Blank space

I come from a background of women whom have seen their people burned alive right in front of them, whom have had their innocence taken away from them within the matter of minutes at the hands of men whom felt entitled to their bodies.

I come from a background of women whom have suffered from severe trauma from a young age, at the hands of the British empire and Pakistani military. I come from a background of women whom were told to ‘just deal with it’: deal with the continuous monstrosities of colonialism and imperialism, and ‘carry on’.

I come from a background of women whom were expected to ‘stay silent!’ about all that had happened to them, because if a man outside of the family had found out that ‘your body was no longer innocent and clean, no man would want you.’

I come from a background of women whom migrated, and when migrating, carried their trauma. I come from a background of women whom didn’t know how to deal with their trauma because their community back home didn’t let them, because they themselves didn’t know how.

I come from a background of women whom never ever knew or know the phrases ‘I am depressed, I am anxious, I feel suffocated’.  I come from a background of women whom are severely depressed, anxious and suffocated but they get on with it because that is what they know and all that they know.

I come from a background of women whom are courageous and strong beyond your eyes could ever imagine but because these women are elderly, and their tongues do not speak English the way a native would, you wouldn’t see them as strong and courageous. You would see their small petite frames, hijabs and wrinkled faces and think of words such as frail, passive, submissive and obedient to describe them as.

I come from a background of women whom projected their issues on to me, and yet, I don’t blame them. They weren’t made aware of mental health issues, but they slowly are now. It’s difficult for some to listen and understand. And those who do listen and try to understand, struggle nonetheless.

I am a woman who will teach my children the history of their women, and teach them what it means to be strong women through my words and my actions. I will teach them that when everything isn’t okay, that, that’s okay, and that they can speak about how they are feeling.

22 years of living, and yet, I do not know my mother’s story fully. At times, randomly, she opens up to me and reveals snippets and I’m able to form jigsaw pieces. I have some pieces that show the overall narrative very briefly, but the precise details, the centre and the edges are very much a blank space.

“Muslamic ray guns”


Defining Islamophobia

Islamophobia is so much more than just a simple ‘dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force’ (Oxford English Dictionary Online). It is an intense hatred for what encompasses the unknown. Islam is foreign. It is violent and it is threatening. Look at the rise of terrorist attacks in the contemporary. Muslim bearded men are radical and fanatical. Veiled Muslim women are medieval. We are submissive and passive. We are the epitome of oppression itself. We have yet to embrace our liberated white feminist sisters who have freed themselves of their patriarchal shackles.

The media

Gathering from the above statements, it is no wonder why Islamophobia is on the rise. Newspaper report after report after report of terrorist attacks, the rise of terrorism, the war on terror, Asian grooming gangs, ISIS, radicalised British teenagers, Hamas, the Syrian conflict, Muslim women’s illiteracy rate, Muslim women’s unemployment rate. Quite frankly, the media has a fetish for Muslims. They have an obsession with focusing on Muslims, and a compulsion with the ‘demonic rise of Islam’. It is manic. And this mania shapes and has shaped the way in which Muslims and Islam are perceived within the present.

Xenophobia unwrapped

Islamophobia however, is not merely just a hatred towards Muslims and Islam. No. It is xenophobia. It is racism wrapped around the fabric of religion. Simple as. Anyone who ‘looks’ Muslim, who ‘sounds’ Muslim, who has a ‘Muslim sounding name’ are the victims of islamophobic attacks: non-Muslim and Muslim blacks, Sikh’s, Hindu’s, Muslim, Christian and Jewish Arabs. Numerous physical attacks carried in the name of harming a Muslim, harming a terrorist have been perpetrated based on physical appearances and characteristics. The fact that individuals try to perpetrate who is Muslim and who isn’t based on physical appearance shows the profound level of ignorance prevalent in society towards minorities. Ultimately, these islamophobic attacks reveal society’s constructed ongoing racism and cyclical obliviousness to those who form the underclass. If people well and truly hated Muslims, and wanted to attack Muslims in the name of ‘protecting society from Islam’, then only Muslims would be the victims of these attacks. But they are not. Islamophobia is so much more than just people having negative stereotypes about Islam which are then manifested into attacks on Muslims. Islam is no longer just synonymous with the Middle East, Muslim men with violence and Muslim women with oppression. Islam has become synonymous with race and ethnicity and physical appearance.


We are all privileged in our own right

As a visible Bengali Muslim woman who chooses to wear the hijab, yes, I have been discriminated against verbally and physically, based on my physical appearance. Growing up, as a young child, prior to me wearing the hijab, I was told by adults in my area that my brown skin was ‘dirty’, my South Asian hair was ‘greasy and oily’ and that I need to take a bath to clean the dirt off my skin. The list goes on. Now as a young adult who wears the hijab, yes, I do feel a slight sense of unease every time I go through airport security because of the way I am always patted down excessively, my hijab ruffled up and the way my passport is thoroughly checked at the boarding gate and placed through different scanning systems. My best friends who are predominantly Caucasian, East Asian and black, and not Muslim, just stand there not knowing what to do, because well, it is a ‘routine check’. That’s what I have been told. Yes, I am worried about how I am going to be perceived based on my skin colour, my hijab, everything that constitutes my physical appearance, because people have made derogatory comments to me before in the past, since I was 4 years old. And in the last five years, I’ve been spat on whilst walking home, I’ve been slapped across the face at a tube station, I’ve been called a ‘paki’ and told to go back to my country, a woman screamed at me whilst calling me an ‘Indian terrorist’ and told me that I am directly responsible for 9/11. And in the first few months of sixth form, a boy thought it was funny to throw bacon at me continuously during lunch whilst I was eating. The list goes on. I am not going to bore you. There is a blurred line between race and religion whereby Islam and Muslims have become racialised in the recent contemporary i.e. physical attacks carried out on Muslims have been done so based on ‘how Muslim a person looks’. Look at the prominent case of Balbir Singh Sodhi, just one of many since 2001. Nonetheless, even if I was to remove my hijab supposedly, I can’t remove my skin colour physically, nor do I want to. I am visibly brown, and I am visibly Muslim. And the fine line between race and religion has become significantly blurred in the 21st century. Inevitably, society has, does and is going to treat me a certain way due to these intersections that
constitute my identity.

Though I’ve had and will have my experiences of being discriminated against based on my physical appearance, nonetheless there is no denying that I am privileged in other ways. I feel that sometimes, people can see privilege in a very black and white way, literally. In fact, people forget how privileged they are, and that privilege itself does lie on a spectrum.
I’m privileged. I live in inner West London. I went to school. I went to a good sixth form. I went to a Russell group university. Every single day my dad would pick me up from school. When I used to come home, which was a 3-minute walk from my primary school, I would have a shower, I would then have my dinner which was waiting for me at the table. When I wasn’t doing my homework or extracurricular activities, I was at the library or I was playing out with my friends who lived in my area. I went to school. I was in full time education for 18 years. As a young primary school student, I had parents picking me up from school, holding my hand up until we reached our home. School was a 3-minute walk. One time my friend and I ran from school to home, it took us 1 minute. Not every child in this world has the privilege of going to school, let alone a school that is so nearby. One of my great Aunts would always tell me that she had to climb mountains and swim through lakes and rivers to go to school. I’m pretty sure she was exaggerating slightly, but she would always tell me that she used to go to school every single day, and as she set off, the poorer children her age in the village would set out to do their domestic and agricultural duties. On top of having a good education, not every child is privileged to have a parent or parents, let alone parents picking them up from school. My father passed away when I was 15 years old, at a young, crucial and pivotal moment of my life, but nonetheless, I had a strong father figure growing up who was there for me. On top of that, I had, and I do have access to clean water every single day. I never have to worry about trekking for miles looking for water, let alone water that is sanitised. I never have to trek anywhere. As a child, I was able to play out with the other children in my area without my parents having to worry extensively about my health and safety. The area in which I grew up in was a relatively safe area with a decent neighbourhood, well during daylight hours anyways. And though there were gangs in my area, incidents of knife crime, people being shot, drug dealings, arson attacks, like a lot of London in fact, which goes unheard of in the great British media, even the affluent boroughs, nonetheless it was London, West London, a city of opportunities within an economically developed country.

My mum was born in 1958 in Bangladesh, a decade after the Indian partition. Prior to 1947, Bangladesh was controlled by the British Raj. From 1947 to 1971, Pakistan intervened socially and politically in Bangladesh, trying to gain control over this small territory. After many years of conflict and turmoil Bangladesh finally gained independence and formally became a country in 1971. My mum is literate. She knows how to read and write in both Bengali and English. Growing up, she had the privilege of going to school despite her school being bombed and closed for a couple of years due to the war. My grandfather who went to Pakistan to study at university ensured that his daughters were educated and aware, so frequently he would sit with my mum and listen to her read, the same way my dad would sit with me and listen to me read my library books to him. As a child, I was never surprised that my mum knew how to read and write in Bengali, it was her mother tongue after all. And I was never surprised that she knew the history of her country so well, all the way from the British empire to the Portuguese settlers, to the Moghul, Turk and Afghan rulers, and the first Arab Muslim to set foot in her village. But, my mum would frequently tell me that she was privileged to come from an industrialised area in Bangladesh, and privileged to have a father who stressed the importance of his daughters to be educated. I never knew up until recently in fact that the adult literacy rate of Bangladesh was 29.2 % in 1981 and in 2015, 61.5 %. According to UNESCO, the average adult literacy rate in 2018 is 72.76%. I was so surprised to see these figures because 1. My mum was born in the late 1950’s, when the literacy rate was probably lower than 29.2%, and 2. It really made me put things into perspective. Unlike my mum who lived through the Bangladeshi liberation war, who saw her father, friends and other family members kidnapped, harmed and tortured right before her very eyes, who did have her house raided by the Pakistani military frequently and all their belongings stolen, and livestock burnt up, I have it good. But I realised that although my mum went through a lot growing up: being born after the Indian Partition, the dismantling of the British Empire and living through the Bangladeshi liberation war etc, she like me, saw herself as privileged primarily because she was literate and educated in comparison to other girls her age growing up who weren’t.
We are all privileged in our own right.

How to make an extra hot cup of tea the way my mum likes it

-200 ml of freshly boiled water from the kettle
-1 teaspoon of sugar
-1 PG tips tea bag

-250 ml mug
-1 small saucepan
-1 tea strainer to pour out tea

1) Place the freshly boiled water from the kettle into the small saucepan. Place the saucepan on the cooker.
2) Put the tea bag in. Let the tea steep for 2 minutes. The water will turn dark red/brown and become frothy. If you like your tea strong, steep it for longer on a low heat.
3) Add however much milk you like to the saucepan for your required amount of milkiness regarding your tea.
4) Allow the tea to brew for an extra 2 minutes or until there is froth building up at the edges of the saucepan. If you like your tea strong, steep it for longer on a low heat.
5) Remove the tea bag using the teaspoon.
6) Using the tea strainer, pour out the tea from the saucepan into your mug. You want to use the tea strainer to get rid of the milk skin.
7) Add sugar to taste.

How to make an extra hot cup of tea the way my mum likes it

-200 ml of negative internalised feelings
-Transformative thoughts and thinking
-Your reaction

-Your mind
-Your mental filter
-Self-love and self-care

1) Place 200 ml of feelings of doubt, lack of self-worth and any other negative feelings you may have towards yourself into the saucepan.
2) Realise that you are stronger than you think you are. Allow your internal scars to speak for themselves. You are a warrior. Please realise that.
3) To counteract these negative feelings, add transformative thoughts to the saucepan. It may be hard at times but look at how far you have come in life despite the odds and look ahead. You will go even further.
4) My mum’s tea needs milk to get it out of the darkness that has engulfed it completely when in the saucepan. She cannot control the amount of liquor extracted from the tea bag, but she can control how much milk she puts in. You cannot control what comes your way in life, but you can choose how to react to each individual situation.
6) My mother uses a tea strainer to get rid of the excess milk skin that has formed at the top of the tea and hardened. Clean your mind. Filter out the negative thoughts that you may have regarding yourself and more specifically, your self-worth. Realise that you have the power to change the way you see yourself, the way you see your world and everything and everyone within it.
7) My mother loves her tea sweet. Remember to love yourself first and foremost. Take care of your mind and your body mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You matter. Put yourself first, and realise your worth.





Intersectional feminism is a term coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw: an American civil right advocate, as well as a professor specialising in racial theory. Though coined by Crenshaw, black feminists prior to Crenshaw such as Audre Lorde made intersectional feminist theory what it is prior to its founding as a study.

Intersectionality is the idea that different social, economic and political components come together to form an individual’s identity. These components include class, sex, gender, race, ethnicity, religion etc. Due to these different components, every man and every woman is perceived differently by society.

A middle class white woman’s experience, and how she is perceived in life, is different to that of a working class white woman’s, because of social, economic and financial factors which determine which class a woman fits the category of. A white woman’s experience is different to a black woman’s experience because a Black woman is seen in light of her Blackness.

Identity is very complex. There are so many different constituents that come together to determine why an individual is the way they are. Due to this, generalisation is an issue. To say that white feminism can be used to represent the struggle of black feminists is inaccurate. White feminists can use their voice to speak out against social injustices against themselves and other women, but they will never ever be able to relate to the oppression, discrimination, prejudice and struggle that black women go through on a day to day basis because they will never be discriminated against based on Blackness.

Similarly, to use the word Black culture to describe a Black individual or a whole race is very vague. There is a wide diaspora of Black people across the world who don’t share the same demographic location, each having their own cultural and ethnic customs and values distinct to them. In Ghana alone, there are around 250 languages spoken and over 100 different ethnic groups. Therefore, to generalise a person or group of people based on one shared intersection such as skin colour is both problematic and inaccurate.