My Muslim Identity Crisis (Part II)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Wellington Botanic Gardens, May 2016

Four years ago, I published a post entitled 'My Muslim Identity Crisis' and the response I received was beyond my expectations. Looking back, I can see how much I've grown, although if I were to be completely honest, I am still trying to make sense of my Muslim/Malay/Kiwi identity today. What I know for sure is not knowing the answers all the time is part of being human and quite possibly the reason why life is beautiful.

I was first intrigued by identity politics when I read Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim's theory of individualisation. The theory argues the quest to construct our individual identities is a paradoxical process because the more we try to liberate ourselves from social expectations and social constructs the more we become bounded by other ones. For example, the moment we think we are detaching ourselves from cultural and traditional notions and norms of gender roles we are actually ascribing to another culture's set of socially-constructed expectations.

When we shed one identity we are left with the task of creating or searching for another one. The very thing we think might liberate us, such as the freedom to be individuals and choose who we want to be and how we want to live our lives, might actually bind us even more to socially constructed ideas. Our desire to belong to a community of our choice means we are likely to adjust to that particular community's standards of what is normal and acceptable. This is not to say that there's something inherently wrong with the desire for individuality or a sense of belonging in a community but we must be critical of it and the process of individualisation.