islam

The Muslim Empires They Tried To Deny Ever Existed

I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I first started questioning my place in the world but I was very young, still in infant school, not yet a personality in my own right. I remember I still believed in Santa Claus and Christmas was an event that I was very much a part of, from the towering twinkling tree in the school assembly hall to the black bin sacks brimming with toys on Christmas morning. I accepted the nativity as fact, Mary and Joseph had plodded along with their heavy load and Jesus was born in a stable, and the festivities celebrating the day of his birth were meant for everyone. At this age I wasn’t too heavily indoctrinated in the faith ascribed to me by my family, they loved Christmas and celebrated it, coming together as a family but also extending kindness to our neighbours, sharing a box of quality street with the elderly white woman who lived next door, and cheerily welcoming everyone with the season’s greetings.


I wondered why we didn’t go to church. I was taken aback when I was corrected about the virgin Mary and how she was actually called Maryam and married to Yusuf. Isa hadn’t died for our sins but he would be returning. As I grew, in size, and as a person, I very quickly came to the conclusion that religion was a bit like Chinese whispers (or something less racist) and it seemed, to me at least, a way for people to claim they were better, more informed, superior even, compared to the people they didn’t like; for a bunch of other reasons usually, like the colour of their skin or the country they came from. I learned in RE that sometimes brown people were Christians, and sometimes white people were Muslims but I never came into contact with these outliers until I was much older. I was fascinated by history and learned about the Egyptians, albeit on a very basic level but it was enough to spark my interest in world history and how each empire shaped the world. I liked to read in my own time, checking books out at the library but I could never find anything remotely related to my ancestry. I was already in the process of hating myself, my folks, our clothes, and food and perhaps was desperate for something that would set us apart from the rest. We weren’t like all the others, I was adamant about this.


Children might not understand the reasons people are hostile but they certainly perceive it. I noted the aggression with which certain people responded to what seemed like perfectly reasonable and softly spoken requests, at the bank, or job centre, or store. White people who wouldn’t make eye contact and lacked manners. I noted the ways in which my folks ignored the harsh tones and doubled down in their apologism, always feeling slightly embarrassed for their intrusion – often achieving the results they were after, but at great cost to their sense of pride and well-being. They had accepted their lowly status, whatever the reasons for it were and I was acutely aware of how this would impact on my opportunities. I guess that’s when I started to dissociate, splitting my personality. I wasn’t about to bow and scrape for the bear minimum, I was going to assimilate.


I remember learning all about the Spanish inquisition at school but never was there ever a single mention of Muslims. A tremendous feat given they were the primary victims. Even Wikipedia says it was the rulers of Spain who asked the pope to drive out Jews who were pretending to be Christians, and that’s it. Jews were also being targeted but they lived in Al Andalus, Moorish Spain. No mention of the Islamic books and heritage they burnt, or how Islamic Spain had managed to create a peaceful state where Muslims and Jews lived peacefully alongside Christians until the rabid Catholicism of the day slaughtered entire villages, drowning and decapitating children in their beds, raping then stabbing Muslim women through the heart because any offspring would be spoiled. We learned all about the Romans, and Greeks, and the British empire yet nothing of the Moors, or the Mughals who ruled for many centuries and were such learned cultured peoples conducting themselves in genteel ignorance during the middle ages they had no way to anticipate the savage barbarism of cold and hungry Christians, raised by the rod and indiscriminately slaughtered by both state and neighbour alike (much like the East today).


Medieval Europe was a grim fucking stage for the origins of white power. By all accounts they reveled in torture. Ah yes, there was the Magna Carta (England) allegedly holding everything together, but I can bet more people know about it today than did back then. From the peasants to the clergy (who were all powerful) everyone was in it for themselves. If they hadn’t been so wretched they would never have won, in all fairness. To be devoid of humanity is the only true guarantor for success in the pursuit for world domination. You can’t love thy neighbour and feed the poor and be at all comfortable with coercive power and control. Yet this is what they did, the Christians. They lied and manipulated. They forcibly converted Muslims and Jews (the converts were referred to as Moriscos and Marranos, respectively) then killed them anyway. Nobody talks about this, or how Isis and the Taliban are a poor imitation of the conquistadors.


When you have no history you feel untethered, floating in the air with no clues as to where you’ll end up. I have a recurring dream in which I’m trying to get to places, one example being from that old primary school to my family home but I have to measure my stride and watch how I place my feet otherwise I bounce up into the sky, terrified at the velocity sometimes, which can throw me sideways, afraid I will come crashing back down and hurt myself or even die. My attempts at controlling my pace via lucid dreaming have yielded some results, some journeys have even been pleasant but I am not yet a master. I am convinced this is my brain trying to resolve deep rooted anxieties around identity and powerlessness over it. Sometimes I’ll panic because I’m wearing a skirt and no pants and if I don’t control the buoyancy effectively enough everyone on my street might get a flash of my lady parts. Other times I don’t care if they do. Once in a while my granddad is waiting on our porch and I’ll suddenly have to straighten myself out and stand very still, because he cannot know that I have this skill.


I felt as though we can’t have just transpired out of thin air, as a teen, and was determined to learn of my roots. I asked my grandparents, with whom I lived, who my great grandparents were and they gave the name of a great granddad on my granddad’s side and that was it. No great grandmas or great great grandparents. No lineage, no roots, no establishment. I wanted to know what we called the language we spoke at home because it didn’t sound like Punjabi to me. They replied Sikhs had a different dialect and that’s the difference I was hearing. Only, when I grew up, I met other Muslim Pakistanis who said they spoke Punjabi and they honestly did. I came to understand my ‘mother tongue’ is actually a lingua franca of sorts that enabled me to access at least 7 other South Asian languages, with its roots in Farsi. I had always managed to understand my South Asian friends whatever language they spoke at home but they rarely understood me. I had spent my life being told it was a cursed tongue, that it sounded dirty, and worthless, when it was actually a priceless tool. No wonder I found language so interesting, I had exceptional roots.

I registered the slight hesitance in my grandparents whenever I broached the subject of ancestry. They’d tense up. I thought they were embarrassed, especially when they snapped that it was enough. I reasoned it had to be a secret, whatever it was, otherwise they wouldn’t be so eager to change the subject. Perhaps we had been Hindus and this was a fact they had buried, because it was no longer of any use and they did not want to risk reversions.


It was many years later, long after both of theirs passing that I learnt the truth. Muslim history has been effectively erased in Europe. We don’t learn about it in schools, it is not spoken of much in pop culture, any allusions to it, like for example in The Spanish Princess, are post victory, when they are subjugated and at the behest of Catholic monarchs. Queen Isabella enacted a genocide on Spanish Muslims and her daughter Catherine of Aragon married Henry VIII. These moments in history that tie together the bigger picture, the union of these two countries for the sake of all Christiandom, Henry being a cornerstone of British history that is over taught in my opinion, from the many perspective of teams for and against the Tudor tyrant, and his many wives and their friends and foes; to so brazenly leave out the connection to how Europe was shaped by the sword and owes a debt to the world for its ignorant destruction of culture, is surely deliberate and intended to mislead. The Tudors weren’t just special because Henry was a literal ladykiller (what a thing to focus on though, how this country was spearheaded by a domestic abuser), the empire began with his devil spawn. Oh we all learnt about Walter Raleigh sending back spuds from the new world to flatter his queen but they left out the genocide of Native Americans on the curriculum. I guess it would lead to questions about other ethnic majorities on other continents, displaced and erased by the same people. I can see why, teaching a bunch of hormonally charged teenagers the reason they are here today is because you were there for 500+ years and you still haven’t left is asking for trouble. Kids tend to have a stronger sense of injustice than adults who’ve spent a lifetime lying to themselves about what is and isn’t virtuous.

A racist procession marking a time when the Moors ruled Spain (click image for more information) from the 8th century to the 15th yet Wikipedia refers to the Moors as ‘Muslim inhabitants’

Take sexual freedom as one example of the clash of civilisations in medieval Europe. Cold and hungry white Europeans hated sex. They believed it was a sin and a chore, even in marriage, where it was a method for procreation and not pleasure. Perversely a lot of their torture methods centred on the genitals, the pope even had a ‘pear’ for such purposes (google but nsfw). It is sexual freedom among other vices that was cited by Christians as a reason for their victory against the savage Mohammedans. Such lax attitudes concerning pleasures of the flesh had led to their fall from grace in God’s eyes and that is how they lost their empire. To this day, Muslims repeat this harmful life to justify their misogynous control over women and their attitudes towards sex in general. Sick of the way black and brown men/Muslims treat their women? But they learnt from the best. Muslims were making art about how sex was a gift from God before Christians turned that light out in them for good.

Published 15th Century

So what can we do about it now we know? For my part, I’d like to know more about who collected taxes and crops from my ancestors and our land, forcing them to bury grain so they wouldn’t starve. That chap’s descendants owe me and mine. As part of the decolonisation process, reparations are crucial to the healing process, to feeling grounded. Reparations come in lots of forms, acknowledging the histories they tried to erase is a good starting point. As a descendant of Mughals myself, I was only made aware very recently of my rich history. When there is denial and erasure even in families (because the ignominy of having it all and losing it, for not being pious enough, is too much to bear or acknowledge) it’s even harder to begin to unravel the chaos that ensured ten generations of trauma and toxic shame, the true legacy of the British Empire.

Halal? Is it me you’re cooking for?

There are 2 billion Muslims in the world, the majority of them observing halal practices such as the slaughter of animals for food or redistribution of wealth (for example). Halal means permissible, whether this refers to consumption of food products or platonic interactions between the sexes or a bank account that does not accumulate interest, these conditions protect the rights of all human beings to a fair and healthy life.

Muslims, like Jews, and even some Christian factions do not consume pork which is deemed haraam, a sin. Contrary to popular myth it is not because it is a dirty animal but because pork is a perishable meat and prone to parasites like trichinella. From a health perspective it made sense to avoid it 1500-2000 years ago in the middle east but in these times of modern refrigeration and advances in microbiology this argument falls short for those of us who trust in science. God gave us the guidelines, sure, but he also gave us a brain. However, halal does not only refer to the animals that are permitted but the way in which they are slaughtered. There is nothing inherently haraam about a chicken but it is not halal until it is drained of blood in a specific way, whilst the butcher also recites a prayer. Chicken that is prepared for human consumption using western methods is referred to as ‘makruh’, a ‘disliked’ or ‘offensive’ act but in my personal experience, it is not so offensive to some Muslims. In places where halal food is not readily available, makruh is acceptable. The consumption of meat is sunnah; a tradition or way of doing things as the prophet did. There are guidelines for halal marriage and a sunnah to observe, the wedding party should be fed a meal of at least one sheep. Meat consumption is central to a Muslim’s way of life (although there are further hadiths – kinda like the gospels – warning of the dangers of consuming too much).

It bothers me then, that so many white supremacist westerners see fit to take issue with the way other people conduct their faith. Halal rage is a tried and tested trick to whip fascists into a frenzy over faux concerns for animal welfare and Toblerone is the latest to face their ire. A halal certification does not mean a product contains halal ingredients necessarily, it just means it is not haraam. Air is halal. Water is halal. Breathe and drink to your heart’s content unless you are a white supremacist I guess.

It’s not animal welfare they’re concerned with though, if it were they’d start closer to home and consider all the horrific animal abuses Europeans are guilty of, and do something about it. Take Ortolan, the French ‘delicacy’ whereby the bird is placed in a dark cage where it reacts by gorging itself on grain. Once it is sufficiently stuffed it is thrown into a vat of Armagnac where it drowns and marinates. Diners place a napkin on their heads to hide their shame from God yet this practice evades the attention of rabid racists. The French are frogs except when they are white nationalists and allies to other white supremacists. It’s perfectly fine to force feed geese and ducks until their livers are so fatty and diseased they can be sold as a delicacy for exorbitant amounts.

The French are not alone in their barbaric butchery. In Spain lechon, or suckling pig is slaughtered between the ages of 2 and 6 weeks. The method of slaughter is harrowing, the squealing babies are impaled then thrown onto a heap of dying gurgling piglets. It is slow and torturous, from the moment they are torn from their mother’s teat – hence the name lechon, leche meaning milk – and slaughtered without a glance back to witness the suffering or even acknowledge it as such. With hellish conduct like this it is bizarre to consider the comparatively humane method of halal slaughter – and indeed kosher – as somehow more offensive to the genteel sensibilities of the enlightened European. Plucking newborn animals from their mothers maximizes suffering, whether lechon or veal, and it is forbidden in Islam.

No, the fascists don’t care much for the wellbeing of animals, they care only about white supremacy. The idea that there is a company going around, offering deals to manufacturers in exchange for favours, in this case halal certification, is not new. The fascists are afraid Muslims are doing to them what they did to the Muslim world (and beyond). They’re thinking about the East India Trading Company and all the sly manoeuvres they made, coming under the guise of merchants doing business, upending entire nations in the creation of white supremacist imperialism. Without the East India Trading Company there’d be no USA, no British empire, no divisions between the colonies they would subjugate and raze to the ground.

White supremacists don’t care if you kill animals for food, they want everyone to eat bacon sandwiches. Nope, they’re just afraid the chickens are coming home to roost.

Nothing compares to the truth

Sinead O Connor says white people are disgusting and she wants nothing more to do with them and that is her right as a white person and citizen of a country that prides itself on free speech. I’ve lost count of the times I said Pakistanis are disgusting though I have to admit it’s been a fair while since I did. Growing up it was my party trick, to show everyone how much I was not like all the others I’d stroke their egos, demonstrating my eagnerness and willingness to please with my local accent and knowledge of pop culture. I beamed with pride when a random girl on the bus complimented my accent as being so Brummy, you could never tell (that I was a Paki?) and when assorted friends rewarded my compliance, (which often translated into unabashed verbal paki bashing) with praise for how much I was not like all the others, I lapped it up, convinced this endorsement would save me from the racists. I resented it even at the time but I hadn’t fully realised the extent to which I would grow to abhor my own cowardice. I performed like the proverbial monkey, unaware, or perhaps unwilling to recognise the power play, reinforcing my lowly status every time I entered into this dance with my alleged superiors.

When Sinead O’Connor talks about disgusting white people I know who she means. It’s those people I felt compelled to please. I met L when I was 15, as a runaway, isolated, stuck in a rut, desperate for interaction. We were like chalk and cheese and not in that good opposites attract way. Up until my escape I’d been a straight A student and prided myself on learning and bettering myself. I had to dumb myself down so L wouldn’t feel like I was showing off. She was aggressive, using her body to push you where she wanted you. She wasn’t particularly big, just white. It was a feature of our friendship, to constantly reiterate how I’d managed to do well for myself, being friends with these white people on a council estate in Northolt when my folks were so alien and unworthy. She wasn’t the last white person to make me feel this way, I almost married another one. He said very early on in our relationship that he would only say it once but I might be smarter than him. I guess I could have spoken up, if I wasn’t paralysed from fear at the time, when he barked up my street at 3am it was his country and he’d talk as loud as he’d like, when I asked him to keep it down because people were sleeping. I was disgusted with his behaviour but didn’t locate my backbone until the relationship ended and I could finally be honest with myself. In the end I was grateful for the lesson, how white people will use a single person of colour to shield themselves against accusations of racism, all the while exerting unchecked white privilege to say and do as they please with no consequences.

These white people behaved in disgusting ways, and they are by no means the exception. When I said Pakistanis were disgusting I was reacting to the microaggressions we absorb as soon as we are able to verbalise. The racialised system of deserving and undeserving which places Pakistanis at the very bottom, in Asia but also the world. We are a slur weaponised against all South Asians, even non Asian Muslims. I had the impression Pakistani men were the most lecherous, the most violent, until I started working in domestic violence services. It was a long process but once I had made the decision to let the veil drop I was coasting. It was so much easier for me to be anti racist, to listen and go with my gut. So much less stress. Of course this means conflict is almost a permanent feature of my life but I’m nobody’s bitch. Being your own person of colour, respecting your past and acknowledging the hurdles your ancestors took for you to exist today, that’s empowering. Shaking the white gaze away from your eyes to see the strength of character and sheer bloody mindedness it took to survive the barbaric British empire, when it set out to destroy our cultures and peoples and very nearly succeeded, is catharthic and goes a little way to heal the fractures in our psyche.

I no longer think of Pakistanis as disgusting but broken and doing the best we can. We were and still are treated disgustingly by disgusting people wearing whiteness like armour against criticism of their inhumane and savage treatment of non whites. If you’re white and you found Ms O’Connor’s comments disgraceful consider the following:

You are a racist. A revisionist. A liar. A fake.

I thank Sinead O’Connor for having the courage to speak up in these threatening times. By making herself a target she takes some of the heat off the usual punching bags, and gives marginalised people everywhere a smidgen of hope that things are slowly changing, the world is righting itself.

IC a Muslim

As an ethnic, a large percentage of my time is spent thinking about ethnics and how they fare in the world at any given time. It’s my life so I like to take stock of my opportunities and limitations and am always aware of how the way in which we are viewed affects the ‘sliding door’ points of my journey. I like to check my privilege, or how little of it I have. I do this often.

After 9/11, my world was irrevocably changed. The white women I had previously consumed Lambrini and cake with (I made my best efforts to fit in) were now sat on the other side of a clear divide, and I’m not talking about the partition between us in the call centre. Those of us buying western propaganda and believing brown Muslims were to blame for everything and the rest of us; Muslims, brown people, people that look like Muslims and those with an easy tan. There were some who bitterly chided that the West was a fool to think there would never be repercussions, that the raping and looting of the rest of the world had inevitably come back to bite them in the ass but the majority of voices asked for calm, embarrassed that the actions of a few would have such devastating consequences for billions of people. This did not mean a thing to the white faces poring down on us, suddenly we were liars and not to be trusted. I will never forget the way I was instantly placed into the group that we must not believe. I didn’t practise Islam. I wore the clothes of my peers. But I was that beige-y brown people can’t quite place, the unnerving ‘other’; IC4 but I’m not sure what I’m seeing.

In the weeks that followed, I’d catch my breath every time I’d hear about a woman having her veil torn from her head. A group of men were aboard the first plane that turned the world on its axis. MEN. But there were many women who suffered because of it. Sikhs too, on account of wearing a turban that symbolises the East to many who do not have the education to distinguish between cultures never mind race (and this, their own construction). What could the non-white people of the world do except accept their fate and apologise for people they have no allegiances with? For my part, the first time I was confronted with the Al Qaeda/Taliban/Osama Bin Laden theory, I was shunned for asking for patience. On this occasion ‘due process’ ceased to exist. I was either in agreement that brown terrorists made this happen or on the side of the terrorists themselves. I lost ‘friendships’ and was devastated by this at the time. Of course, now I see them for the racist imperialist fucks they are and take comfort in the hard life lessons learnt; I was not born equal but I would make it my life’s mission to tell everybody about it. They can tout me as deluded or contrarian but every so often the world reveals its oppression of me and those like me. Or non-whites if we’re going to be honest.

Jean Charles de Menezes was one of them. If we had any hopes of restitution post 9/11 (not from guilt but from between a rock and a hard place) the events of 7/7 dashed any chance of rebuilding the fearful paranoid Britain we found ourselves in. Menezes was not Muslim or South Asian, or an Arab. He just shared a similar tone of skin. What about his appearance made him look Muslim? Whatever it was, he paid with his life. We can’t bring him back. An apology from the establishment doesn’t cut it, he is gone forever. But his legacy lives on; every time non-whites are scrutinised in this way, feared and monstered beyond all recognition. Yesterday, a self-identifying ‘high Tory’ held me up as an example of a Muslim preoccupied with her own safety, failing to take into account the young fallen soldier. This, as an example of home-grown terrorism, how people like me exist to serve only their own kind. Firstly, I am NOT a Muslim. As someone who was dragged up under a totalitarian extremist regime, I should by rights have the privilege of reviewing the particular sect I grew up under. It would be perfectly reasonable for someone like me to express a negative opinion on a subject I know far more about. But I don’t.  I understand the world for the vast space it is and I’m damned if I feed the trolls. Secondly, I exist for myself but also for the people around me. I cannot understand the individual expects to flourish and succeed unless everyone else is also comfortable. That is selfish, that is greed. It describes Imperialism perfectly and people tend to view the world as thinking and behaving in the same way they do. They are wrong. When you have less privilege, you are grateful for the bits you can enjoy and in my experience; people with less tend to share more. The less privileged you are, the greater the chance you will become political. Or cynical.

In recent weeks we have been subjected to one horrific revelation after another; Britain’s darlings are wanted in connection with the systematic sexual abuse and mistreatment of minors. A pattern was emerging; white, middle to upper class, members of the establishment and big names in the entertainment industry. We were oh so close to identifying a trend that, for the first time would hold white men of power to account. That just suddenly changed didn’t it?

Black men hacked a young white man to death in broad daylight. They killed him and then calmly put it to the camera that they were fighting back. The other white people at the scene seemed to hang about without the perceived threat they were ‘under attack’. The killers calmly spoke to a white woman, she had enough detail to give a full page interview.

White people, if you seriously were under attack, would there not have been a massacre instead of what is clearly a targeted attack against one individual?

British government and media, why is this being presented as an unprecedented attack on a serving British soldier on British soil?

Four soldiers were killed at The King’s Arms, also in Woolwich, at the barracks not far from where the soldier lost his life yesterday. It was November 1974. The bombings were part of a year long mainland campaign by the IRA’s Active Service Unity.

How can we allow them to lie to us like this?

I am standing at the intersection and blinking slowly whilst this all sinks in. I haven’t the time to sign a petition for women to feature on banknotes. I am hyper vigilant and unable to sleep because my fellow human is under attack. I am under attack. I checked out the RadFems hoping for righteous condemnation of the way in which society is manipulating the kyriarchy as we speak but nada.

I did not ask to be born. I did not ask for this colour of skin. I didn’t even ask to be British if you think about it. When I am angry, when I ask why you don’t understand, it is from this position of loneliness and frustration. I want equality for women, this is patently true. But I also want equality for the non-whites, the others, the ones who have to deal with the shit that has nothing to do with us.

Without it, there is no ‘equality’.

The British Government and Media: Recognise that non white Brits are currently being terrorised

https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/the-british-government-and-media-recognise-that-non-white-brits-are-currently-being-terrorised?share_id=oZoQlwdEze&utm_campaign=twitter_link_action_box&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=share_petition … 

These are my privileges

Towards the end of last year I was hit with a couple of uncomfortable truths. My immediate reaction was to balk at the suggestions and defend myself with what I thought were righteous assertions. The first, that I as a British Asian woman had the right to feel suspicious of Muslim men as a result of the hounding I had been subjected to my entire life and secondly, there was no way my age could be considered a privilege because I had spent most of those years running away from my complete lack of said privilege. I also hadn’t completely got to grips with my cis privilege and didn’t know how to react to a trans woman of colour attacking me for alienating her. I didn’t know what I had done wrong and felt it was unnecessary. But I was willing to learn. And the reason for this is because I respected the people highlighting these issues with me and I wanted us to feel equal.

I did not want to rubbish the opinions of the people I respect even if my immediate reaction was one of disagreement. It was one of my new found intersectional friends who pointed it out to me. It was easy to reject his analysis because he was a university educated white male and it felt a little bit like control. His manner was unforgiving and he sounded like all the other men who have ever told me I was wrong. I was distrusting of this guy because he felt a university education was not a privilege. Lacking a formal education myself, I disagreed. But then another of my fledgling friends said the same thing. We were from similar backgrounds so when she said it, I had the realisation that I couldn’t ignore this, I would have to tackle my prejudices. I had to realise the world for the vast space that it is. Taking into account the meta narrative, the way in which ethnic minorities and in particular, Islam is portrayed was a good start. We are socialised into feeling a certain way about a group. Growing up, a community of a few hundred Muslim men made my life a misery. Add to this the monstering of Asian men and Islam, especially post 9/11 and it’s hardly surprising I would feel this way. I could not hold billions of people responsible for the community I belonged to. And I should reject the world as it is presented to me by the ruling classes. The predominantly white ruling classes.

The privilege of age was one it took a while to get my head around. I feel like I’ve only really been alive for a couple of years, savouring the little things that make life worth living is a relatively new thing for me. Up until the point of my breakdown I was merely surviving. I resisted the notion that I was privileged just because I’d a few more years on this earth. But then, watching my young friend and the ways in which she is ignored, undermined, caricaturised and only because she was 17, I began to understand what she meant. I made a promise to myself that I would make an extra effort to hear what she had to say, actively giving her a platform before others. It’s difficult because the hierarchical structures we have in place are entrenched in our way of thinking, because we have life experience we are ‘older and wiser’ but this isn’t necessarily true. We can always think and feel a bit better. We do not know everything.

When a trans woman of colour found me on Twitter and flew into a rage before we’d even been introduced, my immediate reaction was one of fear. I didn’t understand what was happening and I was really working on the whole privilege thing so couldn’t understand why she was so angry. I was afraid that I had done/said something but could not recall anything obvious and this worried me. Had I been abusive or dismissive and not noticed? I asked my trans* friends and they explained that as white trans women, life was difficult enough, being a trans woman of colour made you invisible. I was reassured that I had said nothing wrong. I worked at understanding her reaction. I’d been through life feeling as though I didn’t exist and I had been that angry too. To the outside world it might have seemed misplaced but not in my mind. Why couldn’t anyone see me and make it better?

It is your white friends that give you an idea of what it is to feel like a whole person. For a system to work you need compliance. If, from birth, you are treated as less, you will believe it your whole life through. I know I did. It’s why I remained in abusive relationships. It’s why I went out with white men who openly treated me like a brown trophy. It is my white (thoroughly human) friends who made me aware of this. The ways in which we are treated, the things that are said to us are simply intolerable to people have been brought up free (read: white). My friends show me when I am being subtly manipulated or treated in a substandard way. Of course when I am routinely stopped at airports I am instantly aware of how I am being treated differently.

I have always felt the power structure and even though it’s not been in my best interests, I have been somewhat resistant to it. The white saviour men have been washed out of my hair. The white friends who are proud to be British show themselves for the colonial masters that they are.  I was that special Asian, the one white people warmed to “you’re not like all the others”. I had a raging distrust of my own kind; I believed what they said in the papers. Y’see, in this country we get a wave of immigration and all the immigrants that came before are eager to show how they’re not like those work shy scroungers. Britain is at its best when it’s dividing and ruling. And I totally bought it for almost 30 years. I liked being a white pet and enjoyed the privileges it afforded; less overt racism than my peers. My Asian peers didn’t like this; I was accused of wanting to be white.  Luckily for me, I have a conscience and it was only a matter of time before it dawned on me that I was just like the rest and in denying this, was a question of my own integrity.

I also found that a lot of white people will never see you as anything but brown. They are actively encouraged to be proud of their empirical heritage. Like rape, war, genocide is easily forgiven when Britain is so ‘welcoming’ to the people of its former colonies. Mind you behave how they want you to though. You are not allowed a culture, an opinion without it being heavily scrutinised for terrorism. Someone called me a fool recently for saying the white man I had been engaged to was racist. He laughed at me once when I came down wearing a pair of mismatched pyjamas. He thought it was a ‘very Asian’ thing to do. HOW? The white brain thinks all of your quirks are attributed to the colour of your skin. Never mind the fact that he was in my bed, he pointed out every little thing that made me Asian. The hair on my body, the time I rubbed his feet, the bond that I had with my family; ALL ASIAN. When you are that obsessed by someone’s race, it is fair to say you might be racist. Especially when you think having an Asian fiancé is winning one back for the team. Well, those Asian boys love a bit of white meat, it’s only fair. If I hadn’t been seriously mentally unwell at the time, I wouldn’t have given him a second look. I don’t regret it though, he taught me a lot about this world.

I’ve had many a white person challenge the racism I have experienced in the past week. They’ve been looking for the P word or the N word and because they haven’t seen any evidence of it, I must be lying and using the race card. Racism and prejudice is not limited to language but rather the way in which we’re made to experience the world. It’s how they make us feel. There hasn’t been anything unusual about the manner in which I’ve been ridiculed or challenged. It is word for word the same as it has always been. Remember it is not your intention, but how you make somebody feel. If you have any respect or love for your critics, you are willing to change or at least think about it from their angle. My anger and my reactions have come as a result of feeling deeply disrespected and unwanted.

The onus is not on me, the oppressed, to make amends.

Monotheism and the War on Women

“..Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you” Genesis 3:16

The Church of England is procrastinating whether women deserve equal promotion to senior clergy, initially proposing legislation that would mean “it would have enshrined in law the very prejudices against which supporters of female bishops have battled so long. It would, they say, create a two-tier system in which not only female bishops, but men who ordained women or who had themselves been ordained by women, would be considered second-rate.” Meanwhile in Afghanistan, Taliban tribesmen are using ‘Sharia’ law to execute women ‘accused’ of adultery. Religions the world over proclaim peace and equality whilst consistently using their beliefs to promote power and control of women.

As someone who was indoctrinated into an Abrahamic faith from a very young age, I have my issues with religion and whether it can ever be considered supportive of the feminist cause. God is masculine. His first human was male. His first female wasn’t designed exclusively of her own flesh and bone; she was created from one of man’s ribs. In another tradition, Eve is described as being the second wife of Adam. Lilith was God’s first female creation, an equal; she refused to ‘sleep or serve under him’ and was banished for knowing her own mind. This version of events is not in any of the holy books. When God is a man (and a blond blue eyed one, at that) and all the prophets, disciples and saints (more or less) are also men, as a woman you face one of two choices. Accept that man is wiser; pure and blessed, and revere him as the creator and administrator of the life force OR open your eyes, revel in your ability to create fullstop and accept you might have been a little duped by the men holding the pens who, 2-3000 years ago orchestrated the abomination that is the subjugation of women through ‘original sin’.

Several thousands of years of being so tempting to poor, pure man that he cannot control his own impulses and only because he is so gullible and naïve; when confronted with an apple, he cannot control the urge to take a bite. Eve might have presented the apple but she didn’t force Adam to eat it. How old is Adam? Small children and perpetrators of abuse often bemoan “they made me do it!” And apparently God, the highly strung sleep deprived parent took Adam’s word for it and grounded Eve! Loving and understanding and forgiving God gave Eve pain. What should be a joyful miracle of creation marred forever more by Eve’s seductive ways. Obviously I don’t really believe this. Evacuating a fully formed human out of your body takes a lot of effort and is going to be extremely painful. Not punishment but rather basic human physiology.

Allegorically, the Old Testament is anti-feminist. It describes to men the punishment they face if they are swayed by feminine wiles. Did Eve nag Adam into taking a bite? Eve is beguiled by the snake, all slithery and penis like. He tempts her and she tempts him. And then because they know it all, God banishes them from Heaven. Desire is bad. Temptation is bad. It’s all woman’s fault.

Without desire and temptation, one is pure and worthy of God’s affection. Except God made each and every one of us horny! Yet men from all over the world don’t seem to want to own their desires. It’s easier to blame the witches and wenches. What is the value of female life when the honour between two warriors of Allah is at stake?

Is this why religious institutions openly defend their rights to exclude their female believers from more involved roles? There is a belief that they will tempt the holy men of the clergy into debauchery by being so pervasive and goddamn sexy?

We recoil in horror and our politicians condemn the slaughter of a woman whose country they want to pillage for all their natural resources. We’re more ‘civilised’ here in the West, we exclude and eliminate women through proper bureaucratic channels. The centuries old witch trials of burning free thinking women at the stake are a distant memory for many.

If we are all equal in God’s eyes, why can’t they prove it?

Religious men and child abuse

It was a long hut made of corrugated metal and plastic. They’d constructed it to fit on the side of the house, the back door in the middle just to the right of where the molvi sat on his throne of cushions. There were long benches, a foot off the floor, leaving a space where you would put your knees. We would sit in the prayer position, legs tucked underneath, feet splayed out to the side. He had a shorter bench in front of him; when it was your turn, you would go to him to read. The girls sat to his left and the boys to right. Being closer to the door, the boys always got to leave first. We’d stare on, those few minutes dragging.

I was 4 the first time I was sent to a madrassa to be taught Arabic and Urdu. It was a fair distance from where we lived but my mother would walk us there every day after school. There was just enough time for a quick cup of tea and a couple of biscuits before setting off to arrive just before 5pm. I vaguely remember the noise and close proximity of other children; all rocking back and forth, reciting parrot fashion the Arabic/Urdu alphabet; Aleph – Annar, Beh – Bakra, Theh, Tahthi.. Snapshots of a space in time I have very little memory of but a period during which I happened to learn an alien alphabet, progressing onto the first few chapters of the Quran. Alien because I could read it; recite it off by heart, but with very little understanding of what I was saying. Urdu and Arabic have a very similar alphabet and structure. Urdu was easy to understand, it sounded very similar to the languages spoken at home. But Quranic Arabic is art. It is complex and difficult to master. It was a language I didn’t understand. Shortly after I’d begun the evening classes, we were moved to the plastic and metal madrassa closer to home. By the time I left aged 11, I had read and recited it 3 times and was preparing to memorise the whole thing. I left because I could not take anymore. I had reached an age where I was able to make the decision that what I was experiencing was not normal and I did not want it. I was prepared to face the consequences.

When finding my niche, I did not have to struggle too much. I found learning fun, possibly a distraction, and had an aptitude for it. It helped endear me to the family; they had someone to pin their hopes and dreams on. I progressed very quickly through the Quran; chapter by chapter I impressed not only my family but my teacher. He would ask me to read louder so the other children could hear and ask for me to perform prayer, to show them all how it was done. I cannot remember feeling any joy in showing off my talents. Whilst eager to please, I was painfully shy. Inside I was sinking but I would do what was requested of me because I was afraid. He had a selection of sticks, bamboo and walking, in varying thicknesses. The thinner they were the more they stung. The thicker ones would leave a bruise but he saved those for the boys. Depending on his mood, your punishment was either swift; with a lash on your hand or behind or more in the way of suffering over a prolonged period of time. Children, as young as five and as old as 14, were made to hold stress positions. Kursi means chair in Urdu. Standing, you were required to hold your body in a chair like position, for maybe an hour at a time. If he saw you straighten or you shifted through pain from a cramp, you were beaten with a stick and made to resume position. Make like a chair, or a chicken. Bent all the way forwards, your arms round the back of your legs, you had to grip your ears from between your legs, holding the position for more than an hour.

We were all subjected to these punishments, boys and girls. The molvi relished barking these orders, his eyes moving over your body as you struggled to keep still. I can’t remember how old I was when I first recognised his gaze as something that was unacceptable. I had chosen to sit with my friends at the far end of the hut; it is there I first learnt about sex. I had already seen porn; my father didn’t think to protect us from such things. Aged 7, I’d innocently pressed play on the VCR on his room, my siblings sat on the floor around me. At first, I struggled to identify what I was seeing, I thought they were wrestling. And then, a close up. Horrified I reasoned the man was hurting the woman and hurriedly turned it off, shooing my siblings out of the room. I would later discover all manner of magazines and videos and toys. As I joined the dots in my head, I became increasingly distant and withdrawn from my father. Once, I discovered a video of a couple with their daughter. I never let my dad hug me ever again. We weren’t particularly tactile but that was the nail in the coffin for our father/daughter relationship. I was afraid. And I was also determined to leave the madrassa.

He picked on me exclusively. Or maybe he didn’t and I just felt alone. Aged 10, I was a young developer. My chest had begun to swell and I was due my first period. I’ve read up on studies where girls whose fathers are estranged from the mother begin menstruating, on average, 6 months before their secure peers. From my place at the far end of the hut, I could have a giggle with the other girls; we would make fun of this stupid sex thing and vow it was never going to happen to us. But it wasn’t to last. Just as I began my first period, he insisted I move to sit right next to him.

Knees tucked in, facing the wall, he was sat to my left facing the opposite way. He sat so close to me, his thigh was right against mine. He would stroke my side, pinch my ribs. It was all unwanted. Where once he had stroked my knees, now his hands would wonder up my inner thigh, stopping short of actually touching me between the legs.

In Islam, girls and women are prohibited from touching the Holy Quran during their periods because bleeding is considered unclean.  I risked damnation by continuing to do so. I didn’t want anyone to know I had begun bleeding. I was ashamed of it; I was only the 3rd girl in my class at school to have started. At this very early stage of womanhood, I was disgusted by the way my body functioned and utterly afraid of how God would punish me for touching the Quran with my unholy fingers. I would wrap a corner of my burqa around my finger so I wasn’t directly touching it.

He yawned, loudly and stretched his arms up wide and then brought his hand down hard to slap me square on the chest. Of course, this was incredibly painful but I stifled my reaction. He felt my barely even there breasts, lingering and stroking. I knew this was wrong. The way he sneered at me, touched my body at his every whim, I was completely dominated. And unable to tell anyone. I was sure they wouldn’t believe me anyway, he was like a local celebrity. A man of God, he was respected and the community would bend over backwards for the good work he did for them.. Educating a new generation of Muslims. He had the opposite effect on me. I became very un-Muslim. I had started to challenge God and thought he must be a pervert too, for allowing these things to happen. This wasn’t my God but a God for men who did whatever pleased them. It was the same God my father, grandfather and uncles held up as an example. And they were all bad people.

Finally, aged 11 I summoned up the courage to say no. My mother would complain that I was a lovely little girl before I’d started secondary school and she could just not understand why I was rebelling now. I refused to get ready for mosque. On arriving home after school, I would lock myself up in the bathroom. A couple of times, my father managed to beat the bathroom door down and slapped me about for being so defiant. But this would last at least half an hour into the lesson so I successfully managed to avoid it. It was only after one of the last beatings in this chapter that I disclosed what had happened to me. My father had dragged me onto the ground by my hair and was kicking me on the floor. I managed to escape and ran upstairs to my bedroom, my mother followed behind. “What is wrong with you?” She pleaded. And I just blurted it all out.

“You, you send me there. To that man. But he touches me! And you won’t stop him”.

She froze. I remember clearly that her eyes darkened and glazed over and she stopped, her breathing silent again. And that’s all I remember. Nothing was ever said or done. It was never mentioned to me again.

I remember it every time I hear a Catholic church story, and wonder how many millions of children suffer in silence at mosques. Of course they might not, but how would we know? Grassroots madrassas are rife in local communities. They are not affiliated with the local government and there is no way of ensuring they adhere to child protection guidelines. I am also reminded of the practice of removing body hair as part of your religion. I have made an association between religious men, the rules and paedophilia. I don’t think anyone could blame me for feeling this way.