Learning To Be Happy While Being Pakistani
My relationship with my faith has always been something I struggled with, being raised by Muslims parents in a Western world, it is something which many children with background like me have faced. There is this internal conflict of wanting to fit into this world and with your non-Muslims friends. While different people faced this in a variety of way, I want to talk about my relationship of falling in love with my culture, my religion, and my identity much later in life.
My parents were both born in small villages in Pakistan and came to the UK at different points in their life, eventually having children in a small town in the North-West. By the time I was born, there were other brown kids in the streets, as well as white ones, and to me, it was a town which represents the diversity and inclusivity which I hope can one day be accepted all across the UK: my primary school teachers were invited over to celebrate Eid with our extended family; my neighbours always got to try some of my mother’s cuisine, and my grandfather was friends with Alan who lived down the road.
I would wear my salwar kameez without thought and would eat my mum’s samosas to my heart’s content.
I think it was when I became a teenager I slowly moved away from this identity, I wanted to wear jeans, I stopped bringing leftover rice into school and I would have rather had school lunches instead; I think something which defines this moment for me embarrassingly is when I was talking about a dish my mother made for me the previous night to my ‘friends’ and they started laughing my pronunciation and my accent when I pronounce the Kashmiri word for one of my favourite curries that my mum made. Now, whenever my mother called, I would want to go into another room, I became embarrassed by my bad accent with their taunts haunting me.
I wasn’t brown enough for the other Muslim girls in my year, but I wasn’t able to relate to the other girls either. I felt extremely out of place, as every teenager feels during those years, but this internal fight with your culture is something quite difficult to face alone. During the lockdown of 2020, I was able to reconnect with my religion slowly and more with my cultural roots, but I would say this didn’t occur fully till I met some of my dear friends at university. While before I was quite timid with my relationship with my culture and identity, I learnt to love my roots and fell in love with my ancestral identity by learning from them and finding people I could relate to.
I realised my relationship with Islam was not one which hindered my place in the Western world but could be intertwined with it at my own pace. The shame I had previously about my lack of knowledge about my Pakistani roots, became a catalyst for me to ask more questions and learn more about who I was. Learning about my village, my parent’s upbringing, the difficulties which my grandparents and great-grandparents faced- there’s something so humbling about hearing their experiences and learning to love this part of you that you hadn’t previously known about.
My faith and my culture are what made me the person I am today, they raised me without me even noticing, the values which were instilled into me as a child and which I still learn today are those which my parents brought me up with.
To me that label of being a Pakistani-Muslim show the generations before me who worked hard to create something for their families; the generation who came to a country which didn’t accept them, but they had to brush that off for their children and their futures; the generations who taught their children to be good people to other, despite how they may treat you.
While I have inherited the label of being a Pakistani-Muslim from my parents, I hope to one day earn this honour in my own right.
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Amreen Kausar (She/Her)
I am an urban planning student currently based in London with a passion for making our public spaces safer for women through design and legislation as we all have a right to use a space. Also with a keen interest on how South Asians experience harassment from the lens of a Pakistani-Muslim.
Art courtesy of @ebrulillustrates on IG