An Open letter to British Gentlemen

Dear white van driver,

A letter to you, because you’ve made me upset. Who are you?

Well, you are the creepy man who pulled your van right next to my car and decided to let me know how you felt about my hijab. Luckily for me, I was actually listening to (you won’t like this bit for sure) some Quran recitation, so I couldn’t hear you very well at first, but then when I did, I realised you were asking me “what the f*** is on your head?”

I’ll tell you. It’s called a khimar commonly known as a hijab, which I wear as an observing Muslim woman. I’d love to tell you more about it, but I don’t think you’re actually interested. But, if you really, really want to know, one of the local mosque’s here will be more than happy to explain things to you and entertain any further questions. The Mosque also very kindly holds regular open days for anyone interested to learn. Please do attend, but please leave your beautiful vocabulary at home that day. Here’s hoping you don’t see this as a foreigner making demands.

Secondly, this letter is to the 20 something year old, grey tracksuit wearing challenged-in-the-employment department (oops, I really didn’t want to stereotype) young man. You very confidently and brazenly verbally assaulted a mother with her 3 year old trying to juggle her shopping into the car. What was it that you said to your equally mirrored girlfriend? “Look at that Paki? Look, she can drive too!” And then when I looked directly at you, you said to me “Oh, you understand what I’m saying, Paki?” I wanted to say something back, I really did. But I was 3 weeks postnatal and was too tired to bother with a person who felt it was ok to say things to me like that in a public area where others could hear him.

Where do I start with you? Maybe a short history and geography lesson for you? You see, not every brown skinned person is from the same country! Thanks to your forefathers. South East Asia is a very large area – look up a map from the British Empire, you’ll find how the region was strategically used and divided for the very British financial, political and power gain. And how you equate my “Paki” origin to my ability to drive, I will never understand, however I suspect this is your funny understanding of world news. Let me help you a little. Saudi Arabia isn’t in Pakistan and further more; let me direct you to a library, where you will find Britain helped found the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Thirdly, this letter goes out to the cowardice gentleman (or rather just the coward) who greeted me, my 3 year old and my 3 month old baby with “F****** terrorist taking over our country with their scarf and mosques.” Yes, I was walking to the mosque, as were dozens of other Muslims. Mostly men. Why didn’t you direct your bitter speech at any of those men, why me? Maybe you thought I’m vulnerable. Maybe you don’t like my hijab. Maybe it’s not actually about me, and you didn’t think twice about how you should air your frustrations.

For you, I think a bit of education in foreign policy won’t go amiss. Here’s how, listen up! You imputed, I am taking over your country with my hijab and my mosque.

Firstly, really?!

Secondly, from what I understand, taking over a country requires a bit more work. For reference purposes, please look up the British Raj, who used their conniving super power to take over a country almost as big as Europe. Rule over it for over 200 years, change the language, change the whole legal set up, create disharmony amongst the natives, make them know they’re inferior and then leave the country in pieces, making them still think they owe the empire something. Kind of why I’m in “your country” actually.

I’d like to sympathise with the fact that some people are just ignorant and unaware of others but I sit at home and wonder how similar an Eton educated politician and a tracksuit wearing unseasoned traveller who hasn’t trekked far off the A47 can say the same things. Not a coincidence! How is an ignorant person so enlightened about the status quo and up to date with the latest political discourse and uses the same themed vocabulary as the likes of May and Cameron?

The way I see it is, that, these people are projecting what they hear; what they hear from the government and the media. This is not me stereotyping. The current political and media narrative of “swarm of immigrants and Muslims taking over Britain” (or the whole West) is being echoed unashamedly by some in public or by some just under the breath and some are just thinking it.

Am I being a drama queen about this? Maybe? But you would be too, if you were heavily pregnant, or with your toddler and new born. Was I scared? Yes! But I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if I should bother.

I think I’m more saddened by all this than scared. I hear and read about Muslims being asked to integrate by politicians, the media, and community leaders. But I’m unsure what this integration means. What am I required to do?

I ask, where do you want me to fit in? I’m trying to be a good citizen, a good mother, and a responsible adult. With my Bangladeshi origin, my London upbringing, my Muslim identity, and extremely hobbit-like lifestyle, I think I’m super integrated already. I like Harry Potter (read all 7 in less than 2 months), I love chips, I don’t smile on the train and you’ll find I know a tiny bit more about “your” country’s historical shenanigans and current world brown-nosing, giving me a head start in British-ness.

I’d love to think that things would change if power changed from right to left in this country, but I know very well that this isn’t party based xenophobia but has actually become a mainstream view-point across parties. Europe wide actually. Nothing new here, my slight reading obsession has enlightened me about the Inquisition, the recent history of Fascism and Europe’s stance on “the other”. I have (reluctantly) accepted I am the other, which is somehow now legitimately worthy of disgust and alienation. And this is why I’m sad.

Yours truly (not that you want me to be),

Mother of two, homemaker, Muslim woman.

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24 thoughts on “An Open letter to British Gentlemen

  1. zayeneesha says:

    It’s sad where the world is headed to…how many open letters will it take to rectify things?!! May Allah reward you for your patience and sticking your head high in that scarf nonetheless ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Anonymous says:

    Masha Allah, you acted like a true ambassador of Islam despite their show of Ignorance. After all the best daw’ah is by example.

    No right thinking culture, religion or group will promote ‘picking on women and children’. Where is the humanity in such an act?

    May Allah protect us and ours through these trying times.

    Like

  3. Amina Edota says:

    Masha Allah, you acted like a true ambassador of Islam despite their show of Ignorance. After all the best daw’ah is by example.

    No right thinking culture, religion or group will promote ‘picking on women and children’. Where is the humanity in such an act?

    May Allah protect us and ours through these trying times.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anonymous says:

    MashaAllah sis well done. What a great piece! channeling your frustration in such eloquent and beautiful way. Truly well written capturing the sad reality of the current climate in UK. Sad times especially when people are so inconsiderate of little children. Keep writing

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Diane says:

    I am saddened that ignorant people think they have the right to be abusive to people who have different beliefs and who dress and look different to them. Huge respect for not going to their gutter level.

    Like

  6. Milly13 says:

    I hope you do know that there are many who are appalled by the behaviour you experienced & are fully supporting your views.I won’t apologise for their contemptible actions because that would suggest I identify in some way with them and I don’t – I identify with you as an enlightened and fellow citizen of our country. Thank you for courage in writing this and your restraint in your response to such low-life, ignorant individuals. Peace and good wishes to you & your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. UmmeMustafa says:

    السلام عليكم

    ماشاءاللہ

    I’e never met you, but I know you.
    So very proud of you
    Thank you
    UmmeMustafa

    ps i also have a 3 month old….who lately thinks daytime is 11pm, I dont know where you found the time to write this.. double
    respect to you .

    Like

  8. Chelle says:

    I’m so sorry you experience this regularly enough to have to write about it. I truly wish this wasn’t the case.

    That being said manners are free. Whether they have a job or not shouldn’t even remotely factor into it. Not having a job doesn’t make me an ignorant clod. Just as wearing a khimar doesn’t make you a terrorist.

    Also, I would go to my local mosque to ask about all the points you raise, but there isn’t one where I live (that Google or I know of)

    I don’t know much about you or your life, but I wish you well in it regardless.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. openheartcommunity says:

    Dear Yusra,

    It is very sad to see what is happening in Britain and I am totally with you on this case, ot should not be happening at all. Yet a lot of the anger comes due to the relatively high incidents from muslim extremists who go to the streets and openly declare that they want to kill European people and destroy our culture giving hate speech in front of the police who is for political reasons unable to do anything. These people have managed to make a hell for thousands of people in certain areas of London, who now fear for their life. The police again is unable to do anything for political reasons and a lot of people now feel secondary citizens in the country they were born as they are fined or prisoned if they dare to even say anything about it. This is the direct reason behind the increased hostility against muslims which I really regret to see happening. We need to target the terrorists who use religion for their own agenda and not religions themselves. For which I also invite you too. Say no to discrimination regardless of religion, help us keep religion for what it is meant to be, a tool that accelerates love and understanding among human beings.

    Like

  10. schteeeve says:

    As an actual British gentleman (i.e. not bigoted arsehole) I’m so sorry you’ve been abused and made to feel unwelcome recently. You ARE welcome and VALUED. Please don’t think all Brits are awful. Sadly authoritarian populism is rampant right now (in mainland Europe too), largely due to tabloid hate/fearmongering around the refugee crisis, which taps into legitimate secular fears surrounding Islamism (the movement) AND completely illegitimate bigotry around ‘the other’. Unfortunately (a) the ignorant don’t seem to be able (or want) to distinguish between mainstream, Harry Potter loving Muslims such as yourself, and Islamists or extremists. And (b) Brexit has given confidence to a lot of cockroaches who are now voicing their prejudices. BUT we’re not all like that, there are many of us who love living in a multicultural, vibrant country and are aware of the economic and social benefits of immigration! There’s a shitty dynamic at the moment (hugely exacerbated by the GFC), where instead of acknowledging the economic and social injustices in our society, politicians blame (for example, the EU, or migrants) pandering to vitriolic elements of the media that rile up the uninformed. BUT if open minded, compassionate and reasonable people join forces we can kick back (speak out; violence isn’t the answer) against that crap together. Thank you for reaching out with your open letter, instead of stewing in silence; consider this an olive branch of sorts.
    Wishing you all the best.
    Will

    Like

  11. karen says:

    I’m a white, Anglo-Saxon Christian lady, granddaughter to a German lady who met my English granddad while interned in a camp during WWII. As I see it, we are a country of immigrants. I always believed that Englishness was a state of mind rather than genetics. You, dear lady, are as English as I am. The pondlife that abused you should be ashamed. We shouldn’t be deciding about people by what they’re wearing, the colour of their skin, their social status or their religion. Just weather they’re a git or not. I love my muslim neighbours in the house to my left, as I do the christian neighbours in the house on the right. Got to say though – I was told Fuck off, you white bitch by a muslim boy in the school where I work last week. Racism, alas, runs through all cultures like filthy rivers. I hope you continue to meet more decent people than rotten ones. Bless you!

    Like

  12. Elaine says:

    I’m so sorry you had a collection of awful experiences. For what it’s worth-I understand but I’m within another type of minority. I’m a disabled young lady who was told a couple of months ago that I’m the reason this country is in trouble, that ‘people like me’ don’t deserve any rights and subject to the most horrendous exchange which really upset me and dented my confidence to leave the house for even the short amounts of time I get out.

    Please don’t allow ignorance to affect your approach to others. It’s something I’ve battled with since my experience and I am so glad I’ve managed to avoid that-because it’s with that reaction those ignorant idiots win. Hold your head up high, smile and enjoy your life.

    Try to imagine how sad their life is holding so much hate in their heart-the same applies to anyone who is discriminatory to anyone else for whatever ridiculous ‘reason’ they think is ‘justified’. It kind of helps to think of them as weak in that way-that sense of them having power over us in those moments where they abused us is very temporary and we shouldn’t allow it to continue. The reality is they have no power and they prove it with their ignorant outbursts.

    Take care, good luck and sending all my love.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Mancbhoy says:

    I think it appalling what this young mother has had to endure by narrow minded bigots and I appreciate her reasoning for why she posted this letter, she is clearly an articulate individual. One criticism that I have is the little history lesson she gives to the 20 year old, challenged in the employment dept etc. (that made me laugh), he sounds like a lovely individual. Just like every brown skinned person is not from south east Asia, not all white skinned people (I’m assuming he was white) originate from Britain. For example, I’m white, my forefathers were Irish republicans and in my view, Ireland has experienced the same colonisation as that which south east Asia has experienced (and still does to some extent but I’m not gong into that) by the British Its a bit like the victim of racism has become racist herself and maybe I’m being a bit soft but I took this as an insult. I’m white with an English accent but I absolutely detest being referred to as British because although I was born here, my mindset is very much for the struggle that my forefathers had to endure. I don’t know too much (if anything) about the history of south east Asia but I’m guessing your forefathers had to endure a similar struggle.

    Up until relatively recently, it was people such as myself who were considered ‘terrorists’ who had similar backgrounds to myself. An uncle of mine was beat up around the time of the Manchester bomb as he had an irish accent and because he was irish, he must have been in the ‘IRA’ (ironic thing was that he had left Ireland due to sectarianism and wasn’t political in the least) I have been on the receiving end of a bigoted comments just because of a certain football shirt I wear; I believe one of the more regular comments being I’m a ‘Fenian b*****d’. Rather than get annoyed, I take it as a compliment from these people (sorry… numpties) who probably don’t have 2 brain cells to rub together.

    All the best and I sincerely hope that the the people that throw these insults at you get their comeuppance one way or other. God bless

    Like

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