In the shoes of others

I'm an Arab from Jordan living in Edinburgh

- I'm an Arab from Jordan living in Edinburgh. I'm in third year in University of Edinburgh.

- Okay, do you feel some kind of difference of treatment being Arab?

- Honestly in other countries, I do feel it, for example in the US. Edinburgh is more okay with it but I can still see some separation, like for example in class. Most of my class are with white people. There's an Arab community, a small one, and I go out with a lot of ethnicities like Arabs, Spanish people, Italians etc.... so that's good, and I feel like I have support with it.

- Do you have an example of the way people treat you differently or something?

- Yeah, for example, when we travel abroad with my family, we always get security searches and security checks for no valid reason just because of our ethnicity. My dad especially because his name is very Arab, my name is foreign so it's a bit different, but they keep him in security lines for hours... or once we were going to a festival, we had a bag, they didn't check anyone's stuff except for our stuff. My brother got annoyed by it and was like « Why just us? » and they kicked us out just because we were questioning them.

- Hum... why do you think there's this discrimination?

- Um, I feel like orientalism and the way Arabs are portrayed in the media is a big reason. Or being uneducated about these things, some people still believe we go to school with camels. Which is funny honestly. I try not to, you know, be too different or stand out too much...

- So you try to force yourself to sort of fit and almost pretend to be one of them or...

- No, it's not that, I'm proud of my arab ethnicity, and I'm Palestinian as well, so that's another issue, but I try to avoid conflict. Like for example, I do post about Palestine and stuff, and it gets censored all the time, like if you see my views, if I post about Palestine, I get two hundred views, but if I post about anything else, it's like a thousand views, so I'm also censored about these things. And I try not to be political because being political has circumstances or like, there's punishments for it...

- Basically you are not free to say and do whatever...

- Not really, yeah. Being political can be very problematic, even though I'm part of the Palestinian society here and I'm very vocal about it, I usually just don't show my face... I do sometimes, but I try not to, you know, make problems or fight with people. It's like religious topics, so I try not to involve myself in these things.

- It can be sensitive...

- Yeah, it's sensitive, and I try not to make anyone mad, by avoiding in-different conversations. But, I do have my own views about some things.

- I see... going back to your other exemples, what are your feelings when you pass the security gates and they stop you?

- Usually people don't get anxious in airports, but I do. Because I know I'm always like a red flag or something. Even in stores and supermarkets, this isn't a big thing, but sometimes, you know, I can see people keeping an eye out... but I feel like a lot of people go through this, not just Arabs, but a lot of ethnicities and races.

- Yeah... a white person can also experience the same in other continents where they are a minority...

- Yeah that can be somewhat true but in my experience they are praised, when we were younger everyone wanted to look like western women. Many tourists come to Jordan and are treated differently than the locals but in a good way. And I've always been a minority even in my home country. It's a Muslim country, and I'm a Christian, there's only 5% of us.

- Would you feel comfortable telling me about religion during this interview or not?

- Yeah, I can talk about religion!

- I'm curious, being part of a religious minority in a Muslim country, and considering that Islam is the only religion that continues to grow, all the other religions being in decline... Can you tell me more about your experience as a Christian in Jordan?

- Basically, at school most of my friends were Muslim, we were two in my class that were Christian, or maybe three. Honestly, there is not much that I experience differently in Jordan being a Christian, as we are treated well, and we are allowed to celebrate our holidays peacefully and without any conflict.

- The law in many countries in that area of the world being influenced by Islam, I was thinking, it must be a strange feeling to be under certain laws, when they are not from your religion... is that the case of laws in Jordan?

- Yeah, it is, but it's fine because the government, like on Christmas and these things, they send the police to churches to take care and protect the Christians, which is really good, and we have a lot of churches, which is also good. I live in the city, so everyone is more open minded and okay with these things.

- Okay, that sounds good! I was wondering lately, and I'm curious about your opinion, do you feel like the laws of a country should be affected by religion or not? Like, there are countries where, based on religious rules, there's death penalty if you are gay for instance...

- Yeah, it's crazy! Even in Jordan there's honor killings, which makes it legal for your family to kill you for your honor, basically. And there's so many stories, like for example this guy has killed his sister, because she had Facebook and she was talking to guys... and it's legal, like there's nothing....

- She just talked to guys!?

- Yeah, basically. There's areas in Jordan that are very conservative and this is common. But they're changing the laws, for example, before the law was that you had to marry your rapist, but now they changed it, so you don't need to anymore.

- That's very recent?

- Yeah. They're developing, which is good!

- Hum, it must be complicated and maybe create conflicts at times, like, even inner conflicts when everyone around you is like « You shouldn't do this and shouldn't do that! »...

- Yeah, and for example, if you go to the bad areas, not the bad areas, the poor areas in Jordan, you have to wear the conservative clothes...

- Otherwise?

- Otherwise, they look or make comments or they catcall you and it's very uncomfortable... they already catcall you when you are fully dressed even. But yeah, it's improving...This is in most countries as I experienced it in Europe as well.

- Do you feel like Jordan is better now than 10 years ago?

- Yes, a million percent! Like now they're more open about everything. And there's protests for women etc, so that's good!

- Okay, anything else you'd like to add around that?

- No, I don't think so. But just to clarify, I'm not shaming Jordan, it's a good country, they're okay with everyone, I just want to make it clear. They are developing, fixing their laws etc, and it's such a good country to live in...

- I got that yes! How much do you like it?

- I love it, honestly! My family is there and it's very homey... the difference between here and there is that here they don't really hug as much when greeting you... um... food's really good...

- Okay! And you have Petra and so many places that look incredible!

- And Aqaba, the dead sea, ...

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