A person may have links and relationships to many different communities based on identity markers. These markers may be aspects that an individual is born into like ethnicity or formed through joining a community such as a university, a faith group, or through creating family bonds such as marriage.
When a person enters and interacts with a community new to them, how a person identifies themselves plays a role in determining their relationships with these communities, whether as contributing members or as allies in case of social struggles.
In this video Mozynah Nofal talks about the different identity markers that she identifies and the allyships formed with communities that she is not necessarily part of.
I am also muslim, and I am visibly muslim, so I wear a hijab and I carry that around with me so that’s the first thing people see in me and it’s a huge identity marker, and because it’s such a, you know, obvious identity marker, I become even more aware of it myself and then it becomes even more and more part of my identity. I have been wearing a hijab for many years, even when I was in Egypt, but here it become so different and distinct from me because it almost makes me stand out from society and all that, so I believe it is an identity marker for me, it’s my identity.
I am also, you know, a woman, so that’s a big part of my identity and I relate to women’s issues, I am concerned about women’s issues, I am always reading and thinking about women’s issues and women’s groups here in Canada and oversees. I’ve also been very involved with the Syrian community in the past 5 years so I’ve travelled and visited places that have Syrian refugees, and also our country has been a recipient of thousands of refugees in the past year so that has made me also relate to them more and try to, and want to serve them more. And, I don’t know ironically or luckily I also married a Syrian man so that has now become a part of my identity and my future and I think of my children, and our children, and our families and how that’s going to affect us.
I am athlete, I love playing sports. I was part of the fencing team at my university for 5 years and the national Egyptian fencing team for 2 or 3 years. So, I love to play sports, I love to wake up in the morning and think about what workout I am going to do today, or who I am going to play with, or if there is going to be a soccer game around I’d like to participate, take my bicycle around, I think of myself as a cyclist even though I probably don’t look like it. I feel that I can also relate to many people because of these multiple identities. I try to find a point of commonality between everyone I meet and I believe we are people of everyone. The humans are all identities mixed into one and these are not stagnant, they’re also moving and dynamic so I believe I am like that, I am always changing.
There are many groups that I feel a sense of friendship or alliance to but I am not a part of. For example, other faith groups, right. We don’t believe in the same things but we have similar aspirations in life. We have underlying codes of values that we operate with. It’s almost like the same structure but with different content. This is how I view these groups and having alliances like that and friendships that are beyond your own identity groups as well as to who you are as a person and makes you see the world in very different ways, and it should be something to look forward to and seek, rather than just be cautiously receiving, right, or a recipient of. Or even I cringe when people say it’s only, or think about it only in terms of a political way, “oh let’s ally with these other faith groups so that we can all have a stronger voice.” It’s not like that, it’s not just for political ends. It’s supposed to be for personal growth, for seeking, like I said, new ways to see the world, you know benefitting immensely from these people, and also just this is life. Life is all about finding people, that’s what muslim tradition says, it’s that God says we have created you from different groups and people so that you may know one another, and I truly believe in that.
Trycia describes how her identity affects her relationship with the communities she is allied and working in solidarity with. Trycia emphasizes the importance of being conscious of the power relations that comes with identity markers in a context of social inequality and privileged communities.
And what is interesting at Carleton University is that people who study these things are also the same people that you are going to see on the ground. So it’s not just theory, we also apply what we study and practice. So we will be in the same classroom together in Canadian Studies and then we’ll organize a rally together and then you’ll see the same faces that you see at university. So that is something that I really appreciate that you can bridge the university and the activism, that is something I appreciate of my community a lot.
Yeah I think it’s definitely difficult because it’s sometimes painful even with sometimes my own family but I try to keep working. Eventually in the future I would like to give like social justice educational workshops in my region in northern Quebec, but it’s really hard work because it’s coming back home, it’s personal, there are people that like knew you differently. And there is a lot of premises like belief, so it’s hard to always be kind of confrontational and so sometimes you have to decide if you are going to burn bridges or sometimes work to build those bridges. But it’s certainly difficult because when people aren’t together they can say certain things that they wouldn’t say in front of people of colour and then you have a responsibility to kind of challenge that and do something about it. So I know that is my position, so I will try eventually to go back.
One thing that I am also working on for my research in activism is police violence against Indigenous women in my region, so that’s one of the places that I am going to start doing this work I guess.
So there’s a difference between personal relationships with certain individuals and relationships with a whole community. It’s important to not kind of essentialize a whole community and to think that they are going to have the same opinion and all get along with you. So when you do Indigenous solidarity work it’s very tricky because some people will agree with you, some people will not, so you have to make some choices at certain points without silencing everyone and where they’re coming from and their own experience. So you always have to strike that balance and to be careful who you are going to support and also to not support people who only makes you comfortable. So that’s something very important because there will always be certain voices that usually appear more often in the public sphere or in politics Indigenous voices that are easier to kind of agree with as a white settler because they make yourself feel good, as if nothing is wrong in Canada. So to challenge yourself to agree and support voices that that you wouldn’t necessarily agree with normally. So I hope that answers that questions, yeah.
Mozynah and Trycia describe the positions that they take as individuals depending on how they are tied to the different communities that they work with. Their identity markers influence the relationship they hold and maintain with these communities.