Wednesday, 21 January 2015

ONE REALITY

shalimar gardens - lahore - pakistan - 2014
Recently, I've been carrying around all this anger and fear, hurt feelings and a bitter defiance. Every morning I wake up and wrap it all up in a tight bundle, ready to drag it behind me wherever I go. 

I was six years old when the twin towers came crashing down. An introverted year one student with a mess of curly hair who loved nothing more than building little lego houses. Entirely oblivious to the detrimental effects of that day, and how it would impact the rest of my life. 

We suddenly became public enemy number one. I watched my mother, my incredible/intellectual/courageous mother face abuse because of the cloth wrapped around her head. Unaware that one day I would face the same persecution. 

Imagine living in a world where people are taught to hate you, to fear you, to desire your extinction. A world in which your pain, your beliefs, your children and your countries mean nothing. Where any form of brutality is accepted when it's towards you. That is the world I, and 1.7 billion Muslims around the world currently live in. That is our reality.

Oh, but we're the criminals? As Muslims we work every day to become the best version of ourselves, to become the best Muslims we can possibly be. If Islam preached terrorism and violence and unadulterated hatred, I promise you, this world would be nothing but a pile of bitter ashes.

You claim to live in fear but it is us, as we study for school and pursue our careers and shop and eat and fall in and out of love the same as everyone else, but under the burden of persecution. It is we who have reason to be afraid. 

You don't understand? You don't see the big deal? I get that. Tell me, how many times have you been spat at while simply walking down the street? Twice, in my case. Once when I was 13, and again when I was 17.

I see the way people look at me. Even more so when I'm with a group of hijab-wearing friends. Shifty. Frowning. And then there are those who stare with pure loathing on their faces, for 20 minutes straight on public transport. No shame. I am forever stunned at their audacity.

My mother tells me not to stand too close to the yellow line on the platform. God only knows what kind of hateful person would be tempted to push an innocent stranger into the path of imminent death.

A seed of fear has nestled itself in my gut, forming roots and pushing through my weak walls. Some days it spreads so far into my body I hate to leave my bedroom, my home, to place even a foot outside of my door. Usually when another tragedy occurs, another excuse for the media to warp the truth and call for our heads. Our heads. A hashtag calling for our genocide. I remember seeing it on twitter and feeling my stomach/heart/gut/faith in humanity drop. I have been angry and upset and bitter ever since.

I find comfort only in the act of worship to my Lord, the same Lord they curse. My bitterness fades as I remember the patience and benevolence of my Prophet (peace be upon him), the same Prophet they mock.

It is terrifying and heartbreaking to realise how unjust and corrupt our world is. White lives matter more. Fact. Thousands in the East could drop dead and the rich and powerful wouldn't blink an eye. Fact. A white man could be murdered in the West and the whole world is forced to their knees. We are asked to condemn. I am asked to condemn, and to constantly apologise for atrocious crimes that I have absolutely nothing to do with.

My country was colonised, my people fought in the wars of their colonisers. My grandfather was one of the many who were encouraged to immigrate to Britain, by the British government itself. To work, to rebuild, to renew. Thousands upon thousands of immigrants helped build this country into what it is today. And now they tell us to leave. The people of a country who once marched around the world and seized the land of others with sheer violence, declaring it as their own. They tell us to leave 'their' country. The audacity is remarkable.

I am a woman. But I'm not only a woman, I am a Muslim woman. But I'm not only a Muslim woman, I am a South Asian Muslim woman. But I'm not only a South Asian Muslim woman, I am a Hijab-Wearing South Asian Muslim Woman. I walk with a target on my back.

But I wear my identity with pride.

I speak for myself, my fear and my anger and my bitterness. Yet I'm sure I speak for many others when I say that our faith is the one thing we will never be willing to compromise.

You can hate us and try to break us but we can never be broken. As history has proven many times over, the oppressed always unite and become stronger under the face of their oppression. 
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