An open letter to David Cameron

Dear Mr Cameron,

Allow me to tell you a little bit about myself.

My grandmother came to this country from Kenya with my grandfather and 2 young children in tow almost 50 years ago. She’s well able to make herself understood in the English language and, while it may not be as good as yours, I’d wager her Swahili, Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati and Kutchi are all most likely much better. She may occasionally get her there/they’re/their wrong, but on balance, she’s probably doing ok on the language front. She’s also happily raised three multilingual children here, made a home for herself and paid her taxes in all those years. Her children are all educated, qualified professionals who are now giving back to the society that raised them. Is that submissiveness?

My mother is a qualified accountant and teacher. She married my father and helped him set up a business from scratch in their early 20s, which is still successful today. On top of all those accomplishments, she has raised 4 proudly British children who have a basic understanding of at least 5 languages, but (much to her chagrin) only really speak English fluently. They have all also finished compulsory education in this country, and have either completed or are in pursuit of a university education. Is that submissiveness?

I was born in a suburb of North West London, the only home I knew prior to this country was my mother’s womb (and I can’t really go back there). Technically, my first language was Gujarati but I forgot how to speak that soon after starting school and learning English which sadly is now the only language I can speak with any level of confidence. I can, however, understand basic Gujarati, Kutchi, French, German, Arabic, Hindi and Urdu.

At the age of 9, I decided I wasn’t ready to wear the Hijab, although I knew people who did start at that age. My parents, even then, accepted my decision and realised that the Hijab is a personal choice and not something that even they had the right to dictate. A year later, I woke up one morning and decided to wear it into school. To this day, I’ve never looked back on that decision. My Hijab gives me a sense of freedom and liberty, it causes me to understand that, as a woman, I do not have to look a certain way to get to where I need to be. I grew up with three brothers, studied a male dominated degree, and now work in a hugely male dominated workplace – and in all of those places my Hijab gave me the confidence to speak up and be seen as an equal. Hijab may have become something different, but to me it is a symbol of female empowerment. If people have the freedom to dress how they want, why am I constantly being targeted because of how I dress? My Hijab has become my identity – so when people react to your comments by telling me to take it off do I stand by my choice or submit to theirs so I’m not seen as “submissive”?

I had aspirations in primary school of becoming a writer, but very quickly realised that my strength lay more in Mathematics, and eventually pursued this to masters level at Imperial College London. Soon after graduating, I started working in the City, in the Technology division of a large investment bank. Around the same time, I met a man with an awesome sense of humour in a coffee shop. By the grace of God, both the job and the man are still around.

We got married about 2 years after the coffee shop. Our wedding was segregated. You, Mr Cameron, may call that submissive. I call that a girl just wanting to let her hair down on her wedding day without compromising her identity – the one day she should be entitled to make her own choices. Sure, it’s not the way you do things, but Britishness to me has always been about embracing diversity – or is it now about being submissive to what you dictate is right for me? I’m not sure any more.

My husband is a junior doctor – you know, the kind you’re trying to completely do over with the new contracts? But that’s definitely a topic for another letter. He spends his days running around a hospital with barely enough time to breathe, trying to prop up a National Health Service that you, Mr Cameron, together with Mr Hunt are running into the ground with your policies, choosing ending lives in Syria over saving lives in your own country. Still, out of his good nature, and those like him, they continue to tirelessly work to try and save the national treasure that is the NHS. He often works “12 hour days” that are actually 14 hours long, commutes around an hour back home where I am waiting so we can have dinner together. Although now I think maybe I should be being less submissive and have dinner myself earlier..

Mr Cameron, you had less than 25% of the eligible voters actually voting you in; but somehow in this semblance of a “democracy” that’s all it took to get you into power. Since you became Prime Minister, you have issued policy after policy which makes me question the pride I once had in calling myself British. The Britain I have always loved is the land of diversity and multiculturalism. It is the place where different cultures and backgrounds are celebrated, and where everyone can happily live side by side, united by their love of queues, sarcasm and exchanging pleasantries about the weather. It is the country where I can turn up to Friday prayers, and have Christmas carollers singing in the next room – and that being something to be celebrated. This country, which has been my home for over 25 years – which fostered a culture of acceptance and love, is slowly being transformed into a country where fear-mongering is the order of the day, and I and others like me are being treated as the “other”. That, Mr Cameron, is down to YOU.

Your comments last week about Muslim women needing to learn English to combat extremism have created in the minds of the masses, a causal link between extremism and lack of English proficiency, and between lack of English proficiency and Muslim women. Now when I get on the tube from the town I have lived in all my life, I am conscious of being seen as different, or a threat. All I am doing is going to work in a job that pays my bills, and yours – much like most of the other people on the same train, and yet I must be conscious of what I say and how I act, simply because I choose to wear an additional item of clothing, which represents the fact that I have chosen a certain path towards spiritual actualisation. I, and thousands of others, have proven time and time again that being Muslim and being British are in no way contradictory. It is YOU, Mr Cameron, that seems to think otherwise.

Mr Cameron, I’d like to give you some free advice. You and I share the same enemy. Daesh are a threat to all of us, and their ideology must be stamped out. Instead of alienating thousands of potential allies with pathetic and irresponsible comments; instead of telling thousands of Muslim women how they should live their lives; instead of creating links between totally independent issues, sit back, think, and do something to unite our country. It seems odd to me looking at this situation – the seemingly backward Daesh have recognised the power of women in furthering their ridiculously flawed ideology and are giving them positions of responsibility to propagate their message to other women (in English); whereas the seemingly forward thinking Western powers seem to want to tell the women how to live their lives and what they should and shouldn’t be doing.

You are leading a country through fear, and using the age old cliche of “Divide and Conquer”. I, for one, am a bit bored of cliches.

I look forward to the day when I can once again say with conviction that I am proud to be British. You, Mr Cameron, are in a position to make that sooner rather than later.

Kind regards,
Disgruntled Hijabi

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