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The Shifting Face of Identity

What is in a name?

That is a question I have been struggling with my entire life. When someone asks me my name, why do I always answer “Moh”? That is not the name my parents gave me. They named me Mohammad.

Identity is a funny thing. It’s a concept I have wrestled with for years, growing up as the born product of refugees from a land I’m told is no longer mine. Growing up in white schools and white neighbourhoods, I tried to be more like everyone else, but some things can’t just be shaken. I’m brown.

When I go through airport security, I’m a young brown man with an Arab name. When I click submit on that online job posting, I’m a young brown man with an Arab name. When I check off the ‘visible minority’ box on every form I fill out, I’m a young brown man with an Arab name.

And when I walk the streets of Palestine, I’m a young brown man with an Arab name, only this time, I’m the norm.

So what about here? Canada? My place of birth? One of my homes?

The truth is, I’m still a young brown man with an Arab name, and that’s not going to change no matter how much I travel or where I go.

So, for the kids in Canada named Mohammad that bring weird lunches to school, I guess what I’m trying to say is: be you. Embrace it, because that doesn’t change.

And when the time comes when they ask you your name, tell them what makes you comfortable. But if you shorten it like I did, make sure it’s because you want to, don’t do it for others. Your name, your identity, that’s your home, no matter where you are.



Mohammad Mousa is a 23 year old Palestinian-Canadian, born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario. He graduated from the University of Ottawa in 2015 with a major in Conflict Studies and Human Rights, lived and worked in the West Bank, and plans to continue on to graduate studies in a related field within the next year.


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