We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib – A Queer Muslim Memoir

We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib – A Queer Muslim Memoir

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I learned a lot from this book. I learned about the different sects of Muslim. What life was like in Pakistan. The conflicts between religious beliefs and extremists and how it affected the lives of Ahmadi Muslims. The fear they felt and how they had to hide who they were in their own country. And then the uncertainty and fear she felt that comes with having to leave your only home and move to a new country.

Immigration to Canada

Life in Canada wasn’t immediately better. Now she had to see her once confident parents struggle with a new language and customs. She had to worry about money, and being able to pay the rent. At school there were bullies and racism. Her only refuge was the ESL classroom where she felt more understood by the other students who were also struggling with a new language.

We Have Always Been Here also opened my eyes to what Canada may look like to someone new to the country. Growing up somewhere you are accustomed to the rituals of your home. The smell, the look, the gestures, and unsaid things that you instinctively know. You don’t notice what is wrong or may seem weird to someone else.

How Gender played a role in her Upbringing

Her family had expectations for her based on her being a girl, which were influenced by their culture and the way they had grown up. Although her father was at times distant, he was never cruel to her. He had three daughters and was proud of them and stood up for them. She remembers unexpected moments of understanding and tenderness from her father.

Yet her gender still lead to unimaginable moments of hardship. After an attempted rape, instead if comfort, her parents removed all the freedom she once had. Her life was under constant watch and she never had a private moment. When she discovered that she had been arraigned to a marriage with her first cousin, her outrage did nothing to change the situation. Her mother strongly believed it was for the best. She refused to see it any other way. It wasn’t cruelty that lead to the decision, but ignorance, she honestly didn’t think there were any other options for a women, she couldn’t picture any other choice that would lead to a positive life for her daughter.

I found it unfair that women were expected to leave everything behind once they married. As though their lives before that point had never existed

We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib

Throughout the book she had the strength to make the decisions that were best for her. Even when they lead to estrangement from her religion and parents. From her marriages, romantic relationships, and travels she was determined to explore and discover who she was. Meeting Abby, and becoming friends helped her see what life could be like. She decided to go to Japan, and sought out people like herself, other Pakistani travelers, other queer individuals, and queer Muslims, and from each one learned a little more about who she was, and who she wasn’t. She found confidence by this ability to define who she was, and with this confidence returned home to her family.

Her [mother’s] experiences taught her as a woman furtily, purity, and beauty were the only currency she could exchange for a better life.

We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib

Finding her Chosen Family

By the end of We Have Always Been Here she found herself and her home with other queer Muslims. She found a place where she could be herself and practice her religion. And she was able to come out to her parents. Then she found a career where she could stand up against muslimpobia and homophobia.

Reading this book was an amazing experience because I learned so much, I was told about my home from a perspective not my own. I read about a woman who had endured so much, but remained strong and true to herself. She experienced fear, betrayal, suppression, rejection, discovery, and in the end found acceptance.

If you liked this book…..

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