In the shoes of others

I was like 12, and arriving from Turkey I couldn't speak any English when I moved

- I'm Turkish, even though I grew up in London. I moved there when I was like 12, and arriving from Turkey I couldn't speak any English when I moved. And obviously I come from... even though it's not a Muslim country, it's considered to be, and I grew up as a Muslim. Not the kind that wears a hijab or anything because you know, not every Muslim wears a hijab and think that conservatively, but I've been discriminated against based on that. When I first moved to London, the first day at school, I walk in and the teacher goes « Okay, sit. » and there was only one chair next to this girl who's obviously English, she was blonde and everything, and I sit there, because that's the only chair, right? She says « Hi! » to me, and I say « Hi! » back, even though I couldn't really speak English. And then the teacher comes in, pulls me away, and says I'm not allowed to speak with any English people, specifically English for some reason, and he made me sit next to Arabic people, which obviously I don't have a problem with, Arabic people don't discriminate against Turkish people, but you know... and he said the only reason that he put me there was because I was Muslim, although I've never said I was Muslim or anything, and that I would understand their language because he just assumed... he didn't assume, he was being racist, but he said that I was probably gonna speak Arabic with them. And that is really racist and horrible in every way. And I actually feel really uncomfortable around Muslim people because of the situation that my country is in and everything, so it's not that I have a problem against it or anything, obviously my whole family is Muslim, but it was really heartbreaking to go through such a thing because for the whole year, he just followed me around and make sure I wasn't speaking to any English people, it was horrible. And that is not the only racism that I've been through at all... for example, I go to University of Edinburgh, I'm doing my master's right now but I did my undergrad here as well, and when I started applying for universities, I applied for Cambridge and Edinburgh and all those universities because my grades were enough to get in. I don't know if you know the English education system, but you cannot apply by yourself, the head of sixth form has to apply for you. So he pulled me aside and told me « I saw what you're going to apply for, and I'm not allowing you to apply all of these! ». This is at a different school by the way, not the school that I talked about before, but I mean, this guy was like « You're not allowed to apply to these. First of all you can't speak English, and second of all, you're Turkish! ». So yeah... that was great! Even though I am a British citizen, they think that way. Another example, my ex boyfriend, even though again I was a British citizen and I did grow up in London, every time I would try to speak with his friends or something, he would go like « Oh, she wouldn't understand, she's Turkish! »... like about anything! It was really heartbreaking... I could give you a lot of other examples like that...

- It's incredible, I didn't know that in your generation, I mean, you must be in your early 20s or something [we are in 2022, for later reference], you would experience something as serious as segregation at school! Like, the teacher doing and saying all of these things so openly... and... that's in UK!!

- Yes... another story for you. My brother also goes to University of Edinburgh, and he's two years younger than me. And when he was applying for universities, I said « Oh, come to Edinburgh! » because, you know, I'm here, it's a great city... he's my brother, like full brother, and he's a tiny bit darker than me, and I've never thought of that, so when he said it, it completely shocked me, he said « I don't know if I'm going to be comfortable in Edinburgh because it's quite white, and people usually assume things because of my skin color ». And it shocked me because you know, we have the same origin and it hurts me to my core when my younger brother thinks that way... hum... there's a lot of examples...

- I can only imagine... and it's like years and years of that, with people, with school and whatnot...

- Absolutely... Today, I was having a chat with one of my friends who is Indonesian, we study together and she obviously grew up as a Muslim as well. And we were having a chat about Islam and how British people react when we say « Islam ». Because every time I talk about Islam, people think I'm being racist or whatever because I'm white, so they just assume that I don't know, so I shouldn't talk about it or that I'm not allowed to talk about it. They don't realize that I grew up as a Muslim and stuff, which is fair enough. And every time me and her talk to someone who grew up as a Christian or whatever and who is from the UK or wherever, who doesn't understand the culture that goes with Islam etc, they just try to relate to it in a weird way like « Oh, I went to a Catholic school, I totally understand you! » but it's so not the same thing, because where I come from, it's quite misogynistic and all... I mean, I love my country, I'm so proud to be Turkish and everything, but I'm from the liberal part of Turkey, I guess, if you can say so, we hate Erdoğan because he is the biggest misogynist disgusting human being in the world, but the conservative people who support him... I get discriminated by them because of that, because I don't wear a hijab, I'm not married even though I'm 22 or whatever, I can't just dress the way that I dress here etc, and I get discriminated every time I go to Turkey... I mean, it's not that different, but UK is quite different than that. So you know, I don't really understand when people are like « Oh, I relate to you! »...

- Yeah, just also having a religion isn't enough...

- Yeah, absolutely.

- Could you tell me more on how you feel when you are discriminated against?

- To be fair, it's going to sound really weird, but you kind of feel numb to it after a certain point. At the beginning when I first moved to London, I would feel like shit, obviously. There's times where, because you go through it every single day, sometimes people are not being discriminative against you, but you just take it that way, and you know they're not being that way but you just take it this way because you've been hurt in the past. Then you know, you just learn to not to give a shit about it.

- You create some kind of filter...

- Yeah, absolutely. But as I told you, I get discriminated by Turkish people as well whenever I go back, because I do have a tiny bit of accent in Turkish. And I do have an accent in English as well, so you kind of feel really lost, it's almost like you never belong to anywhere because you know, you're not English enough for English people, and not Turkish enough for Turkish people obviously. I've never said that I was English anyway, but you know, that's how you feel. At the start, it was really upsetting, because to protect me and my brother, my mom would always say « Don't tell them that you grew up Muslim ». How upsetting is that? Why would I be ashamed of being Muslim? I have my own faith, you know, like, you shouldn't be ashamed of yourself, we have to be proud of who we are and we shouldn't be upset over who we are and our past and everything, so...

- Did you have a conversation with your mom since then, about her saying that?

- Yeah, I did have that conversation. But she was like « I was really scared for you guys! ». Because the first ever day that we moved to London, we slept the first night and in the morning, there was this news on BBC or whatever, there was this guy shouting at this Turkish woman with a hijab on the bus, saying « We don't want your Turkish asses in this country, we don't want your Quran in here! »... I was 12 and I remember I started crying my eyes out, I was like « Nobody wants us here, why are we here? »... the thing is, we're all humans. Like, what is the difference? I don't really get it, but that is one of the reasons why I never say I'm muslim anymore. I have my own faith, but like, I hate saying, like « Oh, I'm Muslim. Are you Christian? Are you this? Are you that? », it's just horrible to me, that's just another way of dividing people and it's just horrible.

- Is it something you discuss with your Muslim friends?

- I discuss it with them. If I'm honest, I can't understand most of them. I'm talking this way, but I can't really understand a lot of Muslim people in this world, because my family is extremely liberal and extremely different than every other Muslim family. So I understand where they're coming from and the culture and stuff, but I can only understand that I can't really relate to it. So it's kind of hard for me to talk to them as well, it's like I'm not being Muslim enough for them, I guess...

#muslim #islam #hijab #religion #religions #racism #turkish #turkey #uk #unitedkingdom #discrimination #discriminated #segregation #english #growingup #london #edinburgh #understand #feel #people

Read another contribution

What is this about?

These are the contributions to a social project to promote empathy and fight discrimination.

Read about the project

Want to contribute?

Feeling like sharing something too? You are more than welcome to!

Let's write something!

How to follow the project?

You can follow the project on Instagram and read the contributions while I'm gathering them and be informed when/if the book will be out. 😊

Instagram Facebook