Podcast: Sarah Ayub talks #TraditionallySubmissive and Dianne Ngoza talks about her life as a migrant rights campaigner
We invited blogger, writer and MPACUK member, Sarah Ayub, to discuss the recent response to David Cameron's alleged comments regarding Muslim women which caused a strong reaction on social media.
After the Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party announced that there would be funding for English Language programmes- specifically aimed at Muslim women to combat 'extremism', suggesting that Muslim women are 'traditionally submissive' and therefore more at risk of being 'radicalised', the Muslim women of twitter were not going to take his comments lying down.
#TraditionallySubmissive saw Muslim women of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds boasting of their achievements. Many held up signs listing degrees and hobbies that subvert the stereotype of the 'submissive' Muslim female.
Sarah Ayub discussed her concerns how such a mainstream political figure could make such harmful statements; "The link to extremism is what's worrying. He said himself- and he's contradicting himself- that learning English or language barriers lead to extremism."
"It was a very irresponsible comment for a Prime Minister to make."
Ayub also discussed the origins of these stereotypes and how the media perpetrates these images of Muslims that fuels racism and Islamophobia.
"A large responsibility also lies with some fragments of the media, where they show Islam and Muslims to be of a certain type, where they like to have a certain type of Muslim to show that this is what Muslims are like and that type of Muslim is always the really extreme, really conservative sort of Muslim and when that type of Muslim is depicted in the media, that is all that people see."
Meanwhile, Dianne Ngoza, a migrant rights campaigner originally from the Congo discussed her work with an impressive myriad of organisation in Greater Manchester including MiSol, United For Change, Women Asylum Seekers Together and City of Sanctuary as well as discussing her own experience as a migrant 'in limbo' in the UK.
You can hear the full podcast episode on Soundcloud.
In this week's podcast, Sophie Gardiner talks to Farhad Vahidi about his experiences as a young asylum seeker in the UK, including his time in detention in Yarl's Wood.
Farhad came to UK with his mother and father when was thirteen when his father faced persecution by Iranian authorities. His elder brother followed shortly afterwards, and was processed separately from the rest of the family.
Farhad described in detail his detention experience, including the initial arrest.
"It is like a full on drugs raid."
Farhad explains how he and his mother and father were detained together in Yarl's Wood's family wing for two months; "it's got just over eighteen children, because at the time the law was that you can no longer detain under eighteens. And that was the reason the Home Office had to wait for six months, that was the reason they had to wait for me to be eighteen then they can raid the house and arrest us."
"Arriving in Yarl's Wood, it's just like going to prison, you've got to process in it, they take away all your belongings, they take away your phone, they search you up and down, you get checked by the doctor, make sure you've got no problems. You say anything like if you're feeling suicidal then that will be the end of it 'cos they're gonna have officers sitting outside your room all night making sure you don't do anything stupid."
"From the outside it does look like a prison, but from the outside it just looks like a two star hotel" he explained, describing the general facilities that were provided in Yarl's Wood. "It feels more like a hostel, except you're not allowed to leave, that's the difference."
He also mentioned how prior to his detention in Yarl's Wood, he was held in Harmondsworth "which is a completely different story! This is a proper jail, the door is locked, windows all sealed, there is barbed wire everywhere, they put a drop ne between the floors- it's completely different fro Yarl's Wood, which is more family friendly. That's what it was meant to be, when we had the law that kids could be detained, that's what it was meant for. So kids could be here, but not feel like they were actually in prison."
Farhad explained daily life during his imprisonment in Yarl's Wood, the facilities and his relationship with the staff there. "I understand that they understand that people who are bored are more likely to be aggressive because they've got nothing to do."
"It was basically like a playground, but you just didn't have the right to leave."
Farhad describes how the detention centre were very strict about everyone attending meal times; "You couldn't take food to your room, you HAD to go upstairs to their dining room, you need to be accounted for, any attempt of hunger strike, they would not tolerate it."
"One person tried it, and they were NOT very nice to that person."
He would stay up past curfew to talk with guards and had a friendly relationship with many of the staff, "because they was bored, and I was bored."
Farhad explains that after he left detention he suffered PTSD which disrupted his higher education. While Farhad and his parents were safe, his elder brother would have to wait a while before he was also finally granted asylum. "We didn't go on holiday until after he got his leave to remain."
He advised anyone who is experiencing detention or who is still in the asylum system to stay strong, "stand up for yourself, but don't cause trouble. If you ever end up in a detention centre, do what you've got to do, make friends with all the staff, don't cause trouble that you don't have to cause. If you're in a detention centre, try and do something, because one, it will get the time to pass faster and two, it will not allow you the time to overthink things."
You can hear the full story on Soundcloud.
Today's podcast features Nahella Ashraf, one of the leaders of Stand Up To Racism, an organisation campaigning against racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia in Manchester and across the country.
In the wake of the attacks in the Middle East and Paris, Nahella explains how migrant communities suffer from racism and xenophobic policies and scapegoating.
"I don't think the scaremongering that we're seeing around the bombings in Paris is helping. You see this huge media frenzy around this idea that they could be Syrian refugees, it's a ridiculous idea that the Syrian refugees are involved in what happened in Paris, and even the Parisian authorities are saying they weren't involved, but it doesn't stop the press from linking the two together." Ashraf explained that equating Islam and refugees with terrorism makes their work harder. "It creates a fear in society as well, that isn't helpful for anyone."
Ashraf also talks about Stand Up To Racism's recent delegation to the Calais 'Jungle'. "It's not fit for anyone to be staying in." She stressed the importance of fundraising for the charities on the ground in Calais, but more importantly, to campaign against the government's policy to deny entry to the refugees.
"Our country's rich enough to take these people in, we can accommodate these people and we also have to take responsibility for some of the reasons why they're here." She cited conflicts in the Middle East that have been caused or exacerbated by Western interventionism and funding.
When discussing the similarities between current events we are seeing in the Middle East and World War 2, when many Western European countries and the US shut their borders to refugees fleeing the Third Reich. Nahella reminded us of the story of Anne Frank, who's family applied for a visa to flee to America "but because they decided that she might be a Nazi spy or a German spy, they didn't give her a visa- it's very similar to what we're seeing with the refugees in Calais presently."
When asked if a rise in hate crime was expected in the wake of the attacks, as well as the 'refugee crisis', she said "there's no denying the fact that what we've seen in Paris has resulted in people feeling more suspicious about Muslims and about refugees and the 'other' within society, and we have seen more attacks on individuals- especially on women out and about - and this isn't out and about in dark corners late at night, we're talking very much out in the open on public transport." She also advised that people who see or are the target of hate crime should report incidents to the police "I understand why they don't, because a lot of people don't trust the authorities right now, but it's important that it's reported and we hold our police force to account and say what have you done about this?!"
Ashraf stressed the importance of 'pushing back' when the media spreads misinformation that targets migrant and faith groups, whether through complaining, fundraising, protesting or boycotting, citing the campaign against The Sun after the Hillsborough disaster as an example; "Up to this day, the people of Liverpool don't buy The Sun, it's not delivered in Liverpool, it's not in any of their shops."
She emphasised the importance of independent media and social media in the fight against mainstream misinformation; "social media has a massive influence on what people think, and see, and learn about these issues. So when the media goes on about stuff like, you know, there's been a passport found near one of the bombers in Paris, the amount of people on social media that will say, so what? He blew himself up and the passport survived? It's really interesting that the narrative that the media is trying to put out there can be countered by social media. It's that independent media that's absolutely key, if we support our independent media, it sends a clear message to the establishment that we're not going to buy into their poor journalism."
Migrant Echoes also spoke to Roxana, a young Roma woman from Romania, who tells her story of migrating to Manchester and growing up the past few years in Greater Manchester.
"I'd been living in a place called Slobozia, it's a really nice place, it's just that we can't get proper work there, and the education is not as good as here."
"I'd first been in France, I stayed there for two years- Spain, for two years and something... then I was coming here." Roxana explained her family chose to come to Manchester as they already had lots of relatives residing in the area. "Manchester is a really nice place, we like it. This is the reason. The people are really friendly. I have lots of friends here."
When asked about the political scapegoating of new Eastern European Migrants, Roxana denied that she or her family had experienced hate crime.
"No, everyone here are good people. I like Manchester. When we first arrived, people were helping us with getting into schools."
"They were just helping us when we need something. I never get this like... 'go back to your country' or something."
Roxana highlighted the importance of education in her life, explaining her desire to attend university to study drama and her own enthusiasm for writing and performing arts, and her wish that other young people in her community will pursue education in the future; "for my culture, I just want them to be in the place with everyone. I want them to be able to do what they want. Especially the girls and the boys that are in education."
She agreed it was important for people to hear stories from her community "because people think that Gypsy tradition is strict tradition, but that's not right. That is why I made that play about Roma people."
You can listen to the full podcast here>>>