Before 9/11 I felt a fellowship between the diverse ethnic mix that makes up the UK. Being the first generation born in England a son of a migrant to the UK, for this reason I identified with others whom families came to the UK as immigrants and some would not call native to Britain.
I am proud of my fathers nation but not in a nationalist way, I am proud of the people of Pakistan and the history I share with them, In that same way I am proud of the nations of India and Bangladesh. In the 1990’s being British born and Asian was something many young British Asian people felt they had in common, I really felt their was a fellowship between all British Asian people no matter of religion or the border that identified their place of origin.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s the music scene had changed, young people from all backgrounds were coming together in the fight against prejudice and bigotry. We started seeing bands and artist like Apache Indian, The Asian dub foundation and Corner shop. Television was changing and we started seeing British Asian people on terrestrial TV, Liza Aziz started presenting news bulletins on TV AM in 1989 becoming britain’s first Asian news presenter, and when in 1998 Goodness gracious me was first televised, I finally felt that British Asians had a place and identity in british society.
In my Teens I was very lucky to have a brief friendship with another British Asian youth. His father a very strict and devout Punjabi Sikh, he would not allow his sons friends to visit the house. But because of my name and the fact my father’s family came from the Punjab I was made welcome in his home. It did not matter to them that I had a Muslim name or that I was not a Sikh. I have a fond memory from my childhood of a real nice guy and his wife who had a newsagent, he was very kind to me and my family and he used to sing a song from a old Hindi film in a comical way to my sister because of her name. He was a Hindu it did not matter to him we had Muslim names or the conflict that had taken place between Indian and Pakistan.
In my late teens I worked for a British Pakistani company, a large wholesalers and would see and meet many Asian business owners from different backgrounds. I used to have a little giggle to myself when watching the older Asian men meet and greet each other, just because young lads think it’s a little funny and amusing when grown men hug and hold hands. Again religion did not matter, the fact they all had come to the UK from the subcontinent was the only significance.
I once experienced open and verbal racism and prejudice from a person who was of British African decent when I was twelve and living in a children’s home, and again when I was 17. I remember this incident well just because I had left a nightclub and was standing outside a kebab house eating this very tasty but very greasy donor kebab. I had met a girl and after the conversation of names had arisen I found out her family was Greek. A young guy who again was of British African decent started using a word that persons of Pakistani decent would find offensive when being used a certain context, knowing of my families origin or because she felt a common union in the fight against prejudice, she felt she should defend me and the honor of the nation of Pakistan and its fine People.
I found it hurtful to experience prejudice from another youth or people who have shared the burden discrimination, prejudice or bigotry based on ethnicity, religion or skin tone.
But nothing prepared me for the aftermath of 9/11. Division grew between the British Asian community and British Asians started distancing their self from Pakistani Muslims, fundamentalism grew and extremists started voicing their opinions on street corners.
I truly believe some British Asian people were afraid to be identified as Pakistanis because of the Pakistanis community’s links with terror training camps, hate preachers and Osama Bin Ladin hiding in Northern Pakistan.
I started to notice a rise in Prejudice between British Asian Communities and an uneasy tension between them. British Sikh, Hindu and Muslim youths stopped mixing and all of a sudden the media was focused on areas of Luton and Bradford, they stopped being British Asian communities and had become Muslim communities with in the UK, populated by only Pakistanis.
Some time after 9/11 I was watching late night TV and on came a party political broadcast by the BNP, I felt some what dismayed that Carlton television had broadcast The BNP propaganda but not because of the party’s agenda or its connection with its supporters links to violent racist and fascist organisations. The reason I was upset was because the man talking was of a Sikh background and the topic of his views was that Pakistani Muslims had destroyed his country India and carried out the murder of thousands of Sikh and Hindus during the partition of India. His opinion was that they would do the same to the UK.
I felt I had to complain to the TV channel and I did, simply because it was a broadcast with only one message, that Pakistani Muslims were all hateful genocidal murderers determined to gain world domination. Not only this but I felt as if I had been betrayed, Betrayed by an old friend, I felt hurt and upset because a fellow British Asian had proclaimed his hatred for me. The person I complained to really could not grasp to understand my disapproval and felt my complaint was insignificant.
I visited a newsagent after the terrible earthquake that effected India, Kashmir and Pakistan in 2005, When I placed the newspaper on the counter the female Hindu shop owner felt she should tell me that Pakistan was being punished by God because what the had done during the partition.
The full facts had not been presented about the partition of India and the violent turmoil that took place during this period of change for both India and Pakistan.
My family being from Lahore I have heard accounts of the partition and the violence, Lahore was effected like no other city on the subcontinent during this period due to it was a richly diverse city. My family watched as their once great and diverse city was set on fire, I was told of people who once were neighbours killing each other, people throwing there self down wells, fathers and sons killing their own daughters and sisters so they would not be raped by a Muslim. It was a period in history that persons who lived through it, could not talk about with ease or pride.
It was during this period that trains arrived in Lahore full of dead bodies arms and legs pulled off children and babies. There are accounts of the slaughter of muslims in their thousands all over India during the partition, you will rarely find the true accounts of the suffering of Muslims in history books.
Yes there was cruel acts of violence, rape, murder, and acts that bordered genocide on both sides during the partition but it is commonly ignored that Muslim Indians suffered greatly during this time also.
The persecution of poor Muslim Indians seems to be swept under the carpet and widley ignored in India.
So this is why I felt that the political broadcast was an unfair portrayal and the shop owners comments unfounded.
I’m not trying to paint a bad picture of Hindu, Sikh persons or India and this is something I really don’t want to do. The prejudice is on all sides by a very small minority and the point im trying to make is that prejudice escalated after 9/11 between Muslims, Hindu’s and Sikhs. The fuel for the hatred seems to be based on the events that took place during the partition.
British Punjabis, Pakistanis Indians, and Bengali if they are, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian or Buddhist share a unique and common history, food, tradition and culture. But what I am seeing all over the internet is mud-slinging, name calling and a real hatred growing between the once brotherly Asian community of the UK.
Why do you feel you have drag up the pain and suffering of innocent men, woman, and children who died because they was of the wrong religion in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Your hatred is as wrong as persons who still hate all German people because of World war 2.
The persons who carried out the atrocities are no longer alive, both sides suffered and you was not born when these sad events took place, you live in the UK you was not born in India or Pakistan.
You probably did loose a family member, but so did the other person.
So why are you angry?
So why can’t you be part of our British Asian Brotherhood/Sisterhood?
In the words of the late and great Mahatma Gandhi:
You must be the change you want to see in the world.