I wrote a post for April titled Oh Why Do You Look At Me So?. It’s publishing on allthingswordy soon. It’s about…feeling unsafe in my home town. Feeling alien even to myself.
Feeling alien. Now that’s not a strange way to feel with the teenage experience. I look at people like myself and I see the innocence and I look at the media and I feel as though it is so disconnected from reality and then I realise how much of a stereotype I am. And oh my god I want to swear so badly right now.
I’m sick of it. Sick of this feeling. This limbo quality to my life just shrugging things off my shoulders like “whaddya know son, that’s how the world works anyway.” But I don’t want to be an idealist and believe that the utopias I want can become reality because – who am I kidding? Everything hurts too much when you expose yourself to the elements. People screw you up left, right and centre and even have the cheek to force your finger at yourself.
After the Hebdo incident a twitter-person started spreading the message about abuse towards Muslims as a result. You know, shots fired, bombs thrown in mosques, etc. At the same time other Imams told Muslims to keep smiling, to keep on showing the “good side” of Muslims to the world as though I’ll keep smiling when my knees are quaking with fear. No brah, I’m going to dive under the first duvet cover I find.
After the Chapel Hill killings…damn. Damn. Everything just shrunk a bit, y’know? The world turned impossibly small and suddenly I became a target. I looked at my little sister’s zeal for the world and sobbed – I was that scared of “what next?”.
The police can’t and don’t help. After the incident our school told us that we should stay close and that the teachers wanted us to know that we could tell them anything. Forty of us were put on a list designed to track when we were in school or not (when I told a member of staff this, they replied they had many lists on us, and I can’t help think now that terrorist-suspect was just another one of those lists, alongside academic brilliance and attendance of course).
A friend was ham-fistedly (as the Guardian reported) asked in a police interview if she sympathised with the Hebdo killers. She was sixteen. Please. I want expletives in this.
Every single time I stepped out of the house I was scared out of my mind about what people would think of me. What abuse they would throw at me. I turned into a sort of Crooks (we were studying Of Mice and Men for our English Literature exam) all hunched and defensive and if I’m not allowed in your bunkhouse then you sure as hell ain’t allowed in mine.
I have my family to protect now. I’m only sixteen. The headteacher introduced a new seating plan: no friendship groups, no boys only and girls only, no one race with another member of that race next to each other. A new level of mistrust and us-and-them philosophy rose among our peers. Dad told me that if I heard anything I should tell him or the police. I learnt, in the end, that love made the world go around and all these defence mechanisms put in by the school were not meant to help me. We signed contracts where our parents said they hid our passports from us. A teacher asked me why I didn’t rat out my friends in a political debate I had with them last year. We were fifteen and we had many arguments – none of which we ratted each other out for because that is an impossible and incredulous thing to ask of me. One expletive, just one?
We were all supposedly mourning as a school and I say (shut up, shut up, shut up) nothing to that. Except…it wasn’t true. The school had its motives: to cover itself up so that the news would stop calling our school a radicalisation school. The school only supported people who came forward and asked for that support – everyone else who obeyed the headmaster’s order to carry on as normal, “business as usual” are suffering (silently) to this day.
Even tomorrow I’m supposed to attend a meeting thing where I meet a de-radicalised person. A friend asked, “how does a person become de-radicalised?”.
I don’t know. I don’t even know if I give two flying (shut up!) -.
It’s getting somewhat better, I’ve started to differentiate myself from the Muslims in the media (it’s harder now, considering). I’ve become infinitely more distrustful of journalists (on the Monday back our head of year told the cameramen to “stay away from my pupils”). I commend him for that act of bravery.
I cried. Of course I cried when I found out. My friend called me by one of their names today, mistakenly. She was going to tell me about their active twitter accounts (I haven’t seen them yet) and how one of the girls seems to be living it up.
My head is so (shut up) it’s really bad.
Another friend told me of how sick and tired of life she was. That was normal. We were, after all, going through exam season, after which we had a lot more busy times to look forward to (there’s no such thing as sloth-me any more).
I finished an anime called Karneval in the holidays and it was the most superb thing I’ve ever watched. I want that sort of team to fall back on but I don’t know who to go to. Even the internet, I know now, and sort of blasphemously admit (I am a blogger; I do have blogger friends) is not to be trusted. I want real people.
Karneval also taught me how important it was to get fit and learn how to defend myself. Current news stories taught me that this was an imperative. Ain’t no way I’m going to become the dead body you step over, honey.
I feel like Yossarian these days – so paranoid of everyone. Everyone, friend or foe, out to get me. Everyone who isn’t, out to get someone else. And me? Stuck in the Catch-22 of this stupid (ssh) world.
Now when I read anything about ISIS I weep. Don’t support them, politics is not worth your blood. There’s a lot more freedoms you are free to exercise in this Western “devil-worshipping” first world than the worlds below us. As long as you keep your defence skills sharp – but that’s something that’s a must no matter which side of the world you’re on.
I don’t think I’ll be able to put this up on Monday, even.
The radicalisation woman cancelled because the guy had to go to the A and E. I still am angry, and I know now that I’ll have to publish this a year later or something in order to be able to be happy with who I am and be safe enough for it to be published. I’m a lot more interested in the stories I know now, and in the people I love.
Today I read about an interview with Ray Bradbury that was unearthed from the archives. He was asked if, when he was young, he felt the need to be protected from the world. He said yes, but that was what friendships were for, for laughing at the crazy gits in the world, and for sharing in that laughter. Friendship gives me confidence in myself, in my ideas, in who I am. It makes how scared I am for my life a small thing, a silly thing – this paranoia is sickening, and maybe I didn’t justify it enough the last time I wrote about safety here. Hopefully I’ll be spending more time in the company of others during the holidays and in Ramadan, after exams. And I pray that it will help me become closer to Allah and also that it will strengthen who I am and provide the protection and assurance in that I am a person. I am even, these days, too scared of my own mortality to plan for the future in more than just vague terms.
Before, and After, and After
Italics: Written much, much earlier. Story about who we are. Why we matter, and what the hell is going on round here. Started off from an idea about girl, boy from class to go do jihad. She goes from closed, naive girl to someone who does something, or nothing at all in fear of the retaliations.
Normal font: 02/04/16
I don’t believe you’re gonna leave me.
No, I’m not.
Then where are you going? He looked upwards. I don’t know. But it’s somewhere.
I sighed and nodded my head. I stared at my feet. Yeah, it’s somewhere. You’re not gone for real. You’re just somewhere else. Miles away but just somewhere else. Okay? Actually it’s fine, you’re gone now, you made that decision, you didn’t tell me, and I, back then, when I was writing the beginnings of this story, I didn’t care if you were filled to the brim with hate, it didn’t shock me, I didn’t even, later, consider it as a factor for your going there because going there seemed so natural. Because I was feeding off all the dystopian novels out there which spoke about characters who rebelled against their current government because they were being persecuted – and even if they weren’t who said it was okay to sit and be content and not think that the world you’re living in right now is wrong, wrong, wrong.
He kept on looking upwards, his face slack. The pillows piled on the wall kept his neck from hurting, but I still went over and moved them around a bit. There was so much left to say, and I didn’t want to say any of it. And I did, because time was running out. I think that, maybe, I’d want to write a letter to them four, individually, for every one of them, pretending that they hadn’t gone, that they were about to – like here – and fill it not with anger, or hurt, or righteous indignation, or even questions as to why, but hope for change, pillow-ruffling, love, and the implication of forgiveness.
While his eyes weren’t on me, I allowed myself to look at him properly. His beard was growing into something big, yet his moustache was practically non-existent. His nose had a bit of a knob at the top, something I didn’t realise. It made his face look slightly wonky. His eyes were nearly half-closed. Like their stupid selves – stupid stupid you only saw what you wanted to see. How does anyone ever stop doing that? I’ll go out of my mind attaching everything to this feeling. My whole world shattered the moment I found out – the moment I became the stereotype I fought tooth and nail to not become. My whole stupid and in hindsight flippin’ flimsy personality and being was all about proving people wrong. I’m a terrorist suspect. I sat next to a terrorist. I was friends with terrorists. We are together. What a selfish git I am. The heck is this world. The heck is that disgusting word. And also, perhaps, how about the fact that I defied stereotypes with them. We were allies against the stereotype front, but not only do I see it as a stupid fight and a stupid cause, but it was very stupid of me to think we were together against the stereotype, to think I gave it power by choosing it to be my worthy cause. I still do. But now I just have lots of ideas and contentions, and just want to write them all out. Is it different? I guess it is, The Controversy is a billion times more tongue-in-cheek, I am an equal to everybody else out there, a citizen of the world, and I am an advocate for peace, unity, love, and compassion. If anything, this Something Big has taught me the real, real poison of hatred.
The whole place was silent except for our breathing. I saw a tear slide down from the corner of his eye. He acted as though it hasn’t happened at all.I don’t know what I meant when I wrote this. The next two sentences show my hurt, show that I didn’t want this to happen, that I thought it was inevitable, but also that it wasn’t my place to speak out against this decision, to not be so selfish. It was his decision, right? So why did he cry? Perhaps because it was a difficult decision, one of the most difficult he had to make, and I guess these confusing lines are the closest I can get to what the girls felt when they made the decision to go, or when the higher ups made it for them. For some reason, reading the news, it felt as though they were on a waiting list, and once arrangements had been made it was their turn to go and they had to up and leave. They had to up and leave. Perhaps that’s why he cried that one lone tear, he had to go, because everything pointed that way. In the same way I was crying in almost protest but really because of how much it hurt me that someone would leave like this to do something so horrible, that a human being I loved was going to go and join the ranks of monsters, under the shock, the anger, the fear, I was sad. Sad, and hurt, because he would be leaving us. Because he felt like he had to leave us, that this was his calling…
Oh. I recognised his humanity when I realised that of course he would cry. Of course he sacrificed so much, and this whole thing, this whole scene is selfless, egoless – or at least trying to be. I think ego gets in the way, a lot. Mr A shouted at them all, I was so damn angry, the whole world must have thought on one level that they were such selfish gits for abandoning all of us like this, we were all shocked by their hate, hatred that surely must have risen from their ego. But underneath that torment there was their selves, and that’s what I connected with when writing this. Funny thing is I wrote the “story”, always expecting it to be fictional. Never had I ever thought something so big could have occurred, or so nearly accurate. Not knowing, god, not knowing at all how much like salt ego is to these wounds.
My own tears were fighting see? “Fighting” (in today’s dystopia, bloody hell – that was YEAR 10) to be let out. But I didn’t want to let on how affected I was. This wasn’t the first time he cried in front of me. The first time was when we had all gotten the news, Yes, I think I was thinking about him, and how his dad makes him transport guns from here and there, and how he’s probably 100% gone and he was super smart, and super insightful and such a good little warrior dude who liked to unearth the very principles you stood on because it was endearing, so yeah his dad probably told him it was time to go and we got the news, like we got the girls’ news, and oh my gosh my heart is hurting why is it so hard to connect with people and we can’t speak to the girls, and even if we did what would I have told them? I would have shouted at them, spat in their very faces – but would I have? I had three dreams, one of them in twice, reunion, hugging her, and the relief, god, the relief – and once with another one of them and the same relief was there, the same sameness, and humanity, and pure, sweet relief and we all spoke to him individually. I wished that I had brought someone with me. I don’t know what to do about this line. I like how unpredictable the future is. I think ever since I turned 16 and went back to my aimlessness I didn’t know what to do with myself – who I was, what would happen if things happened, how I would react, and I can feel her here right now, this aimless person who is waiting for the next Something Big to hit her. But it’s different now, even though I anticipate it, I’m more scared of it, and I’m already feeling the pain. It’s about now, and I’m more frustrated with myself for not being able to make solid 100% backed decisions on demand especially because “We are the choices we make” now seems like a warning and that whole hard choices TED talk means nothing because I know I can’t brainwash myself to be anything but true to myself as much as possible because now it’s so important to not lie to myself in this self reflection phase. It hurts, but it’s revealing so much.
How do you tell a stranger that you love them? I didn’t. And I did. He was human like me, there were so many parallels between us. He may not have been friend or family, but he was someone I knew. Someone who is going to storm out of my world. This line. Shaking my head. Shaking my head so freakin hard it’s like a ghost wrote them.
I glanced at my watch. 5pm already. Mum would be getting worried if I didn’t call really soon. I had to go home, I haven’t even told her where I was. What was I going to say? “Hey mum, I’m just at this guy’s house. You don’t know him, but if you dig around you might know his mom. All you Bengali moms stick together after all”. I smiled to myself. She would crucify me, chop me up into bits and then feed me to the family.
I didn’t know what to say to the boy in front of me. Sorry I came to see you again. You’re probably dying of awkwardness, but I probably won’t see you again. Be safe, remember to tie your shoelaces properly, don’t forget your lunch. A strong maternal urge to fuss over him rushed through me. Don’t take lifts from strangers, keep your phone topped up all the time, don’t just eat take away all the time while you’re gone. The tweet of their feet, with the kebab boxes in the corner. It was so dangerous. The whole “after exams” thing. I’d check if they’d be safe, and one of them had a close friend who, one morning, darn near teary-eyed and hurting so goddamn much telling me she watched a documentary about this and how they treats their people and how oh miserable it was, how “please, after exams!” it was.
I didn’t want him to go. This was the last time I was ever going to see him. I think I could care for my soul a little more right now. I hope I don’t scare him. I turned my head towards the door to try and hide my tears. My voice wobbled and warped into something ready anyway. “I don’t want you to go. But uh, have fun and be safe.” I was feeling pretty emotional, and looked at him. He was looking at me with his eyes wide. “See you later, alright?” I gave him one of my signature smiles that stretched from ear to ear and I beamed at him, tears pouring down. This was sexless. It was innocent, this feeling – this love – was the deep, deep love I have for humanity. I would cry if someone I knew stormed out of my world…my mind is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous how easy it is to get it right, too.
A while back, I think on the last day a teacher said very wryly and in a surprised tone how it was shocking and worrying how much news articles warped the actual news, even trusted and reliable sources. I made a noise of agreement I think but couldn’t help think about how we, as Muslims, had known this very freakin’ obvious truth since we were wee tots. As Muslims we knew how unreliable the news really was, how depressed the news makes me every single freakin’ day (yes even before) and as Muslims we know so damn freakin much (especially the smart ones, the “straight a students” – see where I’m going?) about not trusting the media to give us the facts. We were highly critical of the news. We were highly critical – to the point of not believing- of Western media who painted us, so joyously, into the same script, the same role, the same freakin’ copy and pasted article. So when we found sources who loved and trusted us, who gave us a sense of belonging, a world to belong to that wasn’t so half and half, a world that was mainstream in its own sense – we took it with open arms. We are silly freaks. So easy to manipulate.
The daily mail had two articles, widely apart in dates, writing about British Muslims who went over to the dark side. I read them both, one of them about them and another about some other Muslim. Apart from the names and photos that first paragraph and the layout of the two articles was exactly the same. Word for word almost. When I think about any of this it pisses me off so much. And sadness, deep sadness.
I shakily made my way downstairs and out of his house, wiping my tears along the way. I could cry later. I didn’t know why I cried in front of him. It was very stupid of me. It wasn’t even that much of a sad moment. I still sighed and packed my sadness away for later. I had to call Mom anyway. It was already 5:20. She’ll get really worried if I don’t call soon. Way to make someone feel bad.
Some parts of this rant is missing due to the length of this post. A lot of time has passed, I have kept on writing. I have kept on feeling.
It’s nearly a year since they left. They left on February 17th 2015. Just read a few articles. They’re totally brainwashed – I mean I guess you kind of have to be. When was hate ever a justified emotion?
I’m scared. You just can’t escape this stuff, and it’s nearly been a whole year and I’m.
Sometimes it feels like the whole thing was orchestrated, that it’s all fake. When this sadness and anger comes, it gets harder to just go through everything everyday. Everything I do, all my worries…they seem so mundane. Compared to this.
What I feel towards this is colossal. My emotions have an edge to them, and I try to avoid thinking about it in order to not put them on a pedestal or whatever equivalent there is. Reading things about them – about one of them in particular – just makes me angrier. Is there any way to get them back…was there anyway to get them back even when they were still in London? How could I have done anything different to stop what happened to them. During the Bosnia Srebrenica memorial one of the teachers said it’s about doing something little everyday – how on earth does it prevent something so big? This is so messy, so entangled…even back then could I have actively done anything to help them?
I’m so scared of being too passionate, of acting too much on a simple whim – but knowing back then that they hated with such strength – wasn’t it in my power to actively seek out conversations with them about this – to tell someone? But it was so mundane…we were teenagers – everything was a phase.
Now? I wrote a poem a while ago about it making us other, how we don’t have mundane lives – this is the extraordinary thing that happened. As of yet. But now, I feel all “chase adventure” ish, and how can I change? How can I not be scared of having an impact on someone else’s life…how can I carry on despite this fear (or lack thereof as the case may be now). How do I become more alive?
I’m going to write a book on this. Or at least a very long essay. I’m going to follow through. I will probably try and agent this – but first I have to write it all down. I have more stuff in my diaries, and more in my poetry blog (in a zip) about this. And I have now. Now, the sadness. And the mundane thankfully overcoming it. I’m learning new things about myself but now that I’ve read everything I think the answer is: go forward. Be freakin’ embarassing, swear a lot, and be intrusive. Yes, it’s offensive (note: I have edited out all the expletives and immature phrases, read: huge amounts of resentment in the “bold” sections), but also yes you can’t please everybody. It’s not about, even, pleasing yourself, this is about portraying this injustice (and the injustice you feel as a minority in a majority world) accurately. Or maybe it isn’t. Think about the purpose more.