  • Ismael

    Raghda, I still remember you from the days of an eloquent poem that described your profile on NETS online. But I never imagined such a talent for words had a fine young woman with great thoughts and sense galore behind it.  Congratulations for you and your partner, I am one to know how difficult it actually is and how rewarding messages of praise from strangers can be… Warm Jordan or Cool Britannia? If I can have my cake and eat it, then I bloody will.

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Ismael, I can’t believe anyone remembers that poem :). I was thinking the other day that I never kept a copy of it, and unfortunately I don’t remember all the words. You brought back a lot of memories of the NETS Online days, which brought with it this incredible ability to interact with people we did not know and explore different aspects of our own society. I suppose it was like our own little Jordanian Facebook. I say have your cake and eat it too and some knafeh and scones with it too! 

      • Ismael

        My life began in ‘72,
        in a hospital (or was it a zoo?)
        The last child of four,
        my parents saw me and wanted no more.
        I spent my childhood in Amman,
        playing gloul ma’ wlad il jiran,
        and in the pleasant city of Ottawa,
        where I acquired a certain je ne sais quoi.
        Then it was off to London for a while,
        to live a life of ease and style.
        In the city of green grass and bright lights,
        how I longed for Amman’s sounds and sights.
        The honking horns of truckat il ghaz,
        a far cry from theatres, opera and jazz.
        I then lost my mind or so it would seem,
        for I chose to return to this lovely scene,
        and ended up living a life of sheer boredom,
        at the delightful University of Jordan.
        My minor was in Poli Sci, my major in English Lit.
        “Though this be madness, there is method in’t” 
        (for those of you not versed in Shakespeare,
        ’tis a quote from Hamlet that you see here.)
        As for my current activities, suffice it to say,
        I work for a living and earn my pay.
        Now that I’m part of Amman’s rat race,
        is it any wonder I’ve launched into cyberspace?

        (I have a weird hobby of collecting fine words)

        • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

          Ismael, you have truly made my day! I’ve kicked myself over losing this, because it captures me at a moment in time that I wanted to remember. Thank you so much for keeping it and sharing it. It means so much to me. 

  • Ismael

    Raghda, I still remember you from the days of an eloquent poem that described your profile on NETS online. But I never imagined such a talent for words had a fine young woman with great thoughts and sense galore behind it.  Congratulations for you and your partner, I am one to know how difficult it actually is and how rewarding messages of praise from strangers can be… Warm Jordan or Cool Britannia? If I can have my cake and eat it, then I bloody will.

  • Hiba

    Raghda, an inspiring story and all this diversity makes you the warm person  I know you are… 

    Reading the comments above, I see this stereotype repeated; “it’s always easy for the christian girl to marry a muslim and not vice versa”. I hear this statement over and over and I just get angry at how people always assume that it’s an easy step. It is never easy to challenge ur family and how they have raised u, never easy to know that u r disappointing them just because u picked someone who is different. Most women who dare to do this step sacrifice a lot and are blamed harshly if things don’t work out. After all we arabs, muslims or christians, are always judgmental in this regards.

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Salam Hiba and thanks. It is not an easy decision, you’re right, and I sometimes feel that people prefer to see such marriages fail in order to reinforce their own stereotypes and views of the world. I would venture though that when interfaith marriages fail, it is hardly ever religion that’s the determining factor in that failure. I would love to hear from people who’ve gone through that experience to confirm or negate this, but this is my impression. 

  • Hipster

    I wrote a reply and didn’t show up
    technical error or someone could not stand the argument?
    Raghda,choose whatever you want,feel free not to accept religious teachings,but be courage to call yourself athiest and not Christian anymore

    Also,none of my questions answered,what your husband’s tribe would say if your son or daughter wanted to convert to Christianity?

    Christian marriage is very clear,if you find it stupid,backward,oppressive,fine,just declare yourself out and don;t speak in our names.

    Why do have Christian girls or guys convert while the other way around not possible?

    @365cbcb66526d9c5f000a31c25f2c87e:disqus Could you answer my question?I don’t think so.

    • Maysun Butros

      I don’t answer people who hide behind pseudonyms…look the word up, I’m sure you’ll need to.  I am glad however that you have removed the word atheist from your name as you obviously can’t spell it. 

      • Teitado

        Don’t you think Ms that each deserves to air his or her own view? No need for تجريح – not everyone’s English is as impeccable as yours..

        • Maysun Butros

          التجريح was started by him/her when he or she said what he/she did about our father. That is التجريح. What I said was an absolute statement of fact. Airing his/her view is a perfect right, but saying what he/she did is not.

          • Hipster Athiest

            I have completely forgotten about this
            So your defend is that my English is horrible and I’;m not educated? I’m not open minded and cultured like you,maheek?
            Then I dare you to answer my questions,you preach open mindedness and that you are cool to convert and not bound by religion,but does it apply to the other part? Answer me if you can.
            About your father may Allah (sorry to offend you if you don’t believe in him) bless him,if he has passed,RIP,
            but I doubt he gave you a Christian upbringing,it is obvious. Convert,create new religious doctrines do whatever you want,but stop calling yourself a Christians, people will get the impression that Christian girls are easily converting for the sake of love, though the truth is,they clearly were never taught about religion. Usually they think of church goers are narrow minded and so uptight and not tolerant. Yet they don’t accept them and use to attack them personally,they are not educated,they don’t speak English they are usually poor.
            A girl who has never been to a Church,only out of social curiosity during Easter or Christmas and don’t want to follow the “very primitve” rules and uptight of narrow people should stop calling her self a Christian,period

  • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

    For the record Hip, I don’t have admin access and cannot delete any comments, nor would I. I am happy to hear any and all opinions. My issue with your first post was the lame attempt to paint a picture of my father that only exists in your head – it was unnecessary and disrespectful. 

    Otherwise, you are fully entitled to your opinion. You are not, however, entitled to dictate to people what their religion is or is not. I have spoken only in my own (actual) name, and no one else’s, and I stand by every word. 

    • Hipster Athiest

      بعرف انو الادارة لحبر هي من تتحكم بشطب او عدمه للردود

      ياستي هلا انتي موافقه على زواجك ضمن قوانين الاسلام، مش صح؟ لو انك مش موافقه كان اعترضي زي ما اعترضي على شروط الزواج المسيحي.
      يعني السؤال الآن: بما أنك موافقه على قوانين الدوله ودينها الاسلامي وواففقتي على الزواج عليه: المفروض انك تجاوبي بما يخص قوانين الارتداد بدين
      بكره بنتك حبت تصير مسيحيه، شو راح يكون مصيرها؟
      راح تقدر تختار انها ما تختار؟

      يعني لو كل بنت مسيحيه مابدها القوانين الدينيه وهذا حقها بالاختيار، ليش ما تكمل معروفها وتروح عقبرص وتتزوج مدني وخلص
      أما تقبل زواج ديني اسلامي ، فهذا يعني قبولها بكامل تعاليمه

      شوفي، مابدي أسسبلك مشاكل، روحي الله يوفقك وأنا بعرف اذا جاوبتي شو بصير، فانسي الموضوع

      بس رجاءا وفكري فيها بدون زعل ولا أحكام مسبقها وفكري ليش بطلب من أحد لا يرضى بكل تعاليم المسيحيه يكون صادق مع نفسه ويترك هدين ويقول أنا بلادين
       بشكل عام والحديث مش الك ، أما  يقول انا مسيحي بس بشوف سلافة المناوله هبل والكنيسه خداع والكهنه تجار وعمري مادخلت كنيسه أو حاولت أسأل سؤال واحد أو ما أنظر للمتدينين انهم ناس سذج ما بقرأوا لماركس واخواته فهذا قمه الكبرياء والأنانيه والكره والهبل وخداع النفس

  • Mudanddough

    It’s time that we stop seeing religion as an issue managed by a civil administration. It’s about the interior world of belief and that cannot be summarized in your passport status. And who says the state of religious belief is static .  Raghda, its great you see this and don’t worry about your children. With such great and free parents they will be more than ok!

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thank you Mudanddough. I completely agree. We need to stop using religion as a hammer and chisel with which to shape and threaten. It is about human beings and that makes it very complex and personal. I am sure any future children I might have will have their own struggles with identity in our ever-evolving and increasingly complicated world! 

  • مواطن يشكر ويطلب

    شكرا جزيلا على هذه المدونة 
    كم أتمنى لو تنهجي نهج الكتابة باللغة العربية لكي تصل الفكرة لجمهور أوسع
    وتحياتي

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      معك حق يا مواطن – النسخة العربية سوف تنشر عن قريب انشالله 

  • Ekram

    i rarely comments on stories i read, but i really found this very well thought and well written. thanks for presenting this to the world. 

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thank you Ekram – I very much appreciate you taking the time to comment and provide your feedback. 

  • Ekram

    i rarely comments on stories i read, but i really found this very well thought and well written. thanks for presenting this to the world. 

  • Dana

    Thanks Raghda.  Your article did bring back wonderful memories of growing up in Amman during the 80s and early 90s. 

    If you think it’s hard to choose, what would I say?! Born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, moved to Jordan at the age of six, lived in Jordan for about 18 years, and then 19 years between the UK and the US, where I currently live.  I was brought up as a muslim, went to a Catholic school in Amman for 12 years, and married a monotheist Englishman (converted to Islam to legalise marriage in Jordan)!  So what do I answer someone that asks me where you’re from?  Many non-Jordanian friends couldn’t comprehend how I could go to Catholic school when I come from a muslim family or why would I call myself Jordanian, when my parents are Palestinian and I was born in Kuwait.  This identity crisis is unfortunately the blight of many people that were forced to leave their homelands, whether it’s Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, etc.

    What’s worse though in my opinion, is the “nassab” question.  I was in total disbelief when few years ago while on official business for an international organization, a Doctor asked me (as soon as I said my name), who is your father?  What is Dr. zzz (with same last name) related to you?  Why does it matter? Would I receive better service or treatment if I were or weren’t?  (NB. I doesn’t help that my surname is commonly Christian and not muslim!)

    Unlike you, every time I visit Amman, I feel like a stranger.. this is not my city, where I grew up, these are not the same people.. this is not my community.. The Amman I knew and loved is long gone and if it wasn’t for family, I’d skip Amman all together and only visit places that I weren’t able to explore as much as I wanted growing up.

    So in summary, my official answers are: I grew up in Jordan.  I believe in God, and in being a good human with extreme tolerance to all beings and their choice of lifestyle, religion, identity, etc.

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thank you Dana. So many of us struggle with identity, and I know from my Palestinian friends who grew up elsewhere in the Arab world and outside the Arab world, that the struggle to belong is more difficult. I often think how lucky I am to have Jordan to call home. It helps to ground me and provides me with both a home ground a springboard from which to grow and expand. I do, however, understand why Amman seems strange to you now. If I had not been here to witness and growth and expansion, and had I not opted to go out of my way to find remnants of the Amman that was, which I find in its older neighborhoods, I too might share your dismay. My relationship with Amman is a complex and ever-evolving one. Sometimes it feels like a fishbowl, while at others I find it truly expansive. Maybe next time you’re in Amman, we could spend some time together, and i could show you the Amman I have grown to love so much over the years. 

  • Anonymous

    أهنئك كما سائر المعلقين على مقال صادق ومؤثر ويخص الكثيرين ممن مروا بتجربة مماثلة. لكن يخطر ببالي أننا أثبتنا أن في اختيارنا النخبوي للغة الخطاب أننا قد أقصينا بالفعل هوية الآخر. اختيارنا هذا يقول عن هويتنا أننا عرب مسيحين مسلمين علمانيين أردينين فلسطينيين مواطنين في هذا العالم وما وراءه،،، نتكلم بلغة دخيلة على فئة مثقفة منا أقلقت من يشعر مثلنا تماما بأن هذا الحق حكرا على من غرّب لسانه. أتمنى علينا جميعا لغة جامعة تضم تشعب هوياتنا وعقائدنا وانتماءاتنا لتجمعنا رغم تنوعنا الجميل.

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

       شكرا يا طبيش. أوافقك الرأي و أتمنى لو أنني قادرة على التعبير بنفس الطلاقة بلغتي العربية – و لكنني أعتقد أنه من الأفضل  لي و لغيري أن نعبر عن رأينا بالإنجليزية من أن لا نعبر عنه أصلا. و كما ذكرت فإن النسخة العربية سوف تنشر قريبا :)

  • Anonymous

    أهنئك كما سائر المعلقين على مقال صادق ومؤثر ويخص الكثيرين ممن مروا بتجربة مماثلة. لكن يخطر ببالي أننا أثبتنا أن في اختيارنا النخبوي للغة الخطاب أننا قد أقصينا بالفعل هوية الآخر. اختيارنا هذا يقول عن هويتنا أننا عرب مسيحين مسلمين علمانيين أردينين فلسطينيين مواطنين في هذا العالم وما وراءه،،، نتكلم بلغة دخيلة على فئة مثقفة منا أقلقت من يشعر مثلنا تماما بأن هذا الحق حكرا على من غرّب لسانه. أتمنى علينا جميعا لغة جامعة تضم تشعب هوياتنا وعقائدنا وانتماءاتنا لتجمعنا رغم تنوعنا الجميل.

  • Pingback: My intercultural journey to Stockholm | Ana Naddoush

  • Pingback: My intercultural journey to Stockholm | Ana Naddoush

  • http://ananaddoush.net/ Nadia Norvang Christiansen

    Loved the piece Ragda – and I have even spread you article to random people on my recent trip from Amman to Stockholm. So now Lebanese/Swedish/Christian/Arab/Ect. people now  know of you too :-) Maybe the discussion of identity and catagorization will continue in houses all over the world soon?

    http://ananaddoush.net/2011/12/07/my-intercultural-journey-to-stockholm/ 

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thank you Nadia – it is a discussion we should all be having as openly and honestly as possible!

  • Zaid

    Wonderful article, hope there are more of you around. Good luck

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thank you Zaid – I appreciate that you took the time to comment. 

  • Atieh Hamarneh

    Raghda,very well written,as every thing else you do …somehow it made me think of my life and my kids and I hope and think some of these issues won’t exist in 10 years time ! for their own sake.

    • http://twitter.com/raghda Raghda Butros رغدة

      Thank you Atieh. I also hope that they won’t exist, though I suspect that we will always deal with identity issues one way or another. Identity is not a static issue and will be increasingly less so with time I suspect. 

  • Hipster Athiest

    So to legalize your love, you are willing to accept the state’s laws (you ahve to convert to Islam if you are a male or marry a Muslim women)
    Ok fine,so you totally accept Islamic laws and rules?
    If you don’t like something in it and you say: I will choose to not follow it,what will happen?

    Will you my dear girl of a Christian background who thought the primitive and stupid rules should not stand in the way of love,will you then agree that your daughters receive less inheritance than male kids?

    نداء عام:
    مشان الله اذا كنتي طول عمرك مطنشه ومش حابه الدين ولا عاجبك القوانين ومفكره حالك اشي كبير  وبتسمعي عن قصص الدين سمع و محيطك يساري وشيوعي او بلادين وفرجوكي انو الدين خدعه وأفيون الشعوب وماخليتي كتاب ماركسي او كتاب تبع الزمن الجديد النيو إيج وانوا الدنيا بتلف حواليكي وانك بدك تغييري الدنيا
    كوني صريحة وصادقه مع نفسك ومع الناس وقولي: أنا مش مسيحية أنا بلا دين
    والله أريحلك وأريحلنا

    ورجاءا مدامك زهقانه من التعصب والناس إلي كتير منغلقين ومتشددين ويا الله شو متخلفين، رجاءا ليش ما ابتتقبلي الناس وكل هل كره مليان قلبك؟

    خليكن، سووا زي ما بدكن ، بس بعد 4 سنين زواج ولما تروح قصص الانفتاح ويقلب الموضوع جد ، مشان الله لا تيجينا تبكي وتلطمي وبدك ترجعي

    وأتحدا حدا يجواب الأسلة المطروحه
    ولا هي بس انفتاح وعدم انغلاق وتخلف من طرف واحد وبتجاه واحد وبنخاف نحكي عن مدى انفتاحنا لما يكون الأمر يخص الطرف الناتني بنصير ساكتين؟
    ما هو يا إما أسود الانفتاح بطرفين يا بتسكتوا
    مش بس عشان كل وحده بدها تحقق الي ببالها بطوع كلشي ولما يصير ضد مصلحتها بتصير ادافع ؟

    يا الله كم أحترم اللاديني والملحد الذي يقول أنا لا أومن ، هذا شخص صادق مع نفسه وله الاحترام
    اما جماعة والله أنا ضليت عديني وهو كتير كول ومنفتح وشوفيها وليش هيك انتوا متخلفين ومتعصبين: رجاء كوني صادقه مع نفسك وريحينا
    قولي قوانين الدين المسيحي مش طايقيتها وواقفه ضد رغبتي ومناي وعشان هيك أنا بعلن نفسي بلا دين، والله يوم الهنا

    • Hajj

      why are you so angry :) ? It’s her choice to be whatever she likes, same way it’s your choice to follow or not follow a certain dogma. Lerax

  • Raghda
  • hajj

    A lovely article.. unmasking the artificial branding that we like to do to ourselves…

  • Ehab

    Wonderfully put. I immediately connected with it as an Egyptian American Muslim whom so happens to be living in Canada and is married to a Bosnian Jordanian of Syrian and Lebanese heritage. Our kids will be even more beautifully citizens of this world, more than we like to think we ourselves are.

  • http://www.facebook.com/carmen.aliwat Carmen Aliwat

    I enjoyed reading every single word of what you wrote…all is true…i totally agree with you…I am one of those who spent their free time at the Al-Hussein Sports City,and yes it was a dream park for every Ammani child, and I am tired of all the choices that I had and have to make along the way…I am what I am…and I love being it…..Thank you Raghda