I often sit back and reflect how fortunate I am to have the supportive parents I have been blessed with.
But behind this amazing relationship is a struggle. A struggle of wanting to ask questions, be understood and live.
My parents were from the first wave of migrants arriving at UK shores looking for a better life. What they probably hadn’t planned into their birthing plan and life goals was 3 daughters and integration.
Not an easy task in 1970s multicultural Britain. ‘Not one but three’ daughters, a Boots offer most parents would have said thanks but no thanks.
That’s 3 nightmares until they are happily married and off your hands. That’s 3 potential cases of ‘oh oh they could go awol’ and not one but three husbands’ to find.
One of the things I recall, is hearing my mum saying about her in laws “ah don’t worry someone will marry them”.
But Allah had greater plans. Luck or fate we had a father who believed in education. We had a mother who was a later comer on the marriage scene at 25 with a college education.
Aside the usual pressure of “bring home the A grades”, it was the “medicine we think you should become doctors”.
Well thank God none of us did. I think the seed for rebellious indviduality had been planted when no one would want to as I often joke now “goon the atta”.
‘No one will marry your daughters’ – mum would say to dad.
Mum don’t worry I’ll marry someone who eats Warburtons bread.
Some of childhood memories are bitterly painful riddled with domestic violence and the pain my mother endured from her in laws rejecting her as too forward thinking educated city girl.
So we were raised away from family thus detached from a ‘allegiance to back home’ guilt trap.
What i recall being drummed into me time and time again was education, education, education. From tap dancing classes to cross country marathons I don’t think i ever heard the word no from mum and dad. Until we started to ask questions fast approaching that weird age of 18.
That’s when the “oh you must have eaten haram because you’re looking at me eye to eye …”
Which brings me to the title, I recall thinking well where do you want me to look … so I assume that was the first time I had done it ‘lowered my gaze’ I looked at the floor. Even as I write this my eyes fill with tears .. yes I’m a softy behind the battle axe exterior. I see years flash before my eyes of a inner struggle that was starting but I need to speak … why won’t you let me speak why can’t I look at you and talk. You taught me all my life to speak the truth ask questions and reason and now I ask you … I’m told I’m crossing the line and you whip me back down to humiliate me.
And now almost twenty years later I find myself in a system which does exactly the same you can ask questions until we decide whoa to you how dare you raise your voice and ask us a question of accountability a reasonable question of the men who howl authority over you.
Lower you gaze to me means an abuse of my right to be vocal. Lower your gaze in 2014 in my world means to me you can look so far then that’s it ‘do not look to make eye contact with us how dare you. Fear reprimand and reprisal. So really as a British Muslim ethnic minority woman not only did I have my patriarchal authority to contend with I now have civil authority to contend with.