Crossing Oceans and Boundaries


Within Morocco there exist extremities of poverty, political unrest, and societal uncertainty, but there is also the unseen oppression of stereotyping. The Western world has been lulled into a false sense of supremacy, perceiving the cultural ambiguities of Muslim culture with near condescention. Transnationally, it is difficult to navigate these uncharted waters as a Westerner because of a preexisting assumptions concerning Islam. Stereotypes such as the oppression of women, the lack of democracy, and terrorism among others can cause cultural gaps to widen when they go unexplored. As an American student in Morocco, studying literature refuting Islamic stereotypes has been the compass that has allowed me to find my way around the negativity widely published in the West.

Mernissi has opened my eyes to the issue of the “male gaze” while my experience among Moroccan students has tested my Western bias. Our Western harem, though not entirely apparent to us, is our enslavement to body image and attempting to fit in. Many fail to conceptualize the shift in reality when it comes to public image, but how is it that the Muslim tradition of the hamam, or public bath, becomes difficult to embrace? Mernissi argues that our full potential is inhibited by our self-conscious nature, a common-place occurrence in the Western world. On the other hand, Lalami challenges our stereotypes of Muslim culture by cultivating characters that possess the depth that many in Western society lack. As a part of a selfish culture, the West places itself on a pedestal above all others. Through my experiences in Morocco, I have been able to see that the West endows itself with the ability to subjugate an entire culture, creating assumptions based on falsely relayed information.

Likewise, injustice is present in each and every society. Just because the actions of few extremists are the focus of international news reports does not give the West the right to encompass the entire Muslim community as offenders. Discussions with a group of students concerning stereotyping lead me to probe further the crime of stereotyping. If the Muslim world is one of terrorism and oppression, than isn’t America a nation of 500 pound citizens who lazily wonder about with lose morals? To discount the essence of Muslim culture that was founded in community, equality, and dignity for all, is to defame it’s people and the goodness that they have cultivated. Similarly, we believe that the issues that develop between our cultures is solely based in the conflict between religion. Never has a stereotype been demolished so violently as when an Imam treated our group with utmost respect and reverence. There is redemption in the leap of faith that accompanies serving the people who are apart of a society that partakes in the injustice of wrongful accusations.

My transnational journey isn’t only a physical expedition into a foreign land, but also one into discovery that has allowed me to question the workings of the society that I am apart of. The Atlantic ocean seems like an extremely large distance between two countries, but the gap that exists between two cultures is much more vast. Reflecting upon my experience, I am confident that I can claim myself as a success story of this transnational journey. I have crossed the oceans and boundaries, returning with an understanding that I will carry both emotionally and spiritually for the rest of my life. I only hope that now, I am challenged within this Western society to separate myself from the stereotyping majority and apply my life-changing journey into a transformative personal narrative.


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