Stories about immigrants

British on paper and not a Saudi, so am I a Pakistani?

I don’t know what I am, who I am or where I come from. I have been shrouded by such confusion throughout my existence. On paper, I am a British citizen and I hold the customary red passport which confirms this to be the case… but I wasn’t even born in England! I have absolutely no cultural or ancestral links to Britain, whatsoever. My own birthplace was Saudi Arabia, a nation that has vociferously denied me any citizenship rights because I am not an indigenous Saudi by birth. My father was posted there as a surgeon and, once he retired, he ...

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Preserving immigrant Islam

As a first-generation Muslim immigrant, I struggle to understand my faith. What must my vision be when imparting true Islamic values to second-generation American Muslim children? What are my values of Islam; peace-loving, tolerant, secular, truthful and community based, yes those are my values. To seek an understanding of second-generation Muslims and their immigrant parents, both struggling to draw a balance between faith and society, I sat down with Muslim American children, scholars and parents, and tried to get a sense of what Islam means to them. Here is what I understood. A professor of Comparative Religions at an East Coast University, Farahnaz ...

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All that ‘Amreeki glitter’ may not be gold in Jackson Heights

George Bernard Shaw said: “Life isn’t about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself.” It is true that life can be good, it can be tough and it can, most certainly, be unpredictable. It can take a person to a whole new world. Away from his or her country, away from their loved ones. The drama Jackson Heights, named after a neighbourhood in New York, beautifully depicted the life of a group of Pakistani immigrants. Aired on Urdu1, this particular drama struck a chord with me because of its storyline. Living in the US, it was refreshing to see this angle being taken – ...

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Why are white people expats when the rest of us are immigrants?

Surely any person going to work outside their country is an expatriate? But no, the word exclusively applies to white people. In the lexicon of human migration there are still hierarchical words, created with the purpose of putting white people above everyone else. One of those remnants is the word “expat”. What is an expat? And who is an expat? According to Wikipedia, “An expatriate (often shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person’s upbringing. The word comes from the Latin terms ex (‘out of’) and patria (‘country, fatherland’).” Defined that way, you ...

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Is letting immigrants into the US un-American?

Immigration is a highly painful subject in America, and has been instrumental in polarising the already divided public opinion. President Obama has time and again promised to deal with the issue but has encountered strong opposition from various quarters, especially the Republicans and those on the far right. While politics in Washington is a messy business and it is nothing but miraculous to find the Congress actually being able to get something done, the president has incessantly worked hard for immigration reform. Soon after late last year’s House and Senate defeats at the hands of the Republics, Obama, a Democrat, decided to break the immigration ...

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Racing towards prejudice: “Those Muslim terrorists are killing innocent people…”

“Those Muslim terrorists are killing innocent people…” I don’t even remember the rest of his sentence. Those words stunned me for a minute. But even as my ears started ringing, I took a couple of deep breaths telling myself,  “He doesn’t know what he is talking about. There is no use pointing out his poor choice of words.” It is ironic that this happened in a class where our 73-year-old African-American Professor, himself a victim of racism, had been teaching us how to recognise the various forms of racism in America that are present even today. “I just want to share an observation”, ...

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Don’t write off Obama just yet!

Despite severe opposition from the Republicans, President Barack Obama finally did what he should have done years ago – he announced a plan to stop deportation of almost five million undocumented migrants from the US.  Faced with a crisis of confidence and a defeat in the November mid-term elections, Obama, a Democrat, recently lashed out at the Grand Old Party (GOP), a republican party, and said, “They have the ability to fix the system. What they don’t have the ability to do is to expect me to stand by with a broken system in perpetuity.” Immigration reform has been ‘way overdue’. The president’s announcement does not, ...

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O’ Canada, we (immigrants) stand on guard for thee!

If you are from Pakistan, a random suicide attack or senseless bouts of bloodshed are normal in all abnormal ways possible. Usually, a few selected cities and areas are targeted while the other parts of the country go on with life. However innocent blood is always shed and Pakistan is made out to be a no-go-zone in international news. This is a tragic reality that Pakistan has to crawl its way through every day. As a new immigrant in Canada, I imagine a life of peace and harmony because, let’s face it, that’s a given. Until it’s not. Terrorists attack Montreal and Ottawa and you get ...

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Is having ‘brown’ skin, in Australia, a crime?

Ali, 26, was lying unconscious on the concrete footpath outside a busy train station on King’s Street, Sydney. His mouth was bleeding profusely and his eyes were bruised and swollen, while his friends made frantic phone calls to the police and emergency services. Within 10 minutes, the police and paramedics were at the scene, applying first aid. As he regained consciousness and looked around, he realised that his attacker had fled the scene and he was surrounded by the emergency staff. Before this incident happened that day, Ali was partying with friends on a Friday night on King’s Street – the party hub of ...

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Don’t label me ‘Mohajir’

Being a first generation Mohajir might have felt like stepping into an exciting new territory full of adventures in reassertion of identity, a deeper assimilation into the national fabric and finding a voice in a country teeming with provincialism. However, as a second generation Mohajir reflecting over the three decades that have transpired since, it seems that these were nothing short of a fool’s dreams that at least I could have survived without. Objectively, I feel that having chased these dreams has actually left me more devoid in numerous avenues than empowered. Retrospectively, I find it hard to understand why we ...

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