Sunday 17 July 2011

Lost – Are we forgetting our past?

An interesting article written by Sofia Ahmed from Manchester, United Kingdom:
A few weeks ago, I met a young man in town. He looked a bit lost so I asked him if he was ok. He needed directions, I was heading that way myself, so I told him to tag along. As we walked, we established that he was from Sialkot and had only been in the city for two weeks. He was off to work, had just found a job with a mobile telephone company selling contracts to people on the street. Needless to say he did not like it very much. Already, it was evident that it had took his toll on him. “Idhar aah keh meh phas gaya hoon” he said. Just before we got on the bus he posed a question to me that left a mark. “yahan keh log apney logon seh itnee nafrat kyun karteh hain” I could not give him an answer.
Since then I have been thinking about this man and others in his situation. They arrive in a different land, having left their families, friends and everything they have ever known behind. They are faced with nothing but hardship and loneliness and what do they get from those that they consider their own, or “apney”?  Nothing but hostility and indifference.
That leads me to think back to a few decades ago, when our forefathers arrived on these shores and the similarity in the hostility and harship that they faced. I have heard stories of how guesthouses put up signs saying “no pakis, no irish and no dogs”. How they suffered from racial harrasment and exploitation. My own uncle talks of how there were up to 20 men living in three bedroom terraced housing. Sleeping in shifts. To me it seems like a disgrace that our forefathers endured those hardships in order to provide a better future for our generation and what have we done to pay them back? We treat men and women in their situation, just as they were treated by the white indigenous populations.
I hear people speaking about “freshies” like they are the scum of the earth. This kind of xenephobic attitude makes no sense to me. I will quote something that my mother frequently utters, “gorian neh mulk vich rai teh, khoon safayd ho gayeh neh”. I understand what she means. Everytime we look down on one of these people we are looking down on our own. Everytime one of them hurts it is one of our own hurting. For white people to treat our fathers and grandfathers like they were beneath them was explainable. What we are doing now is deplaurable.
Mother Theresa said that “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”  And the sad fact is that so many young men and women come to this country to escape material  poverty and they find that it was somehow, not as harsh as the poverty that they now endure. Have no doubt in your mind, as a community we are going to be judged on this.
As a community we have long established  institutions such as mosques, businesses, and committees. We succesfully run dozens of charities that provide millions of pounds of aid all across the world. Yet we choose to ignore those that are suffering on our doorsteps. We choose to throw money at problems in the “third world” yet refuse to acknowledge that this is a serious issue within our community. There is only one reason for this, we lack sincerity and  compassion. Its easy to throw money at some charity when you hear of a natural disaster or emergency in a far away land. You watch the images, throw the cash and forget about it. If we acknowledged the issues closer to home we would not have the same level of detachment that we can afford when the problem lies a million miles away.
A quick search of Google returned not even one organisation or service that provides for newly arrived immigrants. Not one. Why are we not working towards establishing support systems for these people? Sheltered accommodation, counselling services, mediation services for when marriages break down. How many of these “freshies” live in destitute conditions or face discrimination and exploitation? We dont know, we dont care.
As I sat there on the bus, looking at this boy. (Because thats what he was, a boy, no older than my younger brother at 21).  He had a forlorn, little boy lost, look on his face. I felt ashamed. I felt like we had let our first generation immigrant grandfathers and fathers  down. What would those men that faced all manner of hardships in order to build up the strong communities we have today, think about all of this? What have we gave back  in return?  I thought to myself, if this bus was involved in an accident now, and we were both injured, would my blood run the same colour as his, or would mine run white?
So shoot! what do you think of this situation? Are we doing enough? why do we have such a negative attitude towards these people? is our Khoon safayed? I will add this to my aready bludgeoning career prospects list, would love nothin better to set up some sort of support system for newly arrived immigrants from the subcontinent. Its definately needed.

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