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Thursday, 5 December, 2002, 16:06 GMT
Eid: What it means to me
Muslims are celebrating Eid, the end of Ramadan. Sajidah Chaudhary reflects on who she is in modern Britain as the month of fasting ends.

Who am I? Who tells me who I am? How do I know who I am? Where did I come from?

My parents told me I came from Pakistan, my father use to say a rose planted in a pot or a garden or another country is always a rose. So do not forget your roots and who you are.

At school they told me that I was British. My friends told me I was English, because I wore the same clothes and spoke the same language.

As a young woman, Asian boys thought I was Greek or Spanish and they would ask me for a date. When I declined with a "No thank you, brother", they'd apologise with a "Sorry, I did not realise you were a sister."

Who I am at work?

When I began to work, colleagues argued that I was Indian - because my parents were born in India. Another said I was a Punjabi because India was just a creation by the British.

My extended family tells me that I am a Gujar, a Chaudhary, a wealthy landowner - but I've never seen any of it!

My passport says I am a European and a citizen of the United Kingdom. Friends told me that I was a woman, not a girl, and that men oppressed me.

Colleagues in the race industry told me that I was Black. Asians told me that I couldn't be black - because I am brown. The racists told me that I was a Paki.

Members of the Conservative Party told me that I was an immigrant, a swamping invader to their land.

Some of the white working classes told me that I am a sponger. I was a thief who steals jobs and houses and clogs up the national health system. Darwin told me that I am inferior.

Translating films

Various governments, including this one, have told me that I am not integrated enough and I must learn to be more British and stop speaking Punjabi at home. So I pondered how this would work in reality: Would I have to translate Urdu films into English before I could appreciate them?

President Bush tells me I am a terrorist because I am against his policies. If I enter his country, I fear I will be interrogated because I have Pakistani visas in my British Passport.

A Jewish friend called me an Arab, though I have never even visited Arabia. Another friend told me that I was in fact a Hindu, converted by the Moghul Empire, and that my maiden name came from Turkey!

The National Front told me I should be repatriated. But, I asked, where to?

Where do I belong? Who am I?

I was a Muslim the day I was born and during my life I lost my way. But now thank you President Bush, thank you United Nations, for helping so many of us who had lost their way to find the true path to home. And now I know I will always be a Muslim.

As a Muslim I can help the country of my choice, England, a country where I am free to be whoever I choose to be.

The Muslim community in Britain can help to bring about peace and social cohesion, through basic values such as honesty, respect, tolerance, responsibility, faith and family life.

So I'm just trying to make this a better place to live. For all of us, whoever we are. That's who I am.

Sajidah Chaudhary is the director of Slough Race Equality Council and a local councillor in south-east England.

Some of your comments:

I am an America Muslim and I want to say that your article was wonderful! Islam is a religion of peace and Muslims are people of peace! Muslims must stand up and let people know the true peaceful Islam!
John H. Moore, USA

This is a very powerful, beautiful article. I was moved by the author's words of wisdom and of tolerance. Regards, RR
Roseanne Rostron, US

May many others read your account, and realise that whatever colour, creed, size or shape we are, the sky belongs to us all, and we to it.
Rico Garofalo, UK

A very thought provoking piece. Makes you think who we are and where we belong in more than one way!
Faisal, UK, Walsall

As a pinky-white person of English extraction, I found Sajidah Chaudhary's story both interesting and great fun. Many people have opinions and beliefs that are different or opposing to our own. A belief in inclusiveness, harmony, and mutual friendship helps us all to live together as one people.
Alistair Rose, UK

What a wonderful piece of prose, Sajidah. You are whatever you want to be. This is the story of an Island race. As a Scot even I know what it's like to be a stranger in a strange land.
Don MacAskill, Scotland

I am a Christian. I wish that more people of all faiths could express your views as tolerantly and coherently as you do here.
Jackie, England

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05 Dec 02 | Middle East
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