My bi brother 

My sister found my little brother’s phone still in his hand late on night. Light still on and headphones still plugged in. He was fast asleep. She reached to take the phone from his clutch and place it on the table besides him. And then she dropped it. 

He had been watching porn. And not just any porn but gay porn. 

Her little brother. 17, brown and Muslim. 

She didn’t know what to do and and came crying into my room. She gave me his phone. He had been messaging a older man. The man had sent him pictures and videos. And he had sent pictures back – but only of his face, fully clothed (as far as the pictures on record showed). 

I proceeded to printscreen and send to myself so I had this man’s number. A man who was sending naked images to minors. And accidently locked the phone. Fuck. 

The next morning my brother saw someone had messaged me the pictures. I called him into my room and explained I that I was simply worried about the pedophile and reassured him I still loved and cared for him. I apologised for going through his phone and told him he could speak to me if he wants. 

He told me he was bi. And I told him it was ok. He begged me not to tell mum and I promised him I wouldn’t. 

And I haven’t. 

But we haven’t spoken about it since. Not me and him. Not my sister and I. 

I have always been an advocate for liberation and this included LGBT+ rights as you cannot separate them. Yet as a straight, cis person – it has not been personal before as racism, disabilities, sexism and islamophobia have been. 

Since then I have been doing a lot of thinking about queerness. I do wonder if we are all born queer and socitial and other pressures lead us to live one way or another. For instance, LGBT+ communities were very prevalent and accepted in south Asian communities prior to western, Christian colonisation that outlawed it. And yet Islam specifically prohibits non-heterosexual relationships. It also prohibits all sexual relationships prior to marriage.

I guess it is easy to speak about rights that go against your culture when the two don’t have to intersect. This whole thing has made me question my allyship. Clearly more for show than I had previously realised. 

And of course this is not about me. I am sure my brother is going through a very complicated thought process, being outed without his choice and having to navigate life as a bi, brown, Muslim man. 

Yet that does not take away from me having to do a lot of learning and growing. 

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Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to those badass dads I see on my timeline.

My father is not a badass. He is just a bad ass. To add some context – he abused his family, cheated on my mum and raped women, stole land of the local poor, was a horrendous son (my grandmother actually said he would see her when she dies and her wish came true), bullied me for wanting to succeed, never paid any child support after mum kicked him out, and I could go on but I don’t want to.

I did not need him. But I did want him. I did not learn how to ride a bike. I won’t have a dad for my future husband to ask permission to marry from and my brother doesn’t have a man to ask “man” questions to.

Shout out of course to my ammu for giving me more than I deserve and need. But that does not let him off the hook. He should have been better.

Whatever.

I do not need him.

Ramdan diary: day 9

The first 10 days of Ramadan focus on mercy. One of the biggest mercies Allah grants us is our mothers. Mothers who sacrifice all they have for their children. But migrant mothers in particular are simultaneously rocks and pillows.

Our mothers moved through mountains. Literally. They left everything they know – the greenary they grew up around, the families they grew up with, the cultures they grew up in. Spat in the face. Ridiculed in the street. Ignored by the state. The trauma.

They taught us maths and they taught us to write neatly. They bought us books whilst they wore less. They taught us our values – patience, humility, respect. They shared the things they knew – kameez, plaits, curries, oils. We rejected. Straighteners and jeans, pizza and chips. English is cool. The trauma.

They stay with violent and controlling men. Continued to suppress their dreams to feed ours. Unable to leave and destined to stay. For us. So we could have the things we need and the things we want. The trauma.

All the trauma they face. The anxiety and depressions they suffer with silently. How many of them describe physical heart pain? Unable to distinguish the anguish in their heart.

And yet we are so harsh of their minor omissions. So unforgiving of their misunderstanding. So impatient when they call us.

Ami tumrar lagi shoba korsi (I did it all for you). – my mother

Ammu I can never tell you often enough. All the beatings you took so we could eat. Using the little money he would give you to use as our tutoring money. Turning him away for our safety even when the community talked trash about you. Pushing me to never quit – at college, at university, from work. My rock and my pillow. Reminding me constantly of who I am, what is important, what will always matter. Everything I gratefully am and everything I am gratefully not is because of you. Our mercy.

Even a few days ago my taxi driver gave me a recipt without the total on it. I had partially shared a journey so only had to pay half. Of course the expenses team do not know this even the driver hinted I could make back £20. Cash money – easy. My friend said I deserved it, it’s taking from the rich, think of it like a little blessing. My mum reminded me that every penny I take that does not belong to me is money that can never bring me any good. My mercy.

Oh Allah. Have mercy on our mothers. Let us be coolness of their eyes. Let us be the righteous children they deserve. 

Ramadan diary: day 8

Ramadan, naturally, is centred around food. The eating of it and the abstention of it. I remember when we were young iftar would be a feast. All types of fried food, several curries, several types of rice (pilau, plain, rice pudding), and of course mishti (bengali sweets). My mum would spend hours everyday, slaving away, preparing in the kitchen.

We have now changed our priorities. That much rich food, everyday, is not only unhealthy, wasteful and expensive, but simply unnecessary. Eating to bursting point and then struggling with prayer – what is the point!

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“No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath.” – Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) (Tirmidhi)

Now we enjoy one main food, some light side dishes (preferably grilled rather than fried) and fruit too. We all help out before iftar so mum does not have to spend hours. In fact, some days my sister will take over completely. Mum has time to relax, and more importantly to her – to read her prayers and reflect on the day.

Each of us has our own task so that the whole thing happens quickly. My brother has his role too. He cuts the watermelon, takes the plates of food into the living room, and prepares the sheets that we sit in. Three simple tasks yet every little bit makes the job go quicker. In so many households it is the women who are expected to do everything while the men sleep waiting for the food. We must teach our sons to be better – to do better. For the sake of our daughters if not for their own sake.

Iftar is a special family moment, but there is no reason why the whole process cannot be so – from the preparation, to the minutes before when you’re hungrily eyeing up the food with date in hand, and to when we actually take the first sweet bite or gulp that first cold sip.

What we eat is something we rarely consider outside of eating halal (lawful). Yet the obligation of eating halal came with and good:

And eat of what Allah has provided for you [which is] lawful and good. And fear Allah , in whom you are believers. (The Holy Quran, 5:88)

For a few years now my family have been exploring the and good part of this command. It is interesting how often this part is completely ignored and our teachings focus on the halal. How is the produce treated? Where does it come from (it’s carbon footprint)? And what is actually in it? We try to eat organic fruits and foods. We have tried to reduce the amount of oils, chilly and salt we consume. Unfortunately organic meat is too expensive for us to afford, and of course I understand how eating healthy is a privilege in itself. We still consume too much meat and this is something we are working on.

What healthy tips do you have for Ramadan and otherwise?

Today I will be breaking my fast alone again. But alhamdulliah I do not have to prepare any food and will be ordering room service 😛

Let’s get talking: Sexual Harrassment

Trigger warning: sexual harassment and rape

My sister messaged me yesterday. She’s currently away visiting some family for the holidays. She messaged me to ask “did mama [what we call mum’s brothers] touch you when you visited?” And I immediately knew what she was referring to. Yes, yes he did. He would rub my back, touching my bra strap and once “accidentally” groped my breast. I thanked my lucky stars that my sister felt comfortable enough to ask me. When this happened to me, I did not feel like anyone would believe me so kept it to myself. I encouraged her to tell my mum and she did. And now she’s safe.

I couldn’t help but cry. Cry in relief that she had someone she could come to. Cry in anger that I didn’t have anyone – not just in this case but for the duration of eleven years I endured sexual assault from someone else because I didn’t have anyone I could turn to.  Continue reading

Not so little brother

This morning I found myself reminiscing about the cute things my not-so-little 16 year old brother has said to me over the years. Most of the time he is picky and builds up a rage inside me that only his annoying comebacks can raise.

But, once in a blue moon, he will do something or say something that will warm me to my core.  Continue reading

My rock and mattress

My not-so-little brother completed his GCSEs today. It got me thinking about the day I got my own grades and I realised this is now seven years ago! As it turned out I achieved the best grades in the school that year, and set a school record (which has now been beaten). Looking back though, what should have been one of my proudest achievements actually brings me shame.

Now, I think many children of immigrants will know the overbearing parent who will be happy with nothing less than the best. But that wasn’t my mum – she was supportive and always told us that so long as we tried our best, we would have nothing to regret. She installed in me the need to be independent, to only rely on yourself and to love everything you do so you do it well. Continue reading

Lost magic

I remember when we were small and excitable. We’d pack just the new toy we wanted to share. We’d pretend to be asleep so our parents would let us stay over. We’d stay for a week, no problem, no responsibilities.

Now the idea of sleeping over in a cousin’s house is just not feasible. Having to pack clothes, cleaning and grooming products. Finding a few days – even two – when the entire family has no prior commitments is near impossible. And sleeping on the floor or packed into one bed like sardines just bothersome. But a few days ago, that’s what my mum decided she wanted to do. She somehow got it into her head that this may be the last summer we’ll be able to do this. And I think she was feeling reminiscent. So we went, first to her best friend’s house to stay over for one night and then to my uncle’s house for the next.

The day went how any visit would go. There was no building anticipation of night time that we would feel when we were younger. It was weird not feeling that excitement. Continue reading