She Speaks We Hear

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How can I prove myself to be more “British” to live up to Mr Cameron’s standards?

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David Cameron arrives at Qatar University 2011

David Cameron arrives at Qatar University 2011

My Reactions to Cameron’s new counter Terrorism Speech

by Robina Saeed

@ROBtotheINA

Ah Mr Cameron, where do I begin? I must admit I’ve never been his biggest fan. Under his leadership we saw austerity levels reach the highest they’ve ever been, support cut off to the disabled and homeless shelters and food banks pushed to breaking point. Now he’s done terrorising the most vulnerable in society, his new thing these days seems to be telling British Muslims to be more British and less…well, Muslim. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his Public speech outlining is new plans for countering terrorism.

As a young British Muslim woman belonging and identity have always been fairly wobbly concepts to me. Especially when I was growing up, the small town I’m from couldn’t get any less diverse.

My town has no mosque, no sparkly Asian clothes shop, or fruit and veg, cash and carry, in sight. Perhaps the only sign of “muslimness” is the odd halal takeaway in the town centre. My town was  also one seat away from voting in a UKIP majority in the local elections and even made it into the Guinness world book of records for the most pubs on a single stretch of road!  Growing up until I went to College I’d always been the only non-white person in class. The hostility however reaches beyond the towns demographics and planning.  From my grandma having rocks thrown at her for the way she dressed, or to having the words “PAKI TURF” spray painted in red on our front door my family and I have had more than our fair share of racism over the years. So although technically I was British, born and bred in a small town in Manchester, growing up I never felt British enough. I always felt slightly out of place.  In my eyes and experiences you will never be whole heartedly considered a true Brit, without any questions asked like “where are you from?” unless you are White.

Now after overcoming the difficult teenage years I feel British to my bones. It’s part of my Identity. An integral part.

Now after overcoming the difficult teenage years I feel British to my bones. It’s part of my Identity. An integral part. It’s not something I contemplate when I wake up in the morning when I put on my headscarf or drink my tea. I don’t think to myself “hmm am I feeling more British today or shall I act more Muslim”. It doesn’t work like that.  So how can I prove myself to be more “British” in order to live up to Mr Cameron’s standards? It’s an impossible task. Yet time and time again Mr Cameron has pointed the finger at British Muslims demanding we need to assimilate into British society more and show our British values. It’s confusing.

I also fear for the generation younger than me. Teenage years are a universal nightmare but I think, we all also agree that teenage years are fundamental in shaping a young person’s identity and worldview.  Differences in our appearances and beliefs are what makes life interesting, and these differences in identity should be celebrated and encouraged during childhood, not questioned. Imagine the struggles of a young Muslim child, now growing up in school. It’s a toxic environment out there. Whether we admit it or not, children have been born into a society where the word ‘terrorist’ automatically triggers the word ‘Muslim’. Growing up becomes even harder when the Media and your very own Prime Minister and his cabinet put your identity under the spot light. How can a child love and grow into his or her Islamic identity when it is portrayed as something unstable and easily warped by Mr Cameron?

In his speech Mr Cameron said the root cause of terrorism is extremist ideology itself. I would like to know from where he made such a bold claim?  Myself and the other 99% of Muslims worldwide are yet to come across anywhere in our teachings that encourage extremism. All the research I have come across also suggests Mr Cameron is wrong.  Counter-terrorism specialist Prof Andrew Silke says research shows that people are drawn to terrorism more because of “identity issues” than ideology. Interviews with Ex Al Qaeda members from the UK also all show that the draw towards extremism was identity based and a feeling of not belonging here or there.  In my eyes if anything, under this new strategy, more young Muslims are likely to feel out of touch with their identity and question it. They will either turn their backs completely on Islam, because of the constant demonization it faces, or do a 180, and actually be drawn to extremism.

Those are my reactions to the new counter-terrorism plans. Poorly researched, confusing and damaging to the youth.

Robina is an energetic 20 year old Human Geography student from Manchester. She enjoys writing in a matter of fact and casual tone, sharing insights in politics, social life, religion, peace and war.  She has a Youtube channel raising awareness of conflicts worldwide, as well as an easy-to-read personal blog ‘Robina Writes’. You can also follow her on Twitter @ROBtotheINA

Image courtesy of Number 10, David Cameron arrives at Qatar University 

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.
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Author: She Speaks We Hear

Bringing women’s voices together, unaltered, unadulterated. Platforming stories and experiences of Muslim women, so they can own their narrative.

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