Last Spring while walking on campus one day I was drawn into a table set up by a couple of my fellow classmates…. the table attempted to promote the term “Don’t stereotype me” in order to open a few eyes to the students of not only our university but also other universities and people around the world.
I thought for a moment of the various things that I could write on the paper … things that I feel people don’t know about me, but I’m almost 100% they’d stereotype me for. Interestingly enough one of my really good friends, someone I consider to be like an older brother was walking by as well. I asked him to help me think of an idea to put on this paper…. and luckily enough we both had something in common.
I haven’t really talked about myself a lot on this site, but I guess there’s always a starting point. I am originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina and my family moved here in 1999 when I was only 6 years old. I know that most people don’t know where Bosnia is located and quite frankly I don’t blame you …. It’s a tiny country north of Italy that about 20 years ago was a part of Yugoslavia. Bosnia gained it’s independence on March 1st, 1992… about a year before I was born. Between the years of 1992-1995 Yugoslavia underwent a civil war and I’m sure most of you have briefly heard of the “Bosnian Genocide” that occurred during that time… and maybe even the term “Ethnic Cleansing of Muslims” as well. I don’t necessarily want to get into all the details regarding what occurred during that time, I mean I was only a baby and most of what I know about the war and it’s affects on my family is what I’ve heard from my parents and neither of them really talk about it much, I guess it’s a pretty sore subject. Instead, I’d like to get into how it affects me today… Bosnia is currently made up of 48% Bosniaks, 37% Serbs, & 14% Croats and although that doesn’t matter much anymore…. remember that it’s only been about 18 years since the end of the war and that amount of diversity actually means something. Here’s a link to more details about the war if you actually care to get into it and maybe expand your knowledge… What most people don’t know about me is that I …… Enisa Turko …… am a part of that 48% of Bosniaks also considered Muslims in Bosnia. I guess my appearance…. the blonde hair, blue eyes, fairly light skin stops people from believing that I am a Muslim, or even that I was BORN into the religion as apposed to converting…
This is a picture of Bosnia’s location:
On that spring day …. My friend Daniel (half Lebanese and half Portuguese, also a muslim) and I decided to write on our “Don’t stereotype me” paper that …. “We’re both blonde and white, but we were born Muslim!” - Don’t stereotype me. Yes of course most people found this shocking and intriguing, but it became even a bigger deal once it went on the internet. One of the girls that was a part of this UMW Campaign posted our picture along with a few others onto her tumblr page….. after a while it seemed to blow up. Questions arose about where we were from, and people wanted more details. Many supported us and others seemed confused. After a while she decided to take our picture and post it separately, where it also received lots of likes, reposts, and comments. The real question is, how many of my fellow friends or the people I interact with on a daily basis actually know this about me …. or do some of them simply assume that because of my appearance I am either a certain race or automatically considered a “white American” simply fitting the usual everyday stereotypes? I’ve been a U.S citizen for a few years now and although I am a Muslim, I know that I don’t practice every aspect of my religion… most of that being because… although Bosnia is majority Muslim, it is also located in Europe and by no means does that law of the of the country follow that of the Qu’ran. Religion is a practice and a belief and for no reason should someone’s religious views be questioned due to their appearance…. that in my opinion is simply an example of ignorance, or maybe just a lack of knowledge. I have spent the majority of my life living in Northern Virginia and I graduated from one of the most diverse high schools in the country… for years I have been surrounded by people from different countries, different religious beliefs, and certainly different political views as well. I have also figured out that not everyone is blessed with the diversity I have been surrounded by, nor is everyone as open-minded as I have become, mainly because of my interactions and life experiences. I strongly support the UMW ISA Campaign on “Don’t stereotype me” simply because I have certainly been stereotyped and although it may not be intentional…. we (including myself) stereotype on a daily basis and it’s not always a bad thing, but it’s human nature… it’s been engrained in our heads for YEARS and getting out of that mind set may be extremely hard. I guess I just ask everyone to think twice before you make the next assumption about someone…. ANYONE. One of the hardest thing at this age is to keep an open-mind. On a regular basis we find ourselves attempting to “fit in” instead of embracing the uniqueness and individuality that we all are blessed with. I know that I don’t always cherish the life I’ve been given, but I still remember that had things gone a little differently in June of 1999…. I probably wouldn’t be here and all the experiences and interactions I’ve had since then wouldn’t exist either. I guess I find myself thankful for all the knowledge that I’ve gained through-out my life… don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a lot more to learn…but I guess I hope I’ve taught someone out there something as well…..
I am a blonde hair, blue-eyed, Caucasian female that was born into a Muslim family & proud….BUT don’t you for a second let any of that determine your views of me as a human being.
Tumblr link for this photo ^.
P.S – I guess I plan on writing whatever crosses my mind in the upcoming months, feel free to check for updates!
& comments are welcome.