Sunday, February 08, 2004

Who am I? 

An article written for the BBC by a young Muslim woman.

Who am I? Who tells me who I am? How do I know who I am? Where did I come from?

My parents told me I came from Pakistan, my father used to say a rose planted in a pot or a garden or another country is always a rose. So do not forget your roots and who you are.

At school they told me that I was British. My friends told me I was English, because I wore the same clothes and spoke the same language.

As a young woman, Asian boys thought I was Greek or Spanish and they would ask me for a date. When I declined with a No thank you, brother", they'd apologize with a "Sorry, I did not realize you were a Sister."

Who I am at work?

When I began to work, colleagues argued that I was Indian - because my parents were born in India. Another said I was a Punjabi because India was just a creation by the British.

My extended family tells me that I am a Gujjar, a Chaudhry, a wealthy landowner - but I've never seen any of it!

My passport says I am a European and a citizen of the United Kingdom. Friends told me that I was a woman, not a girl, and that men oppressed me.

Colleagues in the race industry told me that I was Black. Asians told me that I couldn't be black - because I am brown. The racists told me that I was a Paki.

Members of the Conservative party told me that I was an immigrant, a swamping invader to their land.

Some of the white working classes told me that I am a sponger. I was a thief who steals jobs and houses and clogs up the national health system.

Darwin told me that I am inferior.

Various governments, including this one, have told me that I am not integrated enough and I must learn to be more British and stop speaking Punjabi at home. So I pondered how this would work in reality: Would I have to translate Urdu films into English before I could appreciate them?

President Bush tells me I am a terrorist because I am against his policies. If I enter his country, I hear I will be interrogated because I have Pakistani visas in my British Passport.

A Jewish friend called me an arab, though I have never even visited Arabia. Another friend told me that I was in fact a Hindu, converted by the Moghul Empire, and that my maiden came came from Turkey!

The National Front told me I should be repatriated. but, I asked, where to? Where do I belong? Who am I?

I was a Muslim the day I was born and during my life I lost my way. But now thank you President Bush, thank you United Nations, for helping so many of us who had lost their way to find the true path to home. And now I know I will always be a Muslim.

As a Muslim I can help the country of my choice, England, a country where I am free to be whoever I choose to be.

The Muslim community in Britain can help to bring about peace and social cohesion, through basic values such as honesty, respect, tolerance, responsibility, faith and family life.

So I'm just trying to make this a better place to live. For all of us, whoever we are.

That's who I am.

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