23 October 2016
My married name is Rebecca Mary Mohamed. That's one name for each of the three Abrahamic religions, and yet I am none of them. My husband is a devout Muslim and was born in Egypt. He settled here eight years ago and has worked for the NHS for six and a half. We pay our taxes, we vote and we don't ask for much. Nobody has helped us - even when we were in desperate situations with no work and no money, we have never taken a penny from the state. Or from anyone else. We live in a halal household, and I fully support him in practicing his choice of religion, just as he supports me in practicing mine (Modern Wicca). A witch and an Arabic Muslim man living in harmony - who'd have thought it? In my husband's birth culture, wives do not take their husband's name. Their identity is their own. Whenever I have said I think it is time I used my married name, he has always talked me out of it, on the assumption that I will face prejudice if I do, and I have always reassured him that the UK is not like that. I work in the charity sector, I move in academia, I live in multi-cultural London, having grown up in rural England. I realise I have come from a place of relative privilege and education. My closest companions, friends and teachers have come from all over the world. I am proud to say that, daily, I interact with people from every continent and I try to meet each and every person with respect and on equal terms, and I expect the same in return. My life has been enriched by these interactions. I realise this means I live in a bubble, but it's one I will defend to the death.
I had thought that most people in my circles were like-minded reasonable people, but some of the hate-peddling shit that had passed my wall in the last few days has taken my breath away. I am horrified by some of the opinions that are seeping out through the cracks in the woodwork.
Since when was human decency, and respect something that was 'imposed' on us by mainland Europe? If you really believe that the UK has been anything but multi-cultural going back to our earliest beginnings, then I urge you to research our history more carefully, you might be surprised. Otherwise, please don't let the door hit you on the way out. Our culture has always involved the movement of souls, in and out of our borders, dating right back to the Roman times. It didn't begin or end there. It's been a constant ebb and flow throughout history. And our country has thrived on it. Take a DNA test, and you will probably find your own blood runs with that multiculturalism. All of a sudden this week, it seems it is ok to post blatantly racist memes, and say we want 'our country back.' (what country is that exactly? And which of our mixed race populations are you referring to? And which decade is it that you think was so special as to warrant being resurrected when our ancestors fought so hard for change?) Meanwhile, friends are being abused in the street and told to go home (to where? To North London?)
It makes me very very sad - to learn that the veneer of reason and fairness is so frail, so thin, that a few lying politicians and press moguls can destroy all that the previous generations fought so hard to put in place. And for what?
When you post racist memes, and comments about immigrants - that is my family you are talking about. When you start chiding us to pull ourselves together and stop having tantrums, perhaps you might stop and realise that some of us have a lot at stake in all of this. There are people who thought they had found a safe haven here who are now feeling threatened and unwanted, people wondering when the next bit of abuse is going to come their way while they are going about their daily lives, minding their own business. People wondering what happens to the carefully worked out peace agreements, and whether or not they now have to leave their homes. All of them are British, whether by birth or by settlement. Those people that came here to settle chose this place as they thought it was something special. Just because they practice a different religion to you, or have a different cultural background, or a different colour skin, or a different accent, or indeed any kind of difference, that does not mean they are any less worthy of being here. I have kept quiet this week, and allowed deeply offensive comments to pass me by, hoping that, if nothing else, the result of this vote will wake people up. For now I will be filtering far more carefully.
This is not me flouncing. This is me feeling deeply concerned at what has occurred in the last few days, what has forced me to look down the rabbit hole of our so called civilisation and feel like banging my head in frustration. We are all feeling disenfranchised, for various reasons. Some of us have felt like that way for many years while we struggle to survive in an economy that has been bled dry by big businesses and the privileged classes who will convince you in the most striking terms that it is the fault of someone else. But before we start scapegoating and pointing the finger at the wrong people, people who are just looking for a safe place to live quietly and without hate, please can we not be a little kinder? When you read things in our scare-mongering press, please, at least, ask yourself if it is true or not. We are all immigrants somewhere.
This is not an invitation to debate with me the rights and wrongs of my choice to vote remain. In fact this is not an invitation to debate at all. I have loved each and every one of you in the time that we have known each other, and you have been part of what has enriched my life.
And if your beliefs come from a place of hate and not of love, of feeling superior to others just by accident of your birth, and not believing to your very core that we are all just human beings, with the same desires and with the same equal rights to live our lives with our loved ones without hate or hindrance, then perhaps it is time for us to part ways.
Please go with love, and shine a little light wherever you go instead of buying into and spreading the lies we have been told.