You are exactly like all the others, whatever they say

If you were one of those people who insisted it is not Islamophobic to scrutinise Islam and Muslim people when you are neither of those things yourself then you personally contributed to the actions which led to a Sikh man being identified as a Muslim terrorist (by Gamergate trolls who exist only to torment vulnerable people cos ethics) and reported to the rest of the world before the information was even verified. This happened beacause the western world is largely ignorant of the rest of us and experiences it as a sort of quaint skewed little fairy tale which best fits their centuries old prejudices. The media were fooled because they are perhaps the most ignorant of the bunch and a brown face to them is always a terrorist. When a poc is probably responsible, as it is whenever there’s a disaster then due process becomes a privilege only afforded to white people. It’s consistent with the experience I have of the western world, where it doesn’t matter what you do to distinguish yourself from all the others, you’ll always be a paki, regardless of whether or not you are actually from Pakistan.

I’ve been asked where I’m from more times than whether I’ve had a good day, I know this much without doing the maths. Once upon a time I humoured it and asked people to guess and they did; Maltese, Greek, Arab, Iranian, Afghani, Latina, the list goes on and on. White people literally see colour before they see anything else and depending on your answer to this question draw conclusions before you need say anything further. I was always wary of saying Pakistani because I’d grown up feeling like the proverbial shit on one’s shoe for no apparent reason, it was just a feeling that was ever present. I used to say I was Kashmiri and this was partly true, my mum hails from there but I always had a sense it was preferable to identify as Indian, as all the Muslim Indians I knew liked to rub it in, for why, I had no idea, but it was there, this unspoken rule. I imagine now it was the residual tenets of divide rule and conquer which had passed down the generations, infecting us before we were even born. It’s apparent in the token few who deny our existence and experiences of the world so that white people can write us off as bullies and attention seekers, this idea that we must only object because we are jealous and not genuinely critical for the greater good. They will attach themselves to each other as allies and ambassadors for one another just to keep you out and struggling.

The ignorant world we find ourselves in is a direct consequence of white supremacists and their token allies. Every time a white person says to you you are not like all the others and you’re actually some kind of special snowflake, it is a lie. You are maybe a toy to the person who says that to you, someone they can wind up and watch make a fool of themselves but you are most definitely just like the others to all the white people you haven’t yet met, and probably most definitely the person who would say such a racist thing in the first place. If you’re a poc and you’re still struggling with observing and identifying divide rule and conquer, if Veerender Jubbal’s case has not made your blood run cold in horror, that the people in control of narratives can get it so very wrong, then you alone will be responsible for the ways in which you are abused.

A Sikh man (wearing a Sikh turban which is completely different to other brown people’s head coverings) can be thrust onto the world stage without his consent, without any viable reason for this attack on his identity (not that racist targeting is a viable reason even when the subject is Muslim), have a Quran photoshopped into his hands (replacing the ipad) and the media will probably get away with it, but we mustn’t let them. Remember that time little old me made a mistake that barely a few thousand people will have seen (though they will have most definitely witnessed my unprompted apology) yet the media acted as though I had killed someone with my false allegation of racism, the way they used it to whip me with because it was just such a terrible thing to accuse someone of being a racist shitheel. Well it’s actually worse to be a victim of racism, even more than being falsely accused in a system where actually, racism is inherent, it being a proud nation built on the looting and erasure of other people and cultures, and unrepentant in its ways.

The media is massively racist, whatever they might say. They just proved it.

The White Supremacist’s War on WoC (Trigger Warning)

I was thinking about writing this piece a week or so ago but was struggling to think of an introduction, there were many issues I felt I had to raise but couldn’t decide which would go first. You may have read ‘It’s not about me’ where I purged the horror of the injustice currently sweeping Britain, it was a response to all those critics who twist the points activists are trying to make into the delusional ramblings of a narcissist. Well, I think I made that point. It’s not about me; it is about all of us. If it happens to a random person on the street, it could happen to you. Unfortunately, it very recently happened to me too.

After a safe night with close friends, my best friend and I boarded a bus home. We were among the first to get on so we took the two seats closest to the front on the top deck. Usually, a male ally of ours escorts us home from wherever we are, at great cost to him. He lives about the furthest you can get from where we’re based. So on this occasion, we reassured him we’d be fine. Engrossed in conversation I felt safe with my female friend. We look after each other.

The bus slowly filled as the clubs closed their doors. Behind us, a young male started sniggering and leaned towards us to mumble something. Initially we just stared at him, trying to process what was happening. When he wouldn’t give up, I asked him to stop because he was interrupting an important conversation with my friend. This male was beige. Y’know, coloured. His right hand man was white. The two of them continued to goad us, with what I can’t even remember, because of what happened next. Scared and angry I raised my voice and announced these men were harassing us. The bus jeered. They told us to shut up and stop making a scene. Now raging on adrenalin, I told the man if he didn’t back off, I would have to smash him. Suddenly I was faced with a bus full of people who thought we were wrong. Shaking, my friend and I turned to sit but the boys would not let it drop. Spurred on by the reaction, they continued to swear at us. It was like a bad nightmare. How could this be real? And then the white man called me a paki.

I stopped for a second. Time slowed down. I looked at my bare legs, my uncovered hair and my then my friend’s face. (He didn’t, did he? Yeah, yeah he did. But what are you gonna do about it Sam?) I was thinking. Then I bellowed what he said to the rest of the bus. A crowd of white faces cheered, some white people looked awkward and the black man I picked out rolled his eyes in disbelief but then looked down at the floor. The white male lunged at my white friend and she pushed him back. Both of them were on their feet about to attack us.

Seating on the seats adjacent to us were a young male and female. They were strangers but had been making gender appropriate chit chat. The male suddenly shot up and told us we should leave the bus. I responded not a fucking chance in hell and the boys would have to leave. We compromised when the strange couple swapped seats with us. The young woman, outwardly appearing white middle class attempted to sympathise “Well, I’m Jewish so I know how it feels” but she was one of the ones laughing when it was all kicking off. She overheard me talking to my friend about the unacceptable thing that had just happened and defended herself by saying it was nervous laughter. Dunno about you but I have never laughed when ANYONE has been racially abused. Could she have white privilege?

I’m not going to report this to Tell Mama UK. Y’see I’m not Muslim. I’m just brown. I wonder how many other non-Muslim people have had to endure an attack like that. I’ve received the odd tweet and word about friends and friends of friends having to defend themselves but how many other PoC are facing this kind of persecution? How many do not report? How many suffer in silence? I have respect for the organisation for making some of us aware of what is happening but I probably can’t turn the other cheek, ever. I am hoping that standing up to these pricks will make them think twice about harassing another woman ever again. A man ‘splained to me once how we were making it worse for ourselves by fighting back. No. If we don’t, we maintain the status quo. Granted, some people find it more difficult than others and there are reasons why some people can’t but I for one will shout and scream when my personal space is invaded. My body and time is mine. Random strange men do not have an automatic right to me.

What is it about men that allows them to behave towards women of colour in this way? My friend was also abused, no doubt, but she acknowledged the additional traumatic stress of racism. The two pronged attack that WoC contend with on a daily basis. They hurt us because we are women but also because we are not white. They see us as being relatively vulnerable compared to white women. They see us as easy pickings.

When the fascists attacked the pregnant Muslim woman in Paris, she appealed to them for the sake of her unborn child. They responded by kicking her repeatedly in the stomach. How could the foetus survive? I wonder if there is a huge Catholic campaign against fascists kicking unborn babies out of Muslim bellies. If there is, I’ll be happy to hear it exists. Preserve those lives that are wanted.

However, it is worrying that the pregnant woman in Paris has become the focus of all the media regarding attacks on Muslims. Google ‘Muslim woman attacked’ and every story is about the forced miscarriage. Google ‘Muslim attacked’ and bar one or two incidents, the focus is still on the same story. When our sister in India lost her life to a brutal gang rape, the media reported very little on other rapes and most people believed it was India’s problem. Rapists did not stop raping, the media stopped reporting. It sensationalised a single case. That is what is happening now; Muslims and other non-whites like me are being attacked but as long as the problem lies with one pregnant woman in France, we can ignore it. Except how many people know she wasn’t the only Muslim woman to have suffered in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil? I wonder what happened to the other three.

What about the 212 victims in the UK? We know some of them were mosques but I’d be interested to see the male/female ratio. There have been seventeen incidents of assault including 11 cases where racists attempted to remove Islamic clothing. I wonder if they are all women too.

This assault on women of colour, this war they have constructed, it is iniquitous. People in power, stop expecting those oppressed to find better ways of defending themselves and banish those who seek to oppress them.

Or else admit you “literally couldn’t give a shit about it”.

It’s not about me (TW)

It’s about the pregnant 21 year old Muslim woman who was beaten so savagely, her foetus was stillborn.

It’s about the 18 year old activist Clement Meric, beaten so badly he was left brain dead.

It’s about the young woman from the North of England knocked unconscious when she was attacked from behind.

It’s about the Muslim boarding school that was burnt down whilst the boys lay sleeping. Two of them were treated for smoke inhalation.

It’s about the 78 year old grandmother beaten for being brown and defenceless.

It’s about my comrades; black, white, Asians, Jews, queer, trans* and everything in between.

It’s about protecting them from Nazi/police brutality.

It’s about the state questioning my motives for reporting malicious communication regarding Muslims and suggesting my offence was borne from my religion. I have repeatedly told them I am an atheist.

It’s because we are brown and not white British that we cannot respond to YouGov polls questioning the threat against the ‘indigenous’ population. Personally, my 31 years of citizenship mean nothing.

It’s when they ask how British Muslim communities can protect themselves, not how they will ban the fascists hurting them.

It’s about my little nieces and nephews and their futures. I wish them long lives.

It’s about the focus on braaaahn perpetrators and paedophiles whilst the white ones get away with 15 months in prison cos 13 victims aren’t as serious as Savile’s 1300.

It’s about the soldiers who sexually abused minors in Afghanistan but escaped punishment because of the effect on THEIR families. What about the minors and their families?

It’s about the solider who punched a woman in the face but escaped punishment just because he’s an outstanding soldier otherwise. That’d be murdering civilians I guess.

It’s about the systematic rape and abuse perpetrated by Western forces in countries around the world.

It is about the value of a white life compared to the valueless non-whites.

It’s about changing our names, wearing their clothes, eating their food and still being rejected for not being white enough.

It’s about the fascists’ right to protest. It’s about the police facilitating hate.

It’s about people of colour being openly racially abused on our transport system. No fear of reprisal from their attackers but a sense of entitlement.

It’s the fact that police are reporting 8 Islamophobic attacks a day where there was previously 1. Why didn’t we nip it in the bud?

It’s about reverse racism and the audacity of white people to suggest we control their lives in the same way they control ours. This denial of power and control dynamics is offensive.

It’s about the way whole communities of non-whites are treated as a hive whereas white people are individuals.

It’s about the systematic monstering of non-white men whilst white men are free to abuse women and children and retain their hordes of adoring fans.

It’s about the accusations those in power throw at us; that somehow we’re just doing it for the kudos, instead of defending the right for everyone to live a non-threatening life.

It’s about the ease with which WoC are erased from the narrative, by painting them as delusional, hateful and provocative. Cos of course, we don’t ever tell the truth.

It’s about the abuse women in hijabs suffer. Somehow they are more controlled and oppressed for covering their bodies. Uncover yours and see them blame you for your own rape.

It’s about the white men attacking women in hijabs. Clearly the men are too much of a challenge.

It’s about those non-whites so desperate for acceptance that they support the oppressor. Token non-whites need help.

It’s about the way the media do not report the impending threat to non-whites everywhere.

It’s about the way terrorism has been defined as an act of defiance against the white majority. When non-whites are terrorised, they are simply being hated for who they are.

It’s about the way they sneer at you for ‘attention seeking’. Damn right I am seeking to draw attention to the unacceptable systems of control we are under in this godforsaken world. Solidarity with all likeminded activists.

It’s about the parallels modern day Britain draws with genocides of yesteryear. The dehumanisation of groups of peoples.

It’s about our ‘comrades’ allying themselves with people who wish us dead. No platform for bigots, ever.

It’s about the way victims are required to be humble and vulnerable to establish their victimhood. Defending oneself makes you just as bad as the other. Erm no, doesn’t work like that.

It’s about the accountability all Muslims face for uttering the words “Allahu Akbar”. Can’t see us asking the same of the queen when the fascists sing her anthem.

It’s about the way we are dismissed for being educated middle class academics on the fringes of actual people of colour’s lived experiences. Couldn’t be more wrong could they?

It’s about the everyday murder, rape, brutality faced by those considered subhuman by the white people in power.

It’s about feeling the pain of others who share the colour of your skin, your sex, your environment.

If you don’t understand that, then you are part of the problem.

The Atheist Delusion

I was 5 years old the first time I entered a mosque. As with every other situation in my young life, I wasn’t given a choice or informed about this new experience, I was simply led to this new building and I did what I was told to do. I learnt Arabic and Urdu, I wore a burqa and I memorised the last 30 surahs of the Quran. I didn’t exactly pray 5 times I day but my early years were spent in preparation for this. Even when I was asleep I would dream that one day I would do a pilgrimage to Mecca and all would become clear, I was somehow chosen and enlightened and my faith would get me through this, my living nightmare, because God knew and only He could make it go away.

My grandparents were staunch Muslims, or at least their definition of it. When I think about some of the cautionary tales told to me as a kid and how hungrily I lapped them up, I am amazed at myself that I am now a ‘non-believer’. Hellfire was a common feature. For the first decade of my life, I believed I had an angel on each shoulder, documenting all deeds good and evil. I was told we had to cover our hair was because otherwise Satan would urinate on it. I was told I couldn’t cut my hair because our religion forbade it. There were a million and one reasons to control every aspect of my life and I guess this is why I rebelled.

One of the first things to occur to me was the number of non-believers destined for Hell. I couldn’t understand why God, all knowing and omnipresent would condemn a large portion of his creation to destruction, in this way. What a waste of His time.  And if they merely existed to serve as reminder to us, the Chosen Ones, of how we must not stray, well, how is that even fair? Born to die for our sins. That’s just weird isn’t it? And the worse my life got, the more my innocence was chipped away, the less afraid I was to challenge God and seek answers. If it was God that created me then He created this desire for the truth and I didn’t believe God to be so tempestuous as to admonish me for needing to know. Anyway I was angry, he’d made me a girl and apparently girls weren’t worth a helluva lot.

I left my faith at the door of the last mosque I would ever attend. Aged just 10 I’d had enough of the Imam and his inappropriate use of my body. I was glad to be free. I would endure weeks of hurtful comments and physical abuse because I’d rejected my teaching, my family were none too happy about this. I was expected to memorise the whole of the Quran and bring praise on my family but I’d done the opposite. But I didn’t care. I was beyond all of it.

As an early teen, I’d sneer at the Muslim boys. I’d happily feed the little racists group about how I was more in control of my life as an atheist (though it was many more years before I would actually feel this way). That period of my life reminds me of Richard Dawkins. Smug, free, privileged, hurtful, bullying. I had this new found feeling of superiority, I’d cracked the God code and I was gonna laugh at everyone too stupid to figure out the truth. Except, I was a kid and I grew out of that phase. I met more people and realised the world was too big a place with too many different shades of everything to just conveniently slap one label on them all. I met Muslims I actually liked! And get this, Catholics! And all the other religions and ways of life. Because people, all the people on this lonely planet, are full of good and bad. Being atheist doesn’t give you a get out of jail free card, like somehow you can’t be hateful and controlling because it’s righteous hate and control, check yourself and your privilege and take it down a notch or ten.

Muslims slaughter their animals by slitting their throats? That’s common practice in non halal UK abattoirs. Yes, the animal is stunned first but stunning isn’t always accurate and are you telling me those animals don’t know they’re going to die? (Watch the series Kill it, Cook it, Eat it). And how dare one person killing and eating an animal tell another person their method is not to their liking? They’re all killing and eating animals, why is one worse than the other? Is it so convenient to tell half a truth to a sycophantic audience? It’s downright dangerous and he knows this.

I don’t like Richard Dawkins because he is just as bad as the fundos with their beards. He is in a position of great power and he uses this to control. How dare he try and define trauma for victims of sexual abuse? I’ve never heard a single survivor use the word ‘icky’ to describe a sexual violation. They haven’t just trodden in dog poo; they have been physically/sexually harmed. He is the voice of patriarchy and patriarchy is white and middle aged.

I don’t want him to speak for me.

Street Harassment and Ramadan: A Solution?

With a foot in both worlds, life has been utterly confusing. I am: yet what I am, none cares or knows. I am British; I am British Asian, with Pakistani/Kashmiri ‘roots’. I was born a Muslim (though I’ll die none the wiser). I am aware the effect the colour of my skin has on the atmosphere and I resent the ways in which I must try harder. But it is with considerable thought and painstaking investigation, I have come to the conclusion; at first glance, I am a woman.

Eid Mubarak to those completing Ramadan. Very soon there’ll be food and gifts of money, people who have narrowly avoided each other all year will embrace and they will savour the moment, joy and unity overriding any bad feeling. Everyone is cleansed and revved up for another year of good deeds (Inshallah). I watch from inside my ‘local community’ but am very much an outsider. I grew up in this neighbourhood; I walked these streets in a hijab once upon a very long time ago. But I don’t now and make sure everyone knows it. Not by thrusting it in people’s faces, just by being myself. I’ve noticed people twitch around me a lot. Seemingly my bare calves are too much for the brain to compute. But I don’t care and I wear them with pride. Sometimes I don’t even bother shaving! But even I get a little respect when they’re all too hungry and humble to fight.

I love Ramadan. Everyone and I mean EVERYONE slows down. They say please and thank you. They call on each other to share food when they eventually soothe their grumbling bellies with sticky sweet dates, a little salt and some milk. Food is communal and people trip over themselves to host an evening. There is a togetherness, simply not enough strength to fight or waste energy thinking about pointless things. Because the community looks inward and is there for each other, it becomes difficult to deviate. Perhaps this is why, during the month of Ramadan, I feel safe. I don’t change any part of myself but the community around me lowers its gaze. For one month of the year, I am free to walk the streets of my local area without strange, hostile men breathing down my neck. Street harassment is virtually zero.

This is where the ‘East’ is beating the ‘West’. Our media consistently portray Muslims as savage to women, executing them and subjecting them to abusive tribal practices (FGM) and for the most part, they’re right. Women are subjugated in horrific ways, in many parts of the world they are considered subhuman and treated as such. But I’ve struggled my whole life trying to understand what makes the West so brazen as to hold the East up as an example when here, at home, the struggle for equality is reversing so rapidly. There are worrying levels of domestic abuse, many cases going unreported. With the burqa as the universal symbol of oppression, we bear more to show how free we are, but then we are violated for revealing too much. Millions of women march to highlight the absurdity of street harassment in our developed world, but it doesn’t affect the everyday sexism we are all subjected to. In the East, a strange man can beat you for showing your hair or wearing nail varnish. In the West, strange men will invade your personal space, threaten you with what they’d like to do to you and maybe even touch your breasts or backside, depending on how packed the train is. Once, in a club, a man grabbed my groin. When I responded by throwing him back and screaming blue murder, a crowd formed and it was me that was hushed. The girls, they pulled me away, “it’s not worth it, leave it be, what can you do?”

Among women there is a general feeling of resignation, that they cannot fight patriarchy because it is too strong and too violent. It cannot change because that is how men are designed, they can’t help themselves. Except, Ramadan is a clear example of how whole communities have the ability to change and in a very short space of time. They can be less ‘rapey’. To me, Ramadan is an exercise in how patriarchy can be affected. And it makes me even angrier when I come to the realisation that patriarchy actively chooses not to change.

Imagine a UK where, for one month of the year, we own the streets. We can keep our earphones in, safe in the knowledge that our community will not allow any harm to come to us. Perpetrators would be dealt with, abusive behaviour simply not tolerated. It’d really be something, wouldn’t it? Imagine if we managed it all by ourselves and not just because God said so.

Many happy returns Ramadan, can’t wait for next year.