Pretences of Piety

Don’t you find it frightening (and infuriating), for example,

Just how many Qur’an teachers and self-proclaimed Maulanas have abused little girls in their own homes?

The Deen. In actuality, it is meant to protect, not hurt. But, see, we seem to have all these cowardly men who hide under their thobes; what they do is they feign these unmatchable levels of piety. What they do, then, is they slander innocent women (which is one of the major sins in Islam, actually) and they try to control their wives. Some of them sexually abuse little girls. These are just misogynists trying to be Muslims.

And, when they find themselves having been exposed for things like this, swathes of men tend to flock to their defence. We are taught to see them as the bastions of this faith of ours. It seems shameful to exist before them, as women; to look them in the eye.

We seem to commonly mistake image-based expressions of piety for piety itself. What piety necessitates, actually, is a pure heart. The pure-souled do dwell among us, of course they do. Maybe they are not always the ones who sport the longest beards; maybe they do not wear black robes all the time.

Maybe they are what a Muslim ought to be: one who remembers God, and remembers that God is ever-cognisant.

“The best among [us] are the ones who have the best manners and character” [Hadith].

I refuse to trust anyone whose image-based manifestations of ‘piety’ render them arrogant. The attempted ‘holier-than-thou’ mentality: it goes against the teachings of Islam, and pushes people away from it, too.

Beating people into submission, for example. Feeling proud, thinking you are so much better than them. And I am absolutely sick of all of these double standards.

Men who recite the Qur’an in public, for example, and then quietly sanction the bombing of children as they sleep in their cots. Who preach Islamic values, but whose families are oppressed under them. Who secretly lust after and abuse women, and then proceed to blame the female kind for… existing.

Men who maintain that any woman who does not wear a Niqab, and who is not… personality-less and almost perpetually scared, before them… is not worthy of the ‘religious’ title. They call any woman who does not fit their ‘ideals’ a “feminist”.

They tell us not to speak to non-Mahram men. Don’t even look at them. If they say “Salaam” to you, walk away from them. Okay. Why are you speaking to me then? Follow your own rules. Why do you speak to women whom you are not married to, in such boundary-less ways? Who are you to think that you are better than her, because you happen to attend some class every week?

Do you find yourself so insecure in your masculine identity that you find you must now either sexualise every woman you come across, or demean and debase her?

You question all of her actions.

You make the same human mistakes as she does. Yet, in your eyes, she is the only fallible one.

You put certain other men on pedestals. Yet, for women, you erase, in your mind, all the good that they do. You expect so much of them; what do you give them, back?

You slander female Muslim scholars for… being scholars. (Wait… I thought you thought we – this monolithic ‘Modern Muslim woman’ – are not educated-in-the-Islamic-sciences enough for your liking?) You call her names, because she happens to be pretty. You say, she is despicable – attracting men by standing there, speaking.

And yet you are willing to give your fellow men chance, after chance, after chance. Hide their sins, you say, for them. But, for women: if she breathes, you say that she is blameworthy.

Misogyny – the like of which has no place in our Deen – is what pushes many Muslim women towards notions of Liberal Feminism. We should remember, though, that while women do have certain responsibilities towards men, men have certain responsibilities towards us, too. We also both have rights over one another. I think modern feminism sometimes forgets that we are, in fact, an intrinsically dimorphic kind. I think modern Muslim misogynists often forget that Allah has given us certain inalienable rights. Like the right to not be treated like worthless little objects, like misbehaving children, just as an example.

Seeing is not believing. I refuse to look at the clothes a person wears to gauge how ‘religious’ they may be. The words of many of these revered ‘Maulana’ types, I refuse to ever take as gospel. He is a human being, just like I am.

And if he ever treats me like I am somehow lesser than him, well then, I already know that he is lesser than me, at least with respect to respect ⁠— to Akhlaq and Adab. These are the words. They beautify the human being.

Maybe some of the (actual) best Muslims alive right now wear football shirts. Maybe they skateboard. Maybe they are primary school teachers, painters, boxers.

The sincerity of your soul, and its being in servitude of God ⁠— well, this is between you and your Creator, actually. The eyes and minds of the people, these are fallible. But, with regard to the people, know that it is a command of God to serve them, and not to walk with pride before them.

Justice, humility, compassion, mercy, honesty, trustworthiness. These are what make a man, a Muslim.

“إِنَّ مِنْ خِيَارِكُمْ أَحْسَنَكُمْ أَخْلَاقًا”

Verily, the best among you are those who exhibit the best character. 



“أَلَا أُخْبِرُكُمْ بِخَيْرِكُمْ مِنْ شَرِّكُمْ خَيْرُكُمْ مَنْ يُرْجَى خَيْرُهُ وَيُؤْمَنُ شَرُّهُ وَشَرُّكُمْ مَنْ لَا يُرْجَى خَيْرُهُ وَلَا يُؤْمَنُ شَرُّهُ”

Shall I not tell you what distinguishes the best of you from the worst of you? The best of you are those from whom goodness is expected and people are safe from their evil. The worst of you are those from whom goodness is not expected and people are not safe from their evil.


And, a Hadith that I particularly love:

خِيَارُكُمْ الَّذِينَ إِذَا رُءُوا ذُكِرَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ

The best of you are those who, when they are seen, inspire others to remember Allah Almighty.

Whom have I come across, who have inspired me to remember the Almighty upon looking at them? I think these are the ones with radiant faces, and they have this peace about them. They are humble before fellow creatures. Their hearts gleam. Their mannerisms tend to be quite soft, their laughs hearty, their levels of emotional intelligence quite high.

I aspire to be like them. Light – Noor – radiates from them; it is hard to express such a thing through words. They smile often, and they are humble, at peace and quite integrated within themselves, it seems, and rather true.

I do try to be open to and welcoming of advice – Naseeha, sincere counsel. But I think there is a distinction to be made, between sincere and empathy-based advice, and unproductive criticisms that come from a place of clear haughtiness and/or hypocrisy.


True piety beautifies, and the truly pious remind you of Allah, almost as soon as you look at them. It is difficult to not have a strong affinity towards people like this. They walk the walk of Islam, true Islam, while others bark as they mostly talk a talk, frequently stomping all over others as they do so. 


Remember that Islam is for you too. We are all imperfect; most of us are just sinners doing the best that we can. But know that if you are sincere, then Islam is for you.

Sadia Ahmed J., 2020 

Is Mother Nature a Misogynist? And am I a Feminist?

Recently I had an online conversation with a friend of mine, which shocked me, challenged me, and forced me to rethink my stance on feminism. In recent years, the term ‘feminism’ has come to be culturally associated with angry bra-burning man-hating women who refuse to shave, and insist on ‘free-bleeding’. The term ‘feminazi’ has become disturbingly popular, as has the inclination of people to degrade feminists and perceive them as troublemaking outsiders.

As a firm believer in equal rights for all, I am, of course, sympathetic to the particular struggles of women, especially in third world and theocratic countries, where women’s lives are seen as easily disposable, where women are oppressed in the name of ‘protection’, and where fewer resources are invested in their health and education, leading to fewer economic opportunities, less political involvement, and fewer freedoms.

When I was twelve, I called myself a feminist for the first time. Once, at school, we were asked to stand up and introduce ourselves to some visitors by stating our name and something interesting about us. “I’m Sadia,” I said. “And I am a feminist”. When I was thirteen, I arranged for a feminist group to hold a workshop at our school. I also wrote a poem for a national competition about the plights of different women across the world. I argued vehemently with people who possessed remotely sexist views. But little did I know that these actions would have such unfortunate repercussions. I overheard boys talking about me with a tone of disgust. “She’s a feminist?” My family members would make jokes about it (and still do). The other day, my cousin laughed about how I probably won’t ever get married, and even if I did, I’d “wear a suit” to my own wedding and “make a speech about how everything in the world is sexist”. Comments like this are usually in jest, I know. But why is it so outrageous – so offensive and undesirable – for a woman to state that she is a feminist?

For this very reason, to avoid being subjected to the same preconceptions and biases, I started to explain to people that I am not a feminist. I no longer wanted to be known as the overbearing, unpleasant, petulant misandrist who actively seeks faults in every cultural practice. But then I read Mona Eltahawy’s book Headscarves and Hymens, and had this fateful conversation with he-who-shall-not-be-named. I realised that sexism is not some erstwhile phenomenon for which the modern world provides an infertile ground. Although sexism is mainly only explicitly practiced (and, one might argue, even celebrated) in developing and theocratic nations, the view that women are ‘naturally’ inferior is still held by many in the west, and rather proudly, too. This rampant type of dog-whistle misogyny encourages the idea that women should not be hated, but that we should accept the ‘fact’ that women exist to serve men, and that in return, men can give us protection.

My anonymous friend started the conversation by proclaiming that “the problem with you women is that you are naturally inferior”. At first, I assumed this was just part of an early April Fool’s prank. But then he went on to explain (dare I say mansplain) his views, about how men are physically, intellectually and in terms of intrinsic existential worth, superior to women, and how our current educational systems are ineffective because they reject nature’s status quo.

It is easy to see that most men are physically bigger than most women. It is also tough to dispute that, on average, men are faster and ‘stronger’ than women. But size does not naturally equate to superiority, nor does the ability to punch someone and bruise them. In my opinion, true strength lies in the ability to squeeze a fairly large living being out of your body. In addition to this, a recent academic study has shown that under extreme conditions such as famines, epidemics and enslavement, women are able to survive for longer than men, and, of course, in all modern human populations, women outlive men, too.

So what about the ultimate decisive factor: intelligence? Are the cognitive capacities of men naturally better than those of women? Much research has been conducted into uncovering the answer to this question, once and for all. During the early twentieth century, the scientific consensus shifted to the view that gender plays no role in intelligence. In his 1916 study of children’s IQs, psychologist Lewis Terman concluded that “the intelligence of girls, at least up to 14 years, does not differ materially from that of boys”. He did, however, find “rather marked” differences on a minority of tests. For example, he found boys were “decidedly better” in arithmetical reasoning, while girls were “superior” at answering comprehension questions. He also proposed that discrimination, lack of opportunity, women’s responsibilities in motherhood, or emotional factors may have accounted for the fact that few women had careers in intellectual fields.

So, the problem, dear anonymous friend, is not that women are “naturally inferior” to men, but that for centuries we have been socially conditioned to view the notion of ‘superiority’ through an inherently masculine template. This is why we expect powerful women to dress in a more ‘masculine’ manner and to undergo speech therapy to deepen their voices. This template is perpetuated even through the language we use: the word ‘woman’ is a visual extension of the word ‘man’, and ditto ‘female’ and ‘male’. In fact, the word ‘woman’ comes from the Old English phrase ‘wyf man’, or ‘wife of man’. For too long, human cultures have fortified the social positions of men as ‘subjects’ – independent, ‘superior’ beings – and women as ‘others’, as the wife of man, as walking wombs. This modus operandi might take centuries to undo, but in the meantime, we have feminism to act as a catalyst.

My anonymous friend would probably argue that the historical degradation of women was inevitable, given our physical feebleness and our natural ecological roles as mere accessories to men. Why else are the majorities of our societies patriarchal? Surely we are naturally predisposed to arrange ourselves in this hierarchical manner, with the ‘alpha male’ on top? One might point to examples from nature to support this notion: the nature of polygamous, powerful ‘alpha male’ lions, wolves, bears and other carnivorous animals indicates that men are meant to be the most powerful members of our societies. But what about matriarchal species like bonobos, elephants, and killer whales? The existence of such species suggests that Mother Nature is not a misogynist. She is driven by the whimsy of natural selection, and if men were indeed superior to women, females, and thus all life as we know it, would have been doomed to extinction eons ago. The most fundamental natural truth is that species are intra-dependent. Women do not exist to serve men, and in the struggle to ensure our continuation as a species, cooperation is, and has always been, more important than competition.

In addition to this, the hierarchical structures that modern cultures assume are actually relatively artificial. The emergence of human patriarchy did not occur at the same time as the emergence of humankind itself, but rather during the time of the Agricultural Revolution, when we transitioned from being hunter-gatherer societies to principally agricultural ones. Some might argue that this change was unavoidable, due to the biological make-up of men. Theorists have put forth three main ideas to support this claim, none of which carry very much weight. The first idea is that, simply because men have more ‘muscle power’, they were able to force women into submission. But as aforementioned, women are more resistant to life-threatening circumstances, and there are also many women who are muscularly ‘stronger’ than many men. Furthermore, as Yuval Harari asserts, this theory does not explain why, throughout history, women have been excluded from jobs that require very little physical effort or ‘masculine’ aggression, such as priesthood or even trade, given our allegedly ‘natural’ roles as gatherers in pre-agricultural hunter-gatherer societies. Below I have included an extract from Harari’s book Sapiens:

 If social power were divided in direct relation to physical strength or stamina, women should have got far more of it.

Even more importantly, there simply is no direct relation between physical strength and social power among humans. People in their sixties usually exercise power over people in their twenties, even though twentysomethings are much stronger than their elders. The typical plantation owner in Alabama in the mid-nineteenth century could have been wrestled to the ground in seconds by any of the slaves cultivating his cotton fields. Boxing matches were not used to select Egyptian pharaohs or Catholic popes. In forager societies, political dominance generally resides with the person possessing the best social skills rather than the most developed musculature. In organised crime, the big boss is not necessarily the strongest man. He is often an older man who very rarely uses his own fists; he gets younger and fitter men to do the dirty jobs for him. A guy who thinks that the way to take over the syndicate is to beat up the don is unlikely to live long enough to learn from his mistake. Even among chimpanzees, the alpha male wins his position by building a stable coalition with other males and females, not through mindless violence.

In fact, human history shows that there is often an inverse relation between physical prowess and social power. In most societies, it’s the lower classes who do the manual labour. This may reflect Homo sapiens position in the food chain. If all that counted were raw physical abilities, Sapiens would have found themselves on a middle rung of the ladder. But their mental and social skills placed them at the top. It is therefore only natural that the chain of power within the species will also be determined by mental and social abilities more than by brute force. It is therefore hard to believe that the most influential and most stable social hierarchy in history is founded on men’s ability physically to coerce women.

This unfortunate (and, thus far, incomprehensible) shift in human societal structures is what led to the ceaseless subjugation of the female kind – the Second Sex, as Simone De Beauvoir put it. And yes, a lot of women have it a lot worse than we here in the west do: some women are shot in the head for wanting an education; others have their bodies forcefully mutilated in order to “curb their desires”. Child marriage, and consequently child rape, are still popular practices. The list goes on. I do have my own personal experiences of sexism, as do most other women across the world, but my feminism is not exclusively focused on my own troubles. This is where the beauty of intersectional feminism comes in: understanding that women experience oppression in different ways, and accepting that every woman’s struggle is valid and deserving of support. I understand that it is sometimes difficult for people (men, in this case) to sympathise unreservedly with movements with objectives that promise few changes to their own lives. It is also easy for men to accuse women of being ‘whingey’ and problematic when all we are doing is trying to raise awareness of the injustices that we are facing, and have been facing for so long.

That being said, I do not completely agree with certain views held by some fellow feminists. I do not like how dismissive some are of the choices of housewives and the existence of the dual burden, and how some people still perceive the traditionally masculine as the ideal. I consider it hypocritical that they praise little girls who want to play sport and play with Lego sets, while, in the same breath, criticising girls who also want to wear pink and play with cooking sets. I think that both masculinity and femininity are beautiful, and that a balance is necessary: hyper-masculinity and hyper-femininity are both as unpleasant and damaging as each other. My views might differ from some of my fellow feminists, but, like all other political movements, feminists do not adhere to a homogenous ideology.

The majority of us do not hate men; most of us just hate toxic masculinity and the resultant infantilisation, brutalisation and systematic belittlement of women, and if you think that these demands are comparable to misandry, then you are part of the problem. Simply put, I am a feminist because the popular practice of labelling men as superior (which has led to the extant subjugation of women) is a social construct, as is the masculine template through which we collectively came to reach this decision. Physiologically speaking, cisgender males and females are different, but in terms of value, we should be seen as equal. And if supporting this idea – if pressing for the human rights of my sisters across the globe to be recognised – makes people label me an “obnoxious, whiny feminist”, then so be it. An obnoxious, whiny feminist I will be.

Sadia Ahmed, 2018

Why I am unapologetically pro-Palestine: Exploring colonialism and ethnic cleansing

  The Palestinian-Israeli conflict: a complex, multi-faceted topic that many people avoid like the plague. In this blog article, I want to explore the roots of Zionism (as well as how it sprung from normalised anti-Semitism), the abuse of Palestinian human rights, and the dozens of misconceptions surrounding the debate. The liberation of Palestinians is an issue that I am particularly passionate about: it concerns a combination of different branches of social justice, including (but, by no means, limited to) feminism, Islamophobia, white supremacy, colonialism and imperialism, and (at its core) systematic oppression and the belittlement of a native group of people.

Before I begin, I’d like to clarify that supporting Palestine is not synonymous with supporting terrorism or violent organisations. I am in favour of the protection of the human rights of Palestinians; this does not necessarily mean that I am pro-Hamas. That being said, I find it intensely hypocritical that governments recognise Hamas as a terrorist organisation, but the same criteria for identifying terrorist organisations does not seem to apply for the manipulative and powerful Israeli government… Besides, we all know that Western imperialism leads to political and economic instability, which, in turn, creates a perfect breeding ground for violence and radicalism. Need some examples? Just take a look at Iraq, Pakistan and India.

The essential nature of Israel is that it is an instrument of, and an enforcer for, imperialism. Few know about its background as an ambassador of US imperialist war crimes, such as how it played a pivotal role in the genocide of around 200,000 Guatemalan peasants. Of course, to legitimize Israel’s actions, it is depicted as a central force fighting against Jihadism– as a defenseless little nation trapped in a sea of ‘intolerant Islamic countries’.

It cannot be denied that Israel created a Jewish majority through its use of ethnic cleansing. Zionist advocates might argue that this is just an example of the Jewish community finally gaining some autonomy, but self-determination is not (and has never been) synonymous with the right to colonise and expel the native people of a land, nor should it equate to granting a group countless privileges at the expense of the indigenous population. De facto, this endeavor to induce ‘self-determination’ becomes a form of systematic, institutionalized discrimination. The Israeli government dictates when Palestinians can be outside, when they can have water and electricity in their homes, their housing and citizenship rights, whom they can marry, and more. Some might call this oppression; others might call it apartheid.

I have been called a terrorist on a number of occasions by pro-Israeli campaigners, merely for pointing out that Palestinians exist, and they might just feel pain too. It seems that the term ‘terrorist’ is used rather selectively; Israel and the USA are practically immune to being receptors of this label. Through this article, I would like to prove that Palestine deserves our attention, and not exclusively from a Muslim perspective.

May 15th 2017 marked the 69th anniversary of the Palestinian exodus, or the Nakba (Arabic for ‘catastrophe’), when more than 70% of all Palestinians were removed from their homeland, through the use of force and fear. This mass expulsion later evolved to become an unprecedented form of ‘ethnic cleansing’, and throughout this process, Israel showed little regard for international regulations or sanctions. After all, why would it? America would leap to its defence under any circumstance.


The Nakba is not a mere event in history. It is an ongoing aggression on, and dehumanisation of, the Palestinians: robbery of their homes and lands, and the denial of their right to live with dignity.


Metaphorically speaking, America and Israel are best friends. America is Israel’s role model; its beginnings (the genocide of Native Americans and the subsequent suppression of black people) closely resemble those of Israel. If the colonisation of Central America had been a modern occurrence, the original Native American inhabitants would have undoubtedly been labelled ‘terrorists’ (and perhaps even ‘anti-white’) too.


Earlier this summer, I attended ‘Palestine Expo’ (the largest Palestinian social and cultural event in Europe) where there were talks given by Jewish and Muslim professors and authors, photo booths, theatrical shows, historical artefacts- all to bring awareness to the fact that Palestinian culture does exist (and has existed for many centuries), despite Israel’s desperate attempts to obliterate it completely. Outside the Expo, a group of pro-Israeli demonstrators stood against a wall, holding a large Israeli flag, screaming at the top of their lungs using megaphones, denouncing the event and accusing all those in attendance of being “TERRORISTS!” I even argued with a police officer that was protecting the Israel protest; he insisted that pro-Palestinian campaigners have “more freedom of speech” than pro-Israeli ones, and when I informed him about some of the many examples of censorship and silencing Palestinian voices, he conceded and said, “Well, I didn’t know about that, but I’ll do my research.”

As I was leaving the Expo, I spoke to my friend about how much I would like to visit Palestine- to see the places that are not just holy to me, but also to my Christian and Jewish friends. Nearby, a Jewish woman sporting a Palestinian scarf told me to “Just go. It will break your heart and change your life.”

I also attended a Marxism convention (Marxism 2017) where there were similar speeches on Palestine, delivered by leading Jewish academics. They were also deeply concerned about the level of censorship that they have been subjected to. Meetings at various locations have mysteriously been cancelled, and a professor was even threatened by his university for having a ‘BDS’ poster on his door. At the end of one talk about Palestine, a Jewish Marxist activist stood up on stage and yelled, “FREE FREE” and the audience enthusiastically responded, “PALESTINE!”

The acronym ‘BDS’ stands for ‘Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions’. This strategy is centred on non-violent protest, and was developed by a number of pro-Palestine activists across the globe. The movement calls for various organisations to put economic and political pressure to encourage Israel to end the colonisation and occupation of Arab land (and to dismantle the Apartheid wall); full equality for all Palestinians living in Israel; the right of return for all Palestinian refugees (of which there are roughly 13 million).


Both at PalExpo and Marxism, I found the Jewish speakers’ views particularly fascinating; many agreed that Zionism is at odds with their religious teachings. One professor told the audience about how, as he was growing up, he and his community perceived Israel as a progressive place- it was especially popular amongst younger generations. He stated that, for younger Jewish people, Kibbutzim were a popular holiday destination. Now, thousands visit Palestinian villages instead. This professor’s university received a legal threat from an Israeli lobby organisation, when he placed a ‘Free Palestine’ poster on his door. At the conference, he made it a point to declare that Zionism is a political (and not an inherently Jewish) movement. He believes that Western leaders were so passionate about the movement because they did not want Jewish people on their streets; while Zionism was gaining traction, anti-Jewish sentiment was absolutely rife in Europe.

Of course, it is vital to explore the origins of anti-Semitism and Zionism, and how these origins shape the friction. A spokesperson from Jews for Justice UK proclaimed that anti-Semitism bloomed as a result of social and economic instability: generally speaking, wealthier Jews tended to have powerful economic roles, as bankers, estate managers, and more. Then, many were scapegoated and blamed for societal problems at times of political uncertainty, and during economic crises. While anti-Jewish sentiment grew, so did the popularity of Zionism. This proliferated in the earlier part of the 20th century. It is completely understandable that Jews (as an oppressed minority in many European countries) wanted a place to call home. But the means by which this notion is pursued cannot be rooted in violence and oppressing others, although this is precisely what the Israeli government seems to be doing.


In 1917, the Zionist movement existed, but historians agree that it was politically insignificant. Then, a refugee crisis arose when Jewish people fled the anti-Jewish Pogroms of the Russian Empire. In 1905, the UK passed the ‘Alien’s Act’, which introduced immigration controls to regulate the flow of Jewish immigrants fleeing from other areas in Europe. Later on, in 1917, the notorious Balfour Declaration was signed:

Essentially, like the rest of Europe, Britain did not want Jewish people on its soil. The background of the Balfour Declaration is centred on playing the ‘race card’ to divert British Jews to their ‘homeland’. I find it interesting how the author seeks to give away land that he had no rights over, acknowledges that Palestine did exist before the establishment of Israel (as opposed to what many Zionists claim), and finally, the fact that the letter outlines how the “civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” should not be prejudiced. It is tragic and ironic that the exact opposite of this request is happening there.

In 1956, following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Israel invaded the Egyptian Sinai, once again leading to heightened tensions, and instigating a bloody (often forgotten) war that lasted just under six days (the Six-Day War). Arab casualties were far heavier than those of Israel; up to 20,000 Arabs died, compared to a handful of Israeli troops. Israel was, unsurprisingly, supported by the US and, being an expert at casually and pointlessly involving itself in wars, the US helped the Israeli air-force maintain air and ground superiority. Israel’s international standing was heightened, and the amount of land it had stolen tripled. 300,000 more Palestinians became refugees, while hostility towards Jewish communities grew in Arab countries, causing yet another refugee crisis. Many of these Jews fled to Europe and Israel, and so, as a cyclical outcome of Israel’s initial aggressions, the country grew in size and popularity. The outcome of this war was also deeply regretful, as anti-Jewish sentiment was not widespread among Muslims and Arabs until this particular incident. I acknowledge (and detest) how some Muslims claim to be ‘pro-Palestine’, but in actuality, are uneducated anti-Semites, who do not understand the complexity of the situation. That being said, I must reiterate that ‘pro-Palestine’ and ‘uneducated anti-Semite’ are not interchangeable labels.

Simply put, supporting Palestine means supporting the right of millions of displaced Palestinians to return to their homeland and (for the thousands of indigenous Palestinians that remain there) it means supporting their basic human rights- their rights to clean and adequate amounts of water, electricity, education, and, crucially, their collective right to exist on their own land, all without the fear of being attacked.


Moreover, condemning Israeli policies and actions is not to be confused with Jew-hating or supporting the annihilation of Israel nor the exodus of its current people. Rather, this is about breaking the silence. Many countries and organisations have chosen to refuse to acknowledge Palestine as a separate country, and some even go so far as to say that Palestinians deserve what they get.

  • An increasingly alarming tactic being employed by the IDF takes place when Palestinians go on holiday abroad; squatters break in, and take over, adorning their houses with Israeli flags, violently taunting them upon their returns. Incidents like this take place across the country, on a daily basis, and Palestinian citizens are actively bullied. “We pour kerosene on Arab tomatoes,” an inhabitant of an illegal settlement once said, publicly.

Numerous individuals- ranging from rappers to TV presenters- have attempted to review the conflict in a non-Partisan manner. Many unintentionally focus on the ‘terrorist’ nature of Hamas, while overlooking some other crucial factors pertaining to the Israeli government, some of which include:

  • Israel is the only Middle Eastern country to possess nuclear weapons (many of which are directly subsidised by the American government)
  • Israel also refuses to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and bars international inspections
  • In direct defiance of UN resolutions, Israel seized the sovereign territory of Palestine using military aggression, and continues to illegally occupy it
  • It routinely uses warplanes, artillery, and naval forces to violate international borders. These aggressions are globally seen as necessary to defending the nation in the ‘war against terror’
  • It practises ‘exporting terrorism’ (and has done so for years). This involves sending assassins into other countries to kill political enemies. What’s more, terrorist groups such as the Urgun gang were effective in establishing the state of Israel.
  • Criminals from other countries who have Jewish heritage can ‘return home’ to Israel, without being prosecuted for their crimes
  • High-ranking Israeli military officers have publicly admitted that unarmed Palestinian ‘prisoners of war’ have been executed. In fact, there is a large campaign called Breaking the Silence, which features Israeli military officials exposing and condemning the actions of their national government



  • The occupation of Palestine has led to over 762,000 people becoming refugees; they are actively prevented from returning to their homes, farms, and businesses. 1 in 3 refugees around the world are Palestinian, and there are roughly 30,000 refugees living in the Gaza camp alone.
  • Around half of all Palestinian children suffer from PTSD; some have been arrested for up to 15 years for throwing rocks at tanks. Many have even been shot multiple times, by army officials. 8-year-olds have been handcuffed and bullied by soldiers, and since 2000, over 3000 Palestinian children have been murdered, in cold blood, by Israeli soldiers
  • An Israeli who ordered the successful assassination of a high-ranking UN diplomat went on to become the prime minister of the country
  • Israel (by governmental orders) blew up an American diplomatic facility in Egypt and attacked a US ship in international waters, killing 34 and wounding 171 sailors. Despite this, America continues to pay gargantuan sums towards the maintenance and expansion of the Israeli military
  • In the past, Israel has hired spies to steal classified documents, and then gave some of them to the Soviet Union
  • The Israeli government frequently speaks out against hate- namely, terrorism, homophobia and sexism- and yet a shrine and a memorial were built in honour of a man who killed 29 Palestinian worshippers in Al-Aqsa
  • Pro-Zionists might argue that “the whole world is against them”, however Israel has the second most powerful lobby in the US (comprising a number of high-ranking lawyers, among others)
  • Israel deliberately targeted a refugee camp in Lebanon, killing 103 people (most of whom were children)
  • Israel is in direct defiance of 69 UN Security Council resolutions
  • Israel is the 16th richest country in the world, but still receives a staggering 1/3 of all US financial aid; it also receives American weaponry for free, and sometimes then discloses the technology (at a dear price) to China.
  • The Israeli prime minister once openly said to his staff, “We control America”. He wasn’t wrong
  • Injured and terminally ill Palestinian patients are often denied treatment, but they are also rejected when they apply to gain permission to go abroad for treatment
  • According to Amnesty International, more than 4000 civilian Palestinian homes were recently demolished. This is, no doubt, a method used to accelerate Israel’s objectives surrounding ethnic cleansing
  • Israel habitually arrests and brutalises children (usually around the age of 8, and sometimes even below). Many have been killed for simply throwing rocks at tanks
  • In spite of signing the Oslo Accords (which involved promising to stop building any more illegal settlements) 270 new settlements have been constructed since the signing. These illegal settlements are not pathetic makeshift shacks; they tend to be tall luxury apartments. Altogether, roughly 48,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished to clear land for settlers’ use, and there are around 650,000 Israeli settlers, many of whom display brutal and aggressive behaviour towards natives
  • Settlers often throw rocks at Palestinian schoolchildren. In a recent instance, a settler set fire to a Palestinian home, killing a baby and its family
  • Israel (rather like its soul-mate America) makes excuses to attempt to justify methods of torture used in prisons
  • Israel has assassinated more than 100 rival political officials, and has murdered thousands of civilians. In addition to this, many more innocent inhabitants of Gaza are also being killed due to the Israeli government’s decision to significantly reduce and impose curfews on Palestinian water and electrical supplies; they usually receive electricity for less than four hours a day, and this affects over 2 million people. This means that university students are forced to study under candlelight, and premature babies often die in their cots, while their incubators are switched off. During heatwaves, copious amounts of water are supplied to the illegal settlements (to be used in swimming pools, and for cooling) while Palestinians remain thirsty. When they do receive water, it is usually contaminated with microbes and other pollutants
  • Israel regularly violates the Geneva Convention by imposing collective punishment (an act of Barbarianism) on entire towns, villages, and camps. Sometimes entire villages are destroyed while people are still in their homes.


Some might argue that Arabs are not oppressed in Israel. After all, there are Arab Muslims in the Knesset- the Israeli government. Could the same be said about America? Can we say that racism is an erstwhile concept because Barack Obama became president? Arguing that Palestinians have equal rights to Israelis simply because they are granted basic civil rights is a futile argument. It is like a person stealing a loaf of bread from another person, handing them back a single crumb, and expecting them to be grateful for it. These civil rights are not somehow an extraordinary act of generosity or kindness, especially against the backdrop of what is really going on.

Israel is a colonial settler state with an organised apartheid system to maintain the power of one ethnic group over the native one. It often resorts to brute force to maintain this power, but criticising these violent and unfair operations are seen as anti-Semitic, even when the critics are Jewish. If it is anti-Semitic and a gesture of ‘self-hatred’ for Jews to criticise Israel, is it an Islamophobic act of ‘self-hating’ for me to criticise the Saudi Arabian monarchical government? No, obviously not. Irrespective of the fact that members of the Saudi government identify as Muslim, I (as a decent human being) am deeply critical of their policies. Likewise, many Jewish academics have spoken out against Israel, and have (in return) received torrents of hate. In recent months, the weapon of choice to attack Jeremy Corbyn was anti-Semitism (led by supporters of Israel) particularly due to his views on Palestine.

In a statement made in 2015, Mr Corbyn said: “Last October parliament made a historic decision to recognize the state of Palestine. As Labour Leader I would not only reaffirm that decision, I would seek to build on it by lobbying support for Palestinian statehood in the international community. This recognition is not only essential for establishing the principle of equality between Israeli and Palestinian, it is also in the long term interests of the sovereignty of Israel that we end the double standards whereby Israeli rights to nationhood and recognized, but Palestinian rights are denied. […]

“I share the growing concern over the failure to stop Israel’s violation of international human rights law. Add to that the impact of the Gaza blockade (which spanned for roughly a decade, and involved a series of ground and aerial bombardments), the random and arrest without trail of civilians including children, and the harassment and humiliation of Palestinians as they go about their everyday life, it is clear that human rights violations are fuelling the conflict.

“It is wrong that we continue to sell arms to Israel and I fully support the calls for an arms embargo.

“While I support Israel’s right to safeguard its citizens I agree with the views of  many Israeli human rights organisations that the route of the Separation is designed to annex Palestinian land and undermine chances for a future peace settlement. In addition, it has adverse effects on Palestinian human rights by restricting movements, increasing difficulties in accessing medical and education services and water supplies.

“I echo the calls of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWE) that the blockade must be lifted. It is now one of the longest blockades in history and it impact on the 1.76 million people who live in the Gaza strip, the vast majority of them refugees, has been to further improvise and already desperately poor, improvised people.

“Both British and American governments have rightly criticised the illegal settlements. Not only are they in violation of international law but they a conscious policy to deliberately  undermine any prospect of a viable Palestinian state and with it any two-state solution. It is clear the only hope to stop this policy is if the international community intensify pressure. To that end I fully support the call to end all trade and investments with the illegal settlements.” (Source: Stop The War Coalition)


To summarise Mr. Corbyn’s main points, to achieve peace through a viable two-state solution, the following must happen: Israel must obey UN laws and conform to international border regulations; the Labour party should support the establishment of a peaceful, safe, viable Palestinian state alongside an Israeli one; we must point out Israel’s violations of human rights laws, such as the detention of children and political prisoners without trial; the wall (a direct contravention of ICJ international law, almost twice as tall as the Berlin wall, which also existed to cut communities off) must be demolished; the siege of Gaza must be ended, and the free flow of trade and aid should be allowed; we must call for a complete freeze on illegal settlement growth.

Visible violations of human rights might include movement restrictions such as closures and checkpoints where IDF soldiers bearing rifle guns spit at Palestinians and hurl racist insults at them. Any opposition to this can be conducive to bloodshed or imprisonment. These policies also have an unseen effect: they undermine the Palestinians’ capacity to live freely. Their lives are being policed- what they can say, where they can go, at what times they can go there. This also raises another concern, pertaining to education. In addition to this, many children have to walk up to 6km to get to school, and must also go through checkpoints.

The concerns surrounding this regime are shared by respected and courageous Israeli human rights organisations like Breaking the Silence, Gush Shalom, Rabbis for Human Rights and B’tselem, as well as international organisations like Save the Children and Oxfam.


Many parallels can be drawn between the South African Apartheid and also to the French colonisation of Algeria, and the current situation in Palestine. The aforesaid strategies were each centred on racism, aggression, and an attempt to suppress and criminalise native peoples, denying them their right to self-determination. Apartheid can be defined as “a system of institutionalised racial segregation and discrimination”, and this is precisely what is taking place in Palestine. Imagine if the situation had been different- if, say, Syria, had attempted to colonise Britain, systematically subjugating its indigenous people, building walls and illegal settlements, controlling our utilities. There would have been a global outcry, but for the Palestinians, there is no global solidarity- only labels used to muffle their cries.


In 2016, an Israeli spokesperson stated, almost boastfully,that “enforcement [in Israel] is far more severe to Palestinians than to [settlers]”.


The plight of Palestinians is not a ‘Muslim problem’, as it is often dismissed as. Palestinians have their own distinct culture- from the extraordinary ‘Dabke’ dance, to their eye-catching Tatreez dresses, there is no doubt that Palestinian culture is deeply rich and beautiful. It is distinct and had been characteristic of the region for centuries. However, the Israeli government is cunningly erasing Palestinian history and culture, by doctoring school curriculums and by asserting their own nationalistic propaganda to young and impressionable children. These young Israelis grow to resent their Arab counterparts, and this growing hatred quickly becomes an effective force in driving young Israelis to join the IDF and advocate Zionism.

When it comes to this particular conflict, valid arguments (necessary to result in fruitful dialogues) are habitually derailed. The collective fear of terrorism, as well as cries of anti-Semitism, indubitably drive the global agenda.

Prima facie, it seems like we already have a two-state solution: the West Bank exists, and so does Israel. But illegal settlers still live in Palestinian territory, dividing the land and restricting freedom of movement. These settlements (usually tall luxury buildings) are constantly expanding, while illegal settlers frequently incite violence, throwing stones at natives, and (occasionally) violently beating them, and running them over with their cars. Numerous modern intellectuals agree that the Gaza Strip is like a prison; in fact, David Cameron called it the biggest “prison camp” in the world.

Fairly recently, a group of Jewish anti-Zionists took a ship to Israel. It was boarded by the Israeli Navy, and the passengers onboard were arrested, simply for trying to bring attention to the situation. Similarly, in 2003, an American peace activist, Rachel Corrie, was deliberately run over by an Israeli bulldozer, and since her death and the lawsuit that follows, the Israeli establishment’s intolerance of any sort of activism (in the pursuit of peace) has proliferated. And let’s not forget about when, in 2010, the Israeli military attacked the Gaza flotilla- an aid boat, carrying supplies to the Gaza Strip.

Ultimately, my view is not that all Israeli people are Muslim-loathing, self-righteous imbeciles: I simply believe that it should be acknowledged that Israel’s beginnings were rooted in racism and colonialism. I also believe that it is despicable that attempts to raise awareness about the suffering of Palestinians are frequently brushed to the side. When young Palestinian boys throw rocks at tanks, they are perceived as ‘young terrorists’, yet when settlers run natives over with their cars, this is seen only as a manifestation of the tension in the region- nobody’s fault, of course.

The level of censorship and deliberate disregard the world is displaying appals me, especially when pro-Palestinian voices are silenced on university campuses, while allowing pro-Zionists to speak out, loudly and proudly. What I found particularly shocking was when Leanne Mohamed (a Palestinian-British schoolgirl) was prohibited from taking up her place at the (ironically named) Jack Petchey ‘Speak Out’ Competition; her speech was found to be ‘offensive’. We need to protect freedom of speech in academic institutions.

“I am Palestinian, and I am human,” she said. “I shouldn’t have to remind the world of that.”


Meanwhile, atrocities carried out by the state of Israel are seen as a genuinely positive thing- they are leading pioneers, warriors fighting against terrorism. Numerous NGOs and human rights organisations (and even prominent artists like Banksy) unanimously agree that Israel’s actions are absolutely unacceptable, however these groups are severely restricted in what they can and cannot say about Israel’s crimes.


There is literally no safe place for civilians in Gaza” – Jens Laerke, UN Spokesperson


Terrorism is defined as “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims”. This is precisely how Israel obtained (and currently maintains) control. Israel is a terrorist state, and perhaps if the roles were reversed- if a predominantly Muslim group had been the settlers- perhaps then this fact would have been acknowledged.

Official UN statistics reveal that this year, settler violence has risen by 88%. Fences have been installed above streets that are mostly populated by Arabs, to catch rubbish that settlers throw from overhead. This is bullying on a large scale, a constant stream of negativity that has one sole purpose: to fuel erasure and silence.

In 2014, an Israeli offensive strategy (Operation ‘Protective Edge’) resulted in the deaths of 2104 individuals, of whom 495 were innocent children. This, combined with the ever-increasing lone attacks on Palestinians produces an unacceptable figure. Such attacks are popularly perceived as defensive retaliations, however (although I do acknowledge that some Palestinians have resorted to violent means) the proportion of deaths caused by Israeli forces is significantly lower than those caused by Palestinian ‘freedom fighters’.

My unwavering belief is that, to bring about any sort of justice, a balanced discussion is necessary. At present, the ‘dialogue’ is very asymmetrical; while America is providing billions of dollars to Israeli military forces, many oblivious individuals instinctively sympathise only with Israel, while actively berating Palestine. The Palestinian cause is one for “Leftists, Islamists and Jew-haters”, they say. In fact, many similar comments were thrown at me when I posted about the recent Palestine Expo, on Twitter.

Nelson Mandela once said, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestinians”. In fact, one professor from the University of Johannesburg stated that the discriminatory system in Palestine is even worse than Apartheid. Palestinians are being confined and controlled, and this methodical persecution is being commended by some governments.

To rebut claims of Israel being an apartheid state, it is commonly argued that the country is, in actuality, a vibrant democracy, because Arabs are politically involved in the Knesset. In spite of this, they cannot pass any policies to protect their own rights. Their positions are tokenistic and futile. Palestinian residents are not immigrants- they are the indigenous people. Taking part in national politics is not somehow a profound act of generosity, nor is it in any way a symbol of equality or privilege; it is a basic human democratic right. Even though 20% of Israel’s population (after the cluster of refugee crises) is Palestinian, over 69 years, only 3 out of 600 ministers have been non-Jewish. This is just 0.5%.

For the rest of the world, it is easy to point fingers at the political instability within other regions of the Middle East. It is easy to overlook the roots of these issues (another nod to good old western imperialism) and argue that Muslim governments are always crazy and belligerent. This could lead to some asking why Jewish people shouldn’t have the right to have their own country, when Muslims have many of their own. But Israel is not a victim, nor is it a pacifist nation. It has waged war, and contemplated waging war on, many countries, including Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. Moreover, this is not a theoretical discussion about whether Jewish people should have their own country. This is a specific situation, where the human rights of millions of people have been, and are still being, violated. This is a contemporary political reality, and we need to wake up to it.

Here are some more important factors to consider in addressing the issue (derived from a Tumblr thread entitled ‘How to Pro-Palestine 101, created by Palestinian Tumblr users):


  • Understand this whole conflict is about land and not religion, we are not fighting over whether we should fast on Ramadan or on Yom Kippur, or fighting Israelis just because the majority of them is Jewish.
  • Understand that not all Palestinians are Muslims, about 15%-20% of Palestinians aren’t.
  • You support Palestinians for losing their land and facing atrocities, you don’t support Palestinians just because Palestine is holy to you.
  • You support all Palestinians equally, don’t put Muslim Palestinians over non-Muslim Palestinians and vice-versa, we are all going through the same struggle.
  • Don’t support us just because you hate Jews; we don’t want your anti-Semitism.
  • Don’t turn Palestine into a Muslim issue.
  • Understand that there are diverse opinions amongst Palestinians, both in the diaspora and at home.
  • Bringing awareness to Palestinians should not be done through grotesque means; in other words, Nazi comparisons or even spreading pictures of dead bodies everywhere.
  • Do not try to pit Christian Palestinians against Muslim Palestinians or Palestinians of any other religion, and don’t import your Islamophobia into our struggle by lending your support only to one group. We are one people you take us all or not at all
  • Do not erase Palestinians of different races in order to present Palestine as an Arab nation when there are Arab Palestinians, afro Palestinians, Armenian Palestinians, Chechnyan Palestinians, Jewish Palestinians and more
  • Absolutely do not claim to support us if you deny the rights of other oppressed groups or deny the oppression or genocide of other groups
  • Do not criticize their method of resistance. You are not the one suffering from the consequences.
  • Boycott Israeli products
  • Attend protests and rallies for Palestine
  • Talk about Palestinian refugees. They cannot return home, but Jewish people around the world, irrespective of ancestry, have a ‘right’ to live in Israel. This leads to further expansion.
  • Talk about the attacks on the religious freedom of Palestinians- on BOTH Muslim and Christian Palestinians
  • Support Palestinians, and don’t police them- even when they criticize Arab governments and the PNA- and point out their mistreatment of Palestinians
  • Help bring awareness to Palestine. Don’t let them forget us.


I fiercely oppose anti-Semitism and ‘Islamist’ zealotry, however I refuse to allow the evident biases of the government and the mass media to dictate my views. As an anti-racism activist, an egalitarian, and a history enthusiast, I am completely, and unequivocally, pro-Palestine. I am extremely critical of governments whose actions epitomize concepts like blind capitalism, colonialism, and systematic oppression- countries like the USA, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. Yes, Israel might be portrayed as a tremendously progressive country (what with its military recruitment of women and its open acceptance of LGBTQ+ people) when compared to the ‘backwards and intolerant’ religion of Islam, but there are also orthodox areas where such progressive values are not shared, and also, its progressiveness is severely restricted by its policies towards Palestinians, as well as its maltreatment of African (especially Ethiopian) Jews. In addition to this, I am fiercely unsympathetic towards any brand of feminism that forces all women to spend two years in the military, and bombs houses where innocent women and girls live.


In the past, there existed a popular concept known as ‘Liberal Zionism’, a movement that sought to establish a Jewish homeland, without a brutal occupation. Even without the violence necessary to execute such an endeavor, many Jewish people would still vehemently argue against Zionism: after all, Jewish culture and identity has existed for around 2500 years before colonial Zionism. This concept is clearly a modern political ideology.

From a purely Marxist perspective, voicing our anger against Israel has little to do with religion or attacking the legitimacy of the Israeli state. It needs to be acknowledged, however, that Israel was built on settler colonialism, imperialism, and ethnic cleansing, and that its policies are profoundly detrimental. We can view this issue in terms of class struggles: it is clear that Israel represents capitalism- how its government is funded by other nations, and how companies such as Coca-Cola and McDonalds operate on illegal settlements. These arguments need to stop being dismissed and derailed persistently by Zionists.


Individuals and groups who write about the conflict:



Numerous celebrities have spoken out against Israeli war crimes, and have expressed support for marginalised Palestinians. These celebrities include (but are not limited to) Zayn Malik, Whoopi Goldberg, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Rihanna. Expectedly, each one of the aforesaid received a tirade of abuse after showing their support for Palestine, and there was a similar uproar when 23 Oscar nominees turned down a free invitation to Israel, in protest against its abhorrent actions.


Hamas is notorious for having rejected ‘peace attempts’ in the past, however to truly achieve peace, the following must happen:

  • Israel must end the occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land; the apartheid wall must also be dismantled, and Jerusalem should be accessible to people of all faiths
  • All Palestinians living in Israel must be given full equality and protection as citizens
  • Palestinian refugees should be given the right of return


Recommended reading list:

To put it succinctly, a popular slogan used by Zionists is “a land without a people for a people without a land”. But, in reality, the land did have a people- indigenous Muslims and Christians and Jews who resided peacefully, side-by-side, for centuries. Do we expect Palestinians to sit back and watch their land get stolen from them? Morale is low: while Israel deploys brute force and highly skilled soldiers and bombs and jets and laws and curfews, Palestinians have been left with nothing. Palestinians are practically invisible to the world, except when a handful retaliate in the only way they can- through violence. These ones are ‘terrorists’, and Israel’s actions can easily be justified because they are acting ‘in the interest of national security’.

Remember the Nakba. Remember the murdered. Remember the refugees, the illegal occupation, the massacres, and the villages that were (and are currently being) annihilated. Remember how the British government gave away (Palestinian) land that it did not own. Remember the 2014 Gaza war that resulted in the deaths of more than 2200 Palestinians. Remember how the world didn’t care, until 66 Israeli military personnel were killed in retaliation. Remember Operation Cast Lead, Operation Pillar of Defence and Operation Protective Edge, and how Israel used advanced weaponry (such as white phosphoric acid) against Palestinian civilians, as well as how it did not act in accordance with international laws during these hostile military offensives. Understand that Apartheid is currently being practised in Palestine, under the guise of combatting terrorism and anti-Semitism. Understand that (until the emergence of Hamas) the issue has never quite been about religion; it has always been about racism and colonialism. Understand that many (including governments and media outlets) want to silence Palestinians and erase their history, but we will remember Ramallah. We will remember the West Bank. We will remember Gaza. We will remember Palestine.

From the river to the sea-

Free, Free Palestine!

Sadia Ahmed, 2017



A Silent Revolution

It is 1965 and she is bleeding.

The ragged edges of their words has managed to cut her once again.

Paki. You do not belong here. 

One end of her crimson Saree is draped over her head,

Her Bindhi sits atop her forehead like a sun waiting to rise.

Her Mendhi seeps into her veins and mixes with her blood,

And warrior bangles cover her warrior arms.

She is sugar, and she is spice, and she has a heart that is made of ice,

She is a pair of brown eyes in a blizzard,

Burning ice- a freezing cold fire.

A bird without her wings,

A warrior in pacifist skin,

A silent revolution.

It is 2016 and he is bleeding,

Arms outstretched, lying helplessly on the ground,

He can’t breathe. 

Justice may be a hypocrite, but he is a king,

His wispy woollen hair is his crown,

And each tightly-wound curl is a fist,

Fighting between love and pain and melanin.

His dark skin is his kingdom- but it is bleeding now.

They say he smells of deviance and drugs,

But he smells of his wife’s arms, holding him, telling him desperately,

You are loved, and your life matters.

He is a pair of brown eyes in a blizzard,

Burning ice- a freezing cold fire.

A black-feathered angel without his wings,

A criminal whose only crime was being brought into existence-

a black man- the darkest shade of rejection.

A warrior in pacifist skin,

A silent revolution. 


People often ask me where I am from. I was born and raised in Britain, yet the question of ethnic origins appears to be of more importance, despite the fact that I’ve only visited Bangladesh thrice in my life, for three weeks at most each time. Despite my outward features (headscarf, skin colour and the like) I naturally consider myself… British. Or, at least, a Londoner?


It supposedly all began after the tragedies of 9/11; I was only a year old at the time, and yet the events of this day continue to resonate around me wherever I go. I shuffle in discomfort when the line “Please report any suspicious items or activity to transport staff” is articulated over the Tannoy system on the Tube, and bow my head in discomfort when I am stared at afterwards- sometimes with quick glances of sympathy, but far too often with unmoving glares of hostility. I am seen as not an individual, but a representational piece of the bigger picture- the media narrative that speaks of bombings, female degradation, beheadings and mass terror. People fail to acknowledge that, certainly, not all Muslims harbour ideological stances adjacent to that of ISIS. In fact, most Muslims openly condemn the acts of ISIS, as the Quran explicitly advises Muslims to

“Enjoin in what is good, and forbid what is evil”.

The truth is, I hate what certain so-called ‘Muslim’ groups do. And I am afraid due to the stories I hear from my aunts and uncles, of racist assaults and verbal abuse that they themselves have been victim of.

The word ‘terror’ is now popularly associated with Muslims.

I myself am not immune to being a target of such misconduct. For instance, when I was aged twelve years old, during a boat ride down a river in Kent, a group of men instructed me to “Jump in the lake, for everyone’s sake” and that “EDL will someday destroy” me, and also quite recently, when my two-year-old brother and I looked on as a man physically assaulted our father because he was a “F***ing Paki”.

Whereas before, I was extremely confident, proudly displaying my eccentric nature wherever I went, I am now afraid of lingering alone in public areas, for fear of both being a victim of racist abuse, and of reminding others of the brutal acts carried out by alleged constituents of my faith. I feel as though I must constantly show signs of remorse, despite my distance from the villains in question. When someone stares at me, I smile awkwardly and apologetically.

Over the past few decades, the influence of mass media has grown exponentially with the advancement of technology, to the extent where people uncritically rely on the media as an objective source of information. With the growth of mass media, the term ‘terrorism’ to describe crimes committed by ‘Islamists’ has become exceedingly popular. The definition of this term according to the Oxford dictionary is:

(n) The unofficial use of violence/intimidation in the pursuit of political aims

So what of right-wing fascist movements? Where are the front-page articles reporting their offences? Where is the generalised vilification of them?

Young British Muslims are somehow externalised from their rightful British identities, unduly forced to choose between their religious and cultural identities, regardless of where they were born, or the colour of their passports. A scarf over my head and modest clothing to express my pride in my faith is somehow enough to provoke a torrent of Islamophobic abuse, even as a teenager.

I believe that in a country where freedom of expression and values of tolerance and respect are central societal components, this should not be the case, and that young Muslims should have the freedom to uphold and be proud of both their Muslim and British identities: the two are not mutually exclusive.