“Go back to your country!” - five words that have, for centuries, left ethnic minorities straddling between a limbo of multiple identities.
A British, Afghan, Muslim woman – five words that society use to define me, are plastered on headlines daily, at war with each other and thus stealing my peace.
I was born in Afghanistan and spent a meagre four months of my life there before my parents were forced to flee the country in the hope for a safer future.
As we journeyed through continents on our way to London, where my mother’s relatives already resided, we spent a few months in India – the land wherein I took my first steps and learned to walk.
At the age of 1, on my birthday, I stepped on the soils of England for the first time.
When you've learnt how to speak in England; how to read and write in England; when you've made your first friends in England; when you've graduated from university and got your first job in England.
Every single milestone that you can remember, has been in England. Where exactly is your country, if not here?
At the age of 16, when most of my peers would venture into the world of desire and romance, I fell in love with a man named Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), who taught me that true happiness was not in feeding every desire, but in feeding one's soul; that emancipation wasn't in roaming the streets without a care in the world, it was in submission to the Creator and in treading the path of righteousness. He taught me, that beauty was not in the art of flaunting, but in modesty. That courage and confidence was not in standing before the world for all to see and praise, but in walking through a path unnoticed and still feeling valuable.
And so, as I embraced my Muslim identity passionately and uncompromisingly, I started wearing the hijab, not knowing that my new attire would deem me even more unwelcome in the society I so naively called home.
My attire made me an ambassador in a community of 1.6 billion people.
1.6 billion, peaceful people who had to carry the banner of ‘terrorist’ on their shoulders due to the acts of a few.
We live in a world wherein presidential candidates can call for the ban of an entire religious community from their country and they are applauded. The last time I read about the leader of a country wanting to exile an entire religious community from his country was when I sat in a classroom and asked myself how the world let Hitler get away with the murder of millions. I constantly tried to understand: why didn’t they stop him earlier? But I no longer ask that question. I see a man standing on a podium with thousands of supporters applauding him as he demonizes entire races and religions. I have my answer.
What causes us to go to war with each other, if not the delusional pride that we are somehow superior to another, simply because we entered the world in one land and not the other?
I have the words of Shakespeare and Dickens rolling off my tongue but I still hear the leader of my country, claiming that my people don’t integrate.
The truth is: I will never be fully British because I chose a long black dress as opposed to a little back dress. Because, even though the land I learnt to walk in will never make me Indian; the land I learnt to speak, read, write, love and live in, will never make me English. All that matters to society; all that defines where I belong, is the one thing that I will never remember: my birth.