I was born in a Muslim household; obviously, I learned the value of different races at a very young age. I was pretty blessed in terms of my exposure to different races from the very start. I started studies in a Pakistani school, which was owned by two very smart and powerful Christians; the brother was the Vice Principal and the sister was the Principal. I loved both of them; and, they loved me back.
This school felt extra special to me because we used to sing songs and do exercises during the assembly; and, sometimes we had to stand in queues for long while one or both the owners delivered speeches. The best part about this school were the two Christians owners who participated in raising me and my siblings. So for some years, I used to listen and obey what these two lovely humans used to ask me to do. It was a fascinating experience for me because I had somehow fully realized that they were Christians and we were Muslims. The sister (Principal) used to wear saris and the brother (Vice Principal) used to wear tuxedos; and, they also used to wear these amazing perfumes. I sometimes used to hide behind the sister because I used to feel very safe around her. She had a very protective nature although some students used to find her scary because she was keen on having everything fully organized and she expected kids to be well-mannered. I think some students used to get frightened of her because she used to watch some classes secretly; then, suddenly she used to come inside the classroom and leave some comments for everyone. I used to always go to the office when they would call me to show my signed reports. Of course! I would stand outside feeling a bit scared, which I feel is due to reverence I felt towards both of them. I mean, I did not want them to say that I did not do well in some courses. I always got out of the office feeling great because they were both very gentle folks. Working with them was helpful because meeting them motivated me to do better in school. We used to be very reserved when we would go to the office. Once one of my friends was called along with me. He totally farted in the office and the rotten smell spread like wildfire. The brother (Vice Principal) just smiled after a while the fart was released; then he took an Air Freshener out and sprayed the entire room. Meanwhile, we children just sat and watched them while feeling confused about how great the office and its occupants really looked. Of course! They were dark-skinned Christians; but, the words “they are great” still flowed really thoroughly in our minds.
When I was teenager or perhaps a bit before that, I studied some of the Quran’s translation as well as some Ahadith (sayings of Prophet Mohammad). Of course! I finished reading the entire Quran and some of its translation when I was just a kid. Or perhpas I learned these exact words when I was a teenager; however, the essence of this teaching was something commonly understood by those around me. Somewhere along the lines, I learned the following Islamic teaching:
There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab. Neither is the white superior over the black, nor is the black superior over the white—except by piety. Source: (Saying of Prophet Mohammad; mentioend by author Yusuf Khan in article “What Did The Prophet Say About Racism“
When I was old enough to understand news, I learned some stuff about fights between Christians and Muslims inside Pakistan as well as about other fights that were taking place in other parts of the globe. I used to think that these people were just confused! I was still pretty young so after listening to all this garbage, I used to just go in my room and do some stuff that I liked. One of my favourite habits was to dress up, turn the music on, and dance. I used to dance a lot! My younger sister used to watch me and feel surprised about all the moves I used to make. I once saw her hiding and watching me; so I brought her near my large mirror. Then I tried teaching her some of my dance moves. Unfortunately, she ran away after a couple of lessons. As you can see, I learned how to beat my boredom earlier in life.
I still remember briefly meeting some Chinese kids who came to my high school. My friends, siblings, and I were so shocked and attracted by their presence that we used to hide and watch them from a distance. We used to talk about them like we were enchanted by a strong spell; but, we could not talk to them because we did not knew their language and our English was pretty broken. The other Chinese people we came across owned restaurants in Pakistan. Obviously, we had really less exposure to these Chinese owners because a lot of time we were just eating like pigs or playing under the table.
When I finally got into Canada, I learned some new stuff by watching and experiencing discrimination. Here are the key lessons I have learned after spending around 20 years in Canada:
1) There is a distinct line: Whites are better than Latinos; Lations are better than Asians; Asians are better than Aboriginal; and, Christians are better than the Muslims. ETCETERA! That is all!
2) Things that affect coloured people cannot be fully discussed in front of the authorities. This includes some workplaces, influential colleagues, academic organizations, mainstream media platforms, and politicians.
3) Only coloured people can relate well to each other due to similar experiences. Only coloured people can comfortably whisper to each other that we came here in order to be looted, abused, raped, ignored, and killed.
4) “Where are you from?” is the most common question asked. Only sometimes this question is asked owing to pure curiosity; other times, it’s asked in order to find ways of abusing and trashing the other person. A White man inquired about my religion during an interview at a very famous Canadian construction company. You would see their signs inside some of the most famous buildings including colleges and universities—but, their male executive really did not knew how to behave during an interview.
5) Well meaning and non-racist White people actually exist but they are hard to find. But, this really depends on which area you are living in.
6) When you complain even to the friendliest White people, you can be judged and questioned. Then you will get a big headache explaining lots of things during a rather short period. I can clearly see now how some coloured Canadian people die from heart attacks!
Thus, there have been multiple attempts at hacking my mind and forcing me to learn racism; perhaps, these racists hope to completely brainwash me and rewire me into another person one day. Living in Canada has thus proven to be spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally damaging. And, it is disheartening to have some of my childhood memories repeatedly challenged by discriminatory acts. I would love to leave Canada if God gives me a way to do so.
Copyright © by Arzoo Zaheer. All Rights Reserved.