Omar Sediqe is an Ohio native, college student, and holds a passion for classical Afghan music and literature. Here, he shares his narrative on balancing an American identity with his Afghan cultural heritage.
Have you ever had a time in your life when you think about who you are as a person and how that sense of identity comes into play in your daily life? As an American born Muslim with parents who hail from Afghanistan’s western Herat province, I have always felt like I have been living the life of two different people, in two distinct worlds. My parents escaped Afghanistan during the years of the Soviet occupation of their homeland. They sought refuge in the Arab country of Kuwait where they remained for some time before immigrating to America.
In my life, there has not been one day where I am not reminded of who I am. At home, I speak two different languages: Dari, which is the Afghani dialect of the Persian language, and English. My family comes from a land where your position and status in society is dictated by gender, and where religious values play a central part in your life. I realize that there is a lot more to life than that. While I value my traditions and culture, I realize that opportunities, freedom, and equality are the most valuable privileges a society can offer.
Outside to the rest of the world, I am an average college student pursuing his dream. But, there are times that I struggle in balancing traditions with my own personal values. I have since learned that I can balance both my Afghan and American heritage. There are some who choose to hide who they are for fear of being shunned, or having to face unbearable rejection, as I have seen that happen among many of my peers.
As a Muslim and an Afghan, I sometimes feel that the stigmas and the stereotypes are doubled because of my religion and this side of my identity. It fills me with a sense of grief and a pain so great it feels like my heart has been burnt at the stake when I hear about the atrocities that are happening in that part of the world. Being an Afghan American is a blessing for me and I consider myself oddly lucky to be part of two vastly different, vibrant and rich societies. Afghanistan is a country whose national identity has been dictated by the forces of evil and extremism, and whose right to exist has been put into question. Still, I hold no resentment, I bear no ill will, and I shall continue to live my life for the good of humankind and to prove that humanity is still in existence in this world.