"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth."   - Marcus Aureluis

Sitting in my Swedish class there are countless number of nationalities in the room. I'm fascinated by it. Varying religions, backgrounds, experiences present for me to learn and understand from. I enjoy the contrast. I relish being pushed to open my mind, while shattering uneducated thought patterns. Call me strange, but I've followed this mindset for some time and have become better for it. 

Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Japan, China, Finland, Somalia, Chile, Finland, and of course the United States are the places my classmates call their homeland. You can imagine, there are a fair amount of stereotypes to observe and have opinions on. However, I'm always pleasantly surprised how well everyone relates to one another. It's as if there are barely any differences at all, with the common bond of learning Swedish at the moment.

Of course the guy from the United States commands the most of attention in the class. Fact. He talks out loud when not spoken to, and makes jokes as if he were on a comedy tour. During one of his rants the woman from Somalia whispers to me, "I always know those who come from America. They are always so loud." I let out a giggle, she didn't yet realize I was from America as well. The girls from East Asia are always immaculately dressed, and neat. Skinny too. Some things just seem to be embedded in the culture. But, like I've learned time and time again, there are always exceptions to the rule, and what is portrayed through media outlets are often grossly misunderstood if not blatantly wrong.

One day I sat between a man from Pakistan and a woman from Somalia, both being Muslim. During a break we entered into a discussion regarding the Muslim faith and the many misrepresentations centered around it during this day and age. Before I go further into our conversation I have to admit, I did harbor a dislike for the conservative dress the women seemed to be forced to wear. Covering their hair, while wearing long dresses. Seeing this made me feel as if it were oppressive. This being my main problem with the religion. Yes, I know, an uneducated opinion, but this is how I honestly felt. Living in Stockholm there are a number of Muslim woman, and often I'd find myself cringing when I saw their get up. Thankfully, much of that has changed after having an open dialogue regarding their faith.

The man from Pakistan talked about how much he's tired of the stereotypes present from being Muslim. Jokingly, he said people expect him to have a long bushy beard and to support Osama Bin Laden. He went on to say he doesn't in anyway support Osama's legacy and most Muslims feel the same way. "They say Osama is in Pakistan, we don't fucking want him there."

Both the girl from Somalia and the man from Pakistan explained how in actuality Islam is a peaceful religion and one of the main tenants of their faith. Besides the dress I never really had much of an opinion regarding the religion, because honestly, I don't know enough about it to make an educated opinion. At a young age I was taught all religions are one, and still believe this to this day.

The paths to the Greater Source are many, and how one chooses to journey there is up to them. Ultimately, we can never separate from what is True and labels are insignificant anyway, this part being my opinion.

During this time I felt a deep sense of gratitude to have the opportunity to sit and be open to listen. Just listen without any preconceived judgments, and if there were judgments held deep in my subconscious, I was happy to have them proven wrong. The Somali woman said she lives with the stigma of having to be judged upon because of how she dresses and lives with people being openly rude to her. She explained that she just wants to be free to be who she is without having to feel she is being looked down upon. "This is our way don't worry about it," she expressed in regards to those who don't understand. Agreed. It really gave me a knew perspective. Unfortunately, at this time Muslims are being persecuted because of our own ignorance.

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Stereotypes can be funny, because why take ourselves, our cultures, and our nationalities too seriously, However, in the same light, we must not use them to further separate and harbor ill will toward others different from us without first learning, understanding, and being receptive to another way, in contrast to our own.

While in class, theoretically I should be focused on Swedish, however I find myself more interested in those I share the room with. I want to know about their life, and their history. The more I travel, the more I come in contact with other nationalities and religions, I know now, more than ever, our differences are few, and what we experience as contrast can be appreciated and deemed beautiful. Why play one note? All varying degrees brought forth make for inspiring music. This I know for sure.

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3 Insightful Comments:

Claudia said...

Wow, this is really interesting.

A few days ago I was thinking about what would Ghandi say about the mosque being built downtown which has so many Americans agitated. I have a feeling he would propose not only we build it but that then all of us new yorkers go and pray there, for the souls of all that died, together with Muslims as one people... but I wonder if America would be ready for something like that, probably not...

I really appreciate your sharing this, I hope more and more of us can be as open as you are talking with an open mind to people from other backgrounds :-)

peaceloveyoga said...

I so agree with what you say Claudia, and I was recently expressing the same sentiment to my boyfriend. For some reason we have gotten caught up in an energy of winners and losers. Until we get passed this and unite, like you say, in the end we only lose.

In time ...


Tiffany said...

Oh god, this totally resonates with me...all my asian stereotypes. Well, unfortunately, the joke I used to get about all asians being smart (is sort of true here). However, there are really more things in common than most people realize - it's same-same, but different.


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