3 Years On: Palestinians Still Here

•December 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

by Waleed al-Meadana, Gaza

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Sounds of bombs taking over the temporary silence that prevailed over the place, followed by the sounds of the siren of ambulances that wrecked one’s nerves. The smell of both burning flesh and gunpowder welding with one another, the black and dark scene of the clouded ashes that surrounded the overall sight, and the piercing sounds of the weeping, woeful, and sighing wounded bodies, squealing in acute pain, and being thrown everywhere. This was the clear-cut evidence that the drums of the 23-day-long war on Gaza had been beaten. And Operation Cast Lead was an order issued by Governments, by representatives, and armed by their military.

17 seconds or less were more than enough for the 60 strong warplane Israeli fleet to take the lives of 200 men, and to draw the landmarks of the massacre, never seen in the history of mankind. At the exact moment that the Israeli airman pressed the button, 200 mothers were bereaved; 200 wives were widowed; more than 200 orphans were lost. They are fatherless. But never has the Israeli airman, who pressed the button, who opened the gate of death, and instigated this dramatic action, been convicted. Yet the dead are held to blame.

Palestinians were merely numbers, and the whole world shrugged off the responsibility of holding the Israeli aggression to account. The world was subject to the Israeli will, geared by the Israeli propaganda. Once again the Palestinians to blame! They were desolate. Everywhere a man turned his eyes, he would but see appalled faces, he would but hear children screaming. Shrouds (clothes of mourning) were the most prominent, and the smell of death was repulsive. The bodies of the dead were in squalid conditions, and they stank because they were left unburied. Some were snapped at by Israeli military bulldogs. The Israelis did not have respect for the people alive, nor did they have it for the dead. Respect withered. It died the moment the happy-trigger soldiers shot a child, vanished a family –like the al-Sammouni family.

Cemeteries were not exempt. The dead, who no longer speak a breath aloud, were bombed, as if they were destined to taste death twice. Among them was my grandpa whose grave was shattered into pieces like many neighbouring others. The English Cemetery in Gaza in which many British soldiers, who died in the world War II are buried, was not exempt either. It was a war against everything, aimed at erasing and changing the history of the land. Our land. Palestine.

The fact of being here today beggars belief. A long time ago, the Israelis believed that they could eradicate the Palestinian people, change the landmarks of the land and manipulate history, yet they failed. As long as a Palestinian child knows how to pronounce “Palestine,” they will keep failing over and over. And another war would be to no avail. The first day of the war ended. Another day began, and the Israeli thirst for blood grew. More were to be slaughtered on their altar. Please, take more blood and be lost.

And another war is approaching.

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Waleed al-Meadana is a 21-year-old Palestinian.

His grandparents were expelled from Jaffa. He is a student of English language and literature at the IUG, 4th level.

He is a freelance writer and translator.

Education is Liberation

•December 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Whilst we criticise the cuts of the Coalition government, we must remember that their budgetary proposals are ideologically driven. Privatization and low welfare support are conveniently Conservative principals. Interestingly, it has been noted that women bear the burden of these: yet it appears that we are being targeted beyond financial reforms.

The same government that abolished Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for the most impoverished students has decided it must intervene for the so-called benefit of pupils. The Education Secretary, Michael Gove has recently announced to influence the curriculum of Free Schools and Academies: namely, that the importance of marriage must be taught.

The model funding agreement for these schools states that they must ensure children are “protected from inappropriate teaching materials and learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for bringing up children.” It is surprising that a Party, which holds conservative values advocating less State interference in private spheres, is so explicitly dominating what is taught.

The 2011 matrimonial survey by Grant Thornton has demonstrated that whilst infidelity and ‘growing apart’ are the main reasons for divorce, money is in the top 5 causes. So at a time when unemployment and financial concerns are heightened, is it really fair for the government to so adamantly insist in the importance of marriage, when they are arguably somewhat responsible for divorce due to huge job redundancies and welfare cuts? To argue that this is counteracted by proposed tax breaks for married couples does not address this problem: it merely financially pressurises and entraps couples into loveless marriages, which surely breeds resentment and unhappiness: an unlikely positive atmosphere for the children.

Furthermore: why do married couples especially deserve tax breaks? 92% of lone parents are women (according to the Fawcett Society), who are also more likely to live in poverty, rely on welfare support and use public services or be employed in the public sector (all of which are currently facing huge funding cuts). So if anything the focus should be on supporting these mothers, not demonising them.

A happy home life is not dependent on whether or not ones parents have signed a marriage certificate. Whilst 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, 2 women will be killed every week by a current or former male partner, and the Department of Health reporting that 750,000 children witness domestic violence every year – the emphasis in education should be about respect within relationships, whether married or not.

It has also been noticed that Gove’s new instructions do not require teaching children about homosexual relationships, and even in our ‘progressive’ society, we have yet to see the legalization of gay marriages – Civil Partnerships have only existed since 2005. Many gay couples have chosen to adopt, have artificial insemination or choose surrogacy. Even with the best intentions of teachers, the maliciousness of the school playground will surely have consequences for children who do not have married parents, or whose parents are gay. If children are to be taught that hetero-normative marriage is ‘right’, the potential fuel for bullying those who do not have this home life is enormous. Aside from this, where is the thought for gay children or children who do not see themselves being married? It is unfair to indoctrinate children by teaching them to uphold traditional values when this is not a reality for many, and why should it be?

The emphasis in schools should be on tolerance of all choices, and allowing children to decide their own sexuality, and their own desires in life.

Feminism, and the determination for gender liberation inherently opposes the traditional, nuclear family, which the Conservatives are attempting to encourage. In actuality, second-wave feminism (most noticeably during the 60s) placed emphasis on dissolving the traditional family. A regression to these values of 2.5 children and hetro-sexual, married parents is likely to oppress women to revert back to being confined in the home and being full-time mothers. Teaching gender politics in schools and prioritizing gender equality in the government’s agenda could arguably avoid this however. Yet to do this would naturally undermine traditional family roles – it is not convincing that encouraging traditional family values can be simultaneous with gender equality. Liberation must stem from choice.

Whilst the reforms currently affect free schools and academies, a shift to the government taking responsibility for the curriculum will likely eventually affect all state schools.

In assessing the language used, we must also consider what is defined as ‘inappropriate’. The BBC reported in May 2011 that of those surveyed: 41% felt it ‘inappropriate’ to teach sex education, 27% stated there is ‘no need for children to know about sex’ and 22% being concerned that they would ask further questions about sexuality and sex. So perhaps there is a legitimate concern that ‘inappropriate’ will soon include sex education. Yet embarrassment or sexual taboos do not empower children and young people to make educated, safe and consensual sexual decisions. Especially in a society where children are over-sexualized and girls encouraged to wear make-up and heels at a young age: avoiding the ‘making love’ topic has a much worse impact than making a few parents squirm. If we really think our children are waiting until they’re married to have sex, we’re being naïve. Let’s ensure they have access to adequate sexual education to ensure their sexuality is in their own time, on their own terms.

The purpose of education is to provide students with knowledge to live their lives in confidence and tolerance. Not to enforce moralistic and outdated principles.

It’s the Sound of the Police

•November 20, 2011 • 1 Comment

‘Here for London, here for you’ claims the Metropolitan Police. Well that’s certainly true: though I’m not convinced they quite have the kindest of intentions as their website insinuates. The Police may well be ‘there for me’ but generally with a look of animal hunger and a frantic grab hoping to snatch me into the pit of the waiting bully van. And for what? Am I the crazed hoodlum who needs locking away from society? Am I a menace to my community? No, I am a fully conscious, fully resistant, fully committed anti-capitalist. I am also fully aware that the Police are no less than arms of the State, uniformed friends of the elite with arms of their own.

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The police as an institution often go unchallenged, and many submit their obedience immediately: even once they’ve been exposed to the violence and corruption inherent in their system, some people easily sacrifice their trust. But as these days grow in their revolutionary expectations, so does the true purpose of the police become clear. They will stamp the politics out of you. Or at least, they will try.

Across the world a collective consciousness begins its birth into an understanding that things as are they are currently, can no longer continue. Revolutions and uprisings inspire the oppressed in all their forms, in all their corners of the Earth and people are finally questioning the status quo.

In the past 11 years there have been 942 deaths in police custody in England and Wales alone: if they’re killing us in the cells, what horrors await us on the streets?

The use of technology has allowed us to witness police brutality minutes after it occurs. Occupy movements from varying continents have been suffering barbaric attacks from the police. The iconic images are frozen in history: the 84-year old activist pepper sprayed in Seattle, lethal teargas directly thrown at protestors in Oakland, machine guns brought in to raid tents in London – and we criticize the Middle East for attacking demonstrations and perpetuating anti-democracy? We jest that there will be none of us left without a criminal record and the stain of prison on our CVs but we mustn’t forget: they can’t imprison us all.

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Even the courts aren’t in our defence. On Thursday 17th November 2011, 10 of the Fortnum & Mason occupiers were found guilty of aggravated trespass. These protestors caused no harm or injury but to the bulging wallets of the exploitative companies complicit in profiting from the consumerist misery that has become our lives. On Question Time on 31st March 2011, Boris Johnson smeared UK Uncut and explicitly states that the Fortnum & Mason occupation was not ‘sitting peacefully, being polite’ yet that’s precisely what happened. There is even video evidence of police at the scene declaring it to be non-violent (though this didn’t deter them from battering protestors outside). Those that were battered, such as Alfie Meadows who was bludgeoned so severely in December 2010, he needed life-saving brain surgery, now face the preposterous charges of violent disorder. The violence was indisputably at the hands of the thug that almost murdered him. Yet no trial awaits that officer.

We are consistently told that we alienate ‘the public’ by defending ourselves against the police: but where are the calls of outcry when they threaten to shoot us with rubber bullets? Are these really workers in a different uniform, or are they traitors to their class, and our liberty?

We did not deter when they beat children, we did not shy away when we were kettled in the freezing cold, we did not sit at home when they threatened our calls for equality. We will never be too fearful to unite as students, as workers, as people, as we will do on November 30th and demand justice.

To those that query our methods and insist that we challenge the 1% through the ‘ordinary processes’ I sigh. When will you realize that bureaucracy is not power? As for our representatives: half of us didn’t even elect them and even when we do, ambitious technocrats dedicated to steering political institutions away from politics fill their positions… Either that or they betray those they seek to speak for, and hire mobs to baton us when we protest in disgust.

If the saying ‘you are either with us, or against us’ rings true, we know which side of the picket line the police fall to. We must refuse to be intimidated by their bullying tactics, and support each other when they inflict on us prison and pain. We must never surrender to the horses, which gallop to deter us from fighting for what is right. If we seek to equalize the 1% we need recognize those whose very jobs are to protect them and their wealth. The police will no doubt use the nation-wide strike on November 30th to strike fear into activists and try to polarize the masses. But we must all come out to support the strikers and remain united.

Intimidation is the easiest way to destroy a movement: let’s eradicate it from ours.

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Perspective

•September 10, 2011 • Leave a Comment

It’s everywhere. Can’t run, can’t hide from the roar of falling towers, and the smoky horizon of powdered people, weak with panic; bracing themselves for what was to come. 2,996 lives were stolen on September 11th 2001. 10 years on and the anniversary is marked by thrusting the event back into national consciousness.

The images brazen across the news incapsulate the dread of that frightful day and indeed, we must never forget the evil that fell upon New York in those hours. But evil is seemingly contagious. We must be realistic and have integrity to oppose all evil, not just that which hurts western societies. And as we point the fingers of fault, we find hypocrites and liars.

In the few minutes it took Bush to declare war he said one haunting sentence, that finds us in agreement for the first time. “Our war on terror begins with Al-Qaeda but does not end there”. That is certainly true. The Iraq Body Count (IBC) calculates that 92,614 Iraqi civilians were killed by armed violence between 2003 and 2008. In comparison, antiwar.com reports the American death total to be 4474. General Tommy Franks is infamous for his dismissive “we don’t do body counts” and indeed, there is much speculation that despite the estimates of millions of Iraqi deaths, the exact figure is difficult to pinpoint. It really highlights the difference in the value of life. Whilst we can count and name the 2,996 innocent westerners that were killed in 9/11; we can’t even count the dead in Iraq. I am glad those in America were able to preserve their individuality, and be remembered as they really were. But this honour is rarely afforded to slain peoples around the world.

My TV attempts to drone into my brain that 9/11 was the worst terrorist attack we have ever seen. But my eyes are open. As Lowkey reminds us, the definition of terrorism is ‘violent or destructive acts such as bombing, committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or Government, into granting their demands’. And recalling Bush’s own words, the demands of America were not negotiable, and thousands paid for it. So many gullibly regurgitate Bush and condemn 9/11 as ‘despicable acts of terror’. Whilst this absolutely true, what other possible words could be donned to define the genocide of the Iraqi people? It is a joke that he even had the audacity to proclaim ‘the US respects the people of Afghanistan, after all we are their largest source of humanitarian aid’. Perhaps we should be charitable and offer Bush a dictionary, because as far as I am aware, the murder of thousands of people does not equate to humanitarian aid. It is disturbing to watch an entire audience rise to a standing ovation 4 times to applaud the hypocrisy that so easily churns from Bush’s mouth. It is a double edged sword for he who recognises that by ‘aiding and abetting murder’ one is ‘committing murder’.

As Lowkey goes on to explain ‘America inflicted a million Ground Zeros’, his words fall on deaf, or patriotic ears. We must ask ourselves why the majority of those so readily compassionate for the Americans have a heart of cold apathy for those who die at the hands of the ‘heroes’ they weep for. Why are no tears shed for the 1,387 Palestinians who were killed in the 2009 attack on Gaza? As Israel continues it’s ethnic cleansing and apartheid, the BBC censors the very utterance of ‘Palestine’ from the airwaves. We buy into our own ignorance, dismiss the struggles of peoples all over this globe, and then don’t think to question why there are even terrorist attacks in the first place. The ‘quiet, unyielding anger’ of the American people was not limited to them. America reacted to it’s attack by bombing innocent people and slurring the muslim community as it’s justification. Sometimes I think the only difference between Obama, Bush and the terrorists they despiese is the wage packet. We actually pay these ‘representatives’ to fight wars in our name.

And the benefit? It shouldn’t need to be pointed out that there are advantages to reminding people of 9/11. The coverage is moralistic and void of political context. In the last 10 years, we cannot deny that the racism and persecution of muslims has shot up faster than US bullets. Islam is repeatedly the scapegoat for political terrorism, on every which side. An easy example is this. Whenever we discuss the conflict between Israel and Palestine, liberals insist on behalf of the left wing of Israel, and that there are Israeli anti-occupation activists. I am not disputing this. What irritates me is that we jump to make this distinction before we condemn the actions of the Israeli state, and defend the Palestinians. But whenever Gaza is mentioned, it seems these same liberals are faster to cry ‘Hamas’ than ‘liberation’.

The moral of my rant is that it is hypocritical but also insincere to show compassion for the victims of 9/11, and yet make no protest against similar terrorism all over the world. Showing solidarity with Iraqi civilians does not amount to support for Al-Qaeda. The people of Afghanistan are distinct from the members of the Taliban regime, and seeking the freedom of Palestine does not automatically cost the price of a Hamas membership card.

Oppose evil in every suit you find for peace will never be found in vanity.

Jenin’s Freedom Theatre Attacked

•July 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

As we near the entrance to Jenin’s Freedom Theatre (FT), Palestine we see coloured lights and a large group of young boys. They are dancing and applauding to loud, bassy music and the atmosphere is nothing short of electric. Considering the uplifting mood, one would never have thought only hours before this hub of positivity had been attacked.

The drama began at around 2.30am 27th July 2011, when Jacob Gough (Acting General Manger) awoke to the sounds of drones flying low overhead Jenin Refugee Camp. Given the traumatic history of the camp, which was attacked in 2002, the drones were not unusual;they fly regularly almost as a reminder that Israel can freely attack when it so pleases. As his phone rang at 3.15am, he quickly learned that the IDF were in close proximity of the camp.

Accompanied by FT co-founder, Jonatan Stanczak, the two approached the theatre from the back entrance. It became apparent that the FT was surrounded by a heavy mob of at least 50 IDF and a dozen jeeps. A family of 6 (including 4 small children between the ages of 6-10 years old) returning to their home had been detained just outside of the scene, and the 2 internationals were pulled from their car at gunpoint and squatted next to them. Jacob told me that despite the fury he felt at the harassment of the IDF, he remained quiet in fear of the family’s safety. Upon inquiring as to what possible justification the soldiers had as to their detainment, they were sharply told to “shut the fuck up or we’ll kick you”, and made ever aware of the presence of the guns the IDF are seemingly too proud to carry. This is the first time the IDF have so blatently attacked the theatre.

Meanwhile, in the FT itself hid 2 young men; Ahmed Matahen (technician of FT) and his brother Mohammed (who has no involvement in the FT). When the army arrived at the site they pelted the theatre and the neighbouring houses with rocks; smashing several windows and of course scaring anybody in the area. Picture the disorientation of being awoken by rocks at your child’s bedroom window whilst being surrounded by heavily armed thugs.

Qais Alsaadi, actor at FT told me how Ahmed was forced out of the theatre, and his 17 year old brother handcuffed. The security guard was also forced out and made to lift his top and drop his pants; as though he posed any remote threat to the sudden attack of an army.

Amidst the debris of the theatre, who recently suffered the murder of it’s leader, Juliano Mer-Khamis (4th April 2011), the targets of this surprise ambush became evident. Bilaal Al Saadi and Adnan Nagnaghia (Head of the FT board and Manager of FT) were both arrested. Their whereabouts cannot be confirmed but it is believed that Bilaal is being held in Mojido and Adnan in Jalame – a notorious interrogation unit infamous for it’s torturous methods of interrogation. Both have been refused access to their Lawyer, and nobody has been able to visit them.

Although this act was obviously with intent to intimidate members and supporters of FT, the strength of it’s members has not been broken. There are fears that the Israelis will return and work “from the top down” to interrogate all members in connection to the death of Juliano (although Israel has yet to release a statement of explanation). Upon speaking to many citizens of Jenin, it is clear that Juliano was considered a Palestinian and deeply loved by Jenin. There is much speculation that his masked assassin resides outside of Jenin and highly doubted to be involved with the FT itself.

The FT has not speculated on the reasoning behind this attack but it appears to be “an act of desperation” on the part of the Israelis to destroy this small beacon of hope for the children of Jenin. The work of the FT is incredibly inspiring and they will soon embark on a tour, performing their powerful piece; “Fragments of Palestine”.

 

Updates will be published as we receive more information.

 

More information can be found on the FT website; http://www.thefreedomtheatre.org/

Don’t Scab June 30th

•June 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

June 30th lays in waiting with the potential to be a pivotal moment in our movement against the Cuts of the coalition government.

We nervously anticipate thousands of workers striking against pension cuts, and will see students and activists ‘walking out’ in solidarity. Co-ordinated between civil servants and teachers unions, this is a chance for all those fighting the cuts to public services; education, welfare, housing and huge job redundancies, to unite to take direct action and really give Clegg something to weep about.

This is a demand for equal pensions – not another fund injection to the private-sector and the most privileged in society. And we must stand together.

We know that the only language the coalition understands is money. We are continuously at the mercy of our employers and a government we didn’t even elect, and we know our strength is in numbers. We are beaten by police when we protest and told that this crisis is no fault but our own. Throughout this past year or so, nobody can deny the splits and differences in tactics, rhetoric and even ultimate aims of our movement. But June 30th is a crucial opportunity to regain our collective confidence and prove to the bosses that we are serious in our resistance.

Unfortunately not everybody has woken up and smelled the coffee they can no longer afford. One way or another, everybody will be affected by the austerity measures (even if they haven’t realised it yet). As the PCS demonstrates; the cuts to pensions equates to losing a day’s pay ‘every month for the rest of your working life’ – and that ‘working life’ will be longer.

The story is becoming repetitive; women are disproportionately affected. Again. Women will have to work an extra year in 2018 and then another in 2020 whilst also suffering the changes to public sector pensions, the majority of which is relied upon by women (who incidentally still do not have true equal pay).

Whilst £120 billion is evaded in tax it is the ordinary workers who will suffer. But we know that industrial action is our biggest chance at successfully destroying the cuts and by refusing to do the work our government depends on, our voice can no longer be ignored.

Let’s ensure this is the biggest strike since 1926 and that despite Cameron not ‘want[ing] confrontation’ – he’s definitely going to have one. See you on the picket lines.

‘Offended. Insulted’; Prejudice in the Left

•May 16, 2011 • 5 Comments

by Falastin

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Sometimes, socialising with the Left can be a little like walking through a market in Marrakesh. You get all these people running to you, trying to explain why their organisation is better. When I’m in Djamma al Fna Square I’m generally just buying a leather bag- I like to think hard about the expensive Berber carpet before I even consider bartering for it. But when I’m at a meeting listening to some amazing speakers and those people with the patronising smiles (the “Aaw, it must be hard to be Arab and Muslim looking” smile) approach you and are all friendly and nice, you don’t realise that you’re being sold something as big as an ideology. These people tend to think I’m stupid, oppressed and naïve enough to believe anything I’m told. Unlike the Moroccan stallholders, I find them to be fake and pretentious and very bad at what they do. At least the guys in Morocco are pros.

I don’t want to get in to banter about socialists and Marxists and their tactics but people need to hear about the amount of racism and sexism inherent in the left. It makes me feel just as worse than being called a “paki” by white working class people in my neighbourhood or a “coloured person” by my stiff-upper lipped lecturers.

I’m an English Literature graduate and working at a sixth-form in my local area and loving it. Currently, I’m exploring the Black Power movements in America and the response and debate I get from my students is real and heartfelt. Sometimes emotions run high as students tell me of their experiences as both victims of racism, but also of their battle against racist friends and family. It reminded me of my students days of political activism which was only two years ago: the sit-ins, rallies outside our principal’s office, demonstrations on campus and being part of the national leftist movement.

Whilst I was university, I got stuck in to the romanticism that is the Left. A lot of the students I hung out with were like members of the Baader-Meinhof gang. Spoilt middle class brats who wanted something fun to do that would piss of their oppressive parents; rebels without a cause. Some of them were wannabe Baader-Meinhof fighters, they would copy how they dressed, their hairstyles and even travel to Germany just to take artistic photos. This one girl I knew looked just like Gudrun Ensslin, and she shared her boyfriend just like the real Gudrun, just because she felt she had to. Not because she wanted to. Some of them were just downright pretentious- they would rent expensive property in Brixton or Shoreditch or move in to a flat in an estate just so they could feel like they were living in the ‘ghetto.’  This one friend I had would always start of a conversation with, “This kid got shot outside my estate yesterday.” He was clearly excited by this horrible news.

I never became like them but at first, I thought they were genuine. I soon came to realise however that most of them were opportunists waiting to finally lead the movement. And if that looked out of reach, they’d just try and get in the pictures. Speaking to the crowds at every possible moment and joining the cheers. Meet the leaders, and if lucky enough make friends with them. And at the end of it all, they would go home and ponder on how many ‘famous’ people they knew or how they were a part of history.

One thing I never got was how happy they’d be when we’d be making our way to pro-Palestine demonstrations. In my final year the Israelis launched their barbaric attack on the people of Palestine in Gaza. They called it Operation Cast Lead and slaughtered 1300 Palestinians including over 300 children. There were demonstrations every day outside the Israeli embassy and we would all go together. I would be wishing it never happened, and that we wouldn’t need to protest because the Palestinians shouldn’t be having missiles thrown at their schools and Mosques. But my lefty friends were busy making Lowey’s tune the soundtrack to the suffering of the Palestinians. For them, the deaths of innocent women, men and children was just a memory that they could romanticise just like they did everything else.

Soon after, I became active in a national anti-imperialism organisation that was quite well known. I was asked to speak on their behalf at public meetings. The audience seemed to like me and as I made my way down the platform one by one, about seven different people approached me to join their organisations. And about twenty other people told me how ‘inspiring’ it was to see an Arab woman speak to passionately.

I went to speak at a lot of events and I did question why I was always chosen. I had the suspicion that they just wanted me as a token. But I didn’t complaint because I enjoyed putting my views across: I would never have been given that opportunity anywhere else.  One day, I received a phone call from someone who worked at the headquarters, and she asked if I was free that week. “There’s a public meeting this Thursday and currently all the panellists are white men, so we were hoping you could come along seeing as you’re Muslim.” I was shocked to say the least. Offended. Insulted. I wanted to be picked because I was intelligent, not because she couldn’t see past the colour of my skin. It felt like the time this guy shouted raghead at me in the streets. It was Ramadan and I was wearing a hijab and I was too hurt to say anything back to that thug. Neither did I protest to this woman’s blatant racism.

A few weeks later, it happened again. “We need you at an even in a few days. The audience always like you and you’re Muslim so…” I hated being treated as their symbol of ‘diversity.’ The audience liked me because it made them happy that they were listening to an Arab Muslim woman talk.  They would feel that they weren’t racist, and at social events they could sound cultured with conversations like, “this lovely Muslim girl I know- very intelligent you know. She’s not like other Arab girls.”

And that was the other problem. Men, and in particular the leaders- in the Left were always calling me a ‘girl.’ As if they could get any more sexist. Ironically, these were the same men preaching feminism. Ardent feminists in the movement patronised from a woman to a girl wouldn’t say a thing because they were in awe of the leaders they were now friends with. They thought their lives would be played in black and white reels in fifty years time and that made them content, if not jump over the moon at the prospect of fame. I always felt that women were underrepresented in the Left. Sometimes, they would only have extra female speakers because “it would look bad if we only have two.” They would settle for someone they didn’t even like just for the sake of appearances. I know this because after a while, they’d gotten so used to me that I think they forgot I was both Black and a woman. Their racism and sexism got worse and too wounded by their blows I would stay silent only to write it all down later when I got home.  One time, I heard a discussion about Egypt and “how Arab men are very perverted.” Funnily enough, the same man who said that had his eyes all over a young girl who stepped on to the train.

A while later, they were saying how “tired they are of the local Asian community not joining our cause. We’re fighting racism for them. How can they expect change if they don’t support us?” I asked them what they meant by that. We should all attend meetings about anti-racism held by white people because that will tackle racism? Not surprisingly, I didn’t get a response. That was the last straw for me. It’s hard to explain what I’ve experienced and I’m sure lots of people reading this will think, “it’s not that bad. Get over it” or “that’s not necessarily racism/sexism.” I find myself too angry to express myself properly. Prejudice isn’t just a few words here and there. It’s an idea of superiority within them and the feeling of inferiority they inflict on you.

It all proved to me that women and Black people are not equal in the Left; far from it. We are always second best if not tokens and trophies. It’s so frustrating because there is so much in this society, this country, this world that we need to help change, and on the outset you think the Left has similar ideas. But for people who proclaim to have views then act in a different way there is only one conclusion- that they are deceiving their supporters for the sake of power. We need to organise and not fall in to the Lefty cliché of ‘recruiting.’ That way everyone in the cause is genuine and passionate about making the difference.

I would have liked to speak on that platform- not as the Black Muslim woman who is friends with the white people who set up the stage, or the Black Muslim woman who was the dash of colour to the room. But as a Black Muslim woman who is seen for she is.

 
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