I’m A Little Bit Selfish

Hi there joonies, this post was sent to us during the week of the Boston Marathon bombings. 

This week has been hard for me as an Iranian American and as a Muslim. It was hard because of an incomprehensible attack in Boston, which made me and many others nervously hope wasn’t related to the peaceful religion we practice at home. It was hard because there was another earthquake in Iran, affecting the poorest in the country, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to help in any way because the sanctions imposed to limit the Iranian government’s nuclear activity have actually blocked the transfer of much-needed humanitarian items like food and medicine. But like all people everywhere, I’m a little bit selfish, and it hurt the most because I broke up with my boyfriend, whom I love, over ambiguous and big words like culture, values, and lifestyle.

My now ex-boyfriend is Hindu. I am Muslim. (Cue all past and future Bollywood movie plotlines ever.)

I am not South Asian, so I don’t think I can ever fully understand the antagonism between Hindus and Muslims, or between almost any two religions in that subcontinent for that matter. I suppose I am Shi’a, but my parents immigrated from a predominantly Shi’a country, so I cannot even claim to fully understand the Shi’a-Sunni conflict, although I joke with my Sunni friends that they’re just oppressing me whenever we argue over something.

Interracial and interfaith relationships are always interesting, but they have their own special significance when it comes to first-generation Americans. Being raised with a culture and often religion that is not predominant in the country our parents immigrated to, and which we now call home, we feel the enormous responsibility to be the keepers of traditions near to our own hearts. Traditions, which we feel are often at stake of being lost in this darn Westernization our parents always referred to when we were growing up.The languages in which our parents told us fairy tales, the foods we grew up eating and still haven’t mastered to cook, and the community we are scared of being exiled from when we lose the things we can’t quite put our fingers on.

Many of us have decided that the only way to remain a part of this community, and to retain the things we know are important but don’t know how to put into words, is to create a family with someone like us.


Someone who spoke the same language at home and thus can do so with our parents, ate the same foods and can play critic with us at the restaurants we later go to, and practiced (or didn’t practice) the same religion we identify with. Someone who can pass these things on to another generation, because we don’t want them to die just yet.

But what our parents never told us growing up, and maybe that we don’t fully believe ourselves, is that the traditions we now hold so valuable were once created by people just like us. That being with someone different from us doesn’t mean that our culture is any less important. And that just because we are with someone who didn’t grow up the same way as us does not mean that we can’t pass the things important to us along to another generation.

Change is scary. Losing things important to us is terrifying. But what is scarier is to tell the next generation of our community that the important things that we don’t quite know how to state are more important than people.

That our parents came to a new country and met new people, but instead of opening our community and creating a reciprocal cultural exchange, we decided to keep it closed.


And that God is in everyone or everyone is equal in God’s eyes (however you say it), but we’re all just too different. What kind of world are we creating, after all, with that kind of mentality?

And if we can’t open our own communities, why are we so shocked when others discriminate against us?

I don’t know who I’m going to end up with, and if he’ll be Iranian American or not, and if he’ll be Muslim or not, but I do know that I can tell the next generation that I gave everyone a chance, and so should they. And at the risk of sounding like a Disney movie, that’s how we’ll make the world a better place: together.





MAHSA مهسا

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