Finding My Voice

Every year, on the 31st of December, I feel like it’s important to just take a few moments to reflect back on the year and take note of some of the few notable lessons we have all learned. So, this is my attempt to do just that and I have tried my hardest to narrow it down to five.

  • January to December, I transitioned from my second year at university to my final year and one thing any maturing adult will tell you is that your opinions and thoughts will constantly evolve and I can vouch for this- my stances on certain topics and my passions have expanded more than I can describe and the way I think now is completely different and this will undoubtedly continue to adapt as I grow. It’s altogether a confusing and sometimes scary but wonderful experience so enjoy the process.
  • Friends are one of the few treasures that have constantly come into my life and every year I make new ones who bring me something that I never knew was absent from my life. This year was no different and I am always grateful for those friendships that are soul-fulfilling and spiritually nurturing. I have met people who are probably capable of losing more compassion that many of us can ever hope to obtain in our lifetime and I hope everyone can experience a friendship that is so rewarding.
  • Not knowing what the future holds is okay. My faith and trust in Allah has strengthened and I am starting to not only believe but also understand that what is meant for me will always be. Be kind to yourself.
  • Books will always be my retreat- having struggled to keep up with regular reading (at least, with literature that wasn’t on a module reading list) I’m glad my summer consisted of catching up on this neglected hobby. My book-buying habit, on the other hand, maybe that’s something I’ll consider sorting out for next year.
  • I am also starting to find my voice and not only can I hear it, but I can also confidently stand up and defend it- a skill, albeit not 100% mastered yet and one that has taken years to materialise, I’m glad is beginning to find its feet.

Women breaking the barriers in 2018

Our list of women of exceptional talent, resilience, and courage – all defining 2018.

Nadia Murad

You may have heard of Nadia Murad over the past couple of years, a Yazidi human rights activist who in 2014, was captured and tortured (including being burned by cigerettes and raped) by ISIS in her hometown Kocho, Sinjar in northern Iraq.

Ever since gaining her freedom, she has resiliently advocated for the cause of the members of the Yazidi community, a minority group who reside in northern Iraq – who ISIS has targeted and systematically abuse. This year, her selfless efforts were recognised by being jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Credits: Jason Schmidt

We are incredibly moved and inspired by Nadia’s story and activism.

Congress Women

Ilhan Omar of Minnesota – one of the first Muslim women elected to US Congress this year.

We have covered the incredible achievements of these women in our piece Making History.

Saudi women campaigning for the right to drive

In June this year, women in Saudi Arabia were finally (finally!) allowed to drive. This reform in Saudi Arabian society was a long time coming – particularly after the arrests of Saudi women who were jailed for defying the law banning women to drive. One of the prime advocates for this cause is Manal Al-Sharif, who in 2011 was arrested for driving in the country, and subsequently started to campaign for women’s rights in the region.

Manal Al – Sharif, credits: Abduljalil Al-Nasser

Another notable figure is Loujain al-Hathloul, who is still under arrest for campaigning for women’s rights in the country. More damningly, there are reports from Amnesty about alleged torture of Saudi women who campaign for the right of women to drive.

Olivette Otele

Credits: Bath Spa University

In 2018, Olivette Otele, a historian of French and British colonialism, became the first black female professor in the UK at Bath Spa University. Not only this is an incredible achievement, particularly for black women but also sheds light on the grave lack of diversity within higher levels of academia.

This year, a study undertaken by the Royal Historical Society, named Race, Ethnicity and Equality found that only 0.5% of historians working in UK universities are black. Further to this, only 20 professors in the UK are black. She hopes that her appointment to professorship will “open the door for many hard-working women, especially black women in academia”.

All of these women collectively demonstrate one thing – exceptional resilience and courage. Breaking barriers and paving way for other women of colour to take similar steps. And finally ,to never be afraid to disrupt the system, no matter how many scream back at you.

Feeling like a fraud – what is the imposter syndrome all about?

By Kolchuma Begum

This week I attended the event on the mental health of BAME people hosted by the KCL Bangladesh society. This event was so valuable and impressive that I had to share what I personally found most interesting and that is learning about the imposter syndrome. I did not hear of this syndrome before but as I sat there learning about what it was, I felt a sense of relief in that it was not something that I alone felt.

So, what is the imposter syndrome? The imposter syndrome could be defined as ‘a psychological phenomenon that causes sufferers to attribute their successes and accomplishments to external factors such as luck, timing (.. .) rather than to personal merit, hard work or ability’[1].I feel like this syndrome is prevalent amongst young people, especially students in higher education who may feel the pressure to exceed and meet certain expectations when preparing to enter the world of work. Whilst students can exceed and meet the expectations, they still may feel that they are not good enough or that the position they have, should have been given to someone else. This then can lead to growing fears and a constant paranoia that someone will find out that your credentials are not worthy enough or that you as a person are not worthy enough for the job.

The growing pressures on students to exceed and thrive to meet certain expectations can lead some to experience this imposter syndromeand hence why I am sharing this information with you all. Whenever you are feeling like somewhat of a fraud even though rationally all your achievements were through your own work – ask yourself, you worked hard for your achievements so why should you feel like you are not worthy of an achievement or a position in acompany of your dreams?

We need to allow ourselves room to develop yet not be so harsh on ourselves. Whenever you have that thought of paranoia creeping into your mind, remind yourself that where you are is because of your hard work and not because of sheer luck. To finish this off, I would like you to share knowledge of this imposter syndrome with your friends and classmates because you may be surprised to find out how many people experience and struggle with this at one point or more in their lives.


[1] Rouse,Margaret, ‘Imposter Syndrome’, 2017 <https://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/impostor-syndrome&gt; [accessed 13th December 2018]

BrAsians: Looking Beyond Culture Clash

By Aisha Mazhar.

The history of South Asian migration to Britain begins during the colonial period when India was a British colony; a trickle of South Asian students, sailors, governesses and housemaids settled in Britain. The most significant waves of South Asian migration were following the Second World War when Britain was faced with labour shortages; the partition of India and the expulsion of South Asians from Uganda. Today the South Asian diaspora inBritain represents over 3.9% of the population, amounting to just over 2.3million people according to the 2001 census.[1] Despite the historical lineage of the South Asian presence in Britain, the South Asian experience has often largely been overlooked or confined to the periphery of Britain’s national narrative. If the South Asian diaspora has been the subject of interest, it has been analysed through tropes such as ‘culture clash’ informed by categories of analysis which overwhelmingly focus on religion, culture and tradition. Diasporic identities according to cultural theorist, Stuart Hall, ‘are those which are constantly producing and reproducing themselves anew, through transformation and difference’. Despite the hybridity and adaptability of South Asian diasporic identities, they have been portrayed as static, steeped in values seen as distinctly ‘other’ in contrast to western,‘British values’. Through a variety of different cultural mediums, South Asians have rearticulated what it means to be British by accommodating, re-interpreting and fusing strands of various cultures, experience and identity. The director Pratibha Parmar, aptly stated in regard to the South Asian diaspora, ‘we have been changing the very heart of what constitutes Englishness by recoding it with our diasporic sensibilities’. [2]

Image credits: National Army Museum 

BrAsian; The term in some ways, captures the essence of Parmar’s articulation that the South Asian diaspora has ‘recoded’ Englishness in certain ways. BrAsian dispenses with categories which stress the nation or ethnic minority framings of identity. Both ‘British’ and ‘Asian’ are accommodated in the term but not left unaltered; they are fused to create something new altogether. The term ‘BrAsian’ was introduced in A Postcolonial People; an anthology which explores the multi-faceted experience of British South Asians.[3] The term also stresses the need to re-narrate the South Asian experience, not on the basis of national identity but with an understanding of the exchanges and nuanced experience that ‘BrAsian’ implies. Above all else, ‘BrAsian’ is a means of illustrating that identities can seldom be decomposed into neat categories; It demands looking beyond the notion of ‘culture clash’, which fails to account for the richness and multiplicity of British South Asian identities.

Credit: Peter Nicholls, Reuters 

One way of engaging with a more nuanced understanding of British South Asian identity, is to provide platforms for people to tell their own stories and experiences. Cultural mediums, such as art can be useful and effective modes of expression, which can capture the multifaceted nature of identity. A number of British South Asian artists have done just that. TheSingh Twin’s, are a British artist duo comprised of sisters, Amrit and Rabindra Kaur Singh, their work explores themes of identity and cultural prejudices amongst others.  Upon first glance, the Indian influences in the Singh Twin’s painting EnTWINed are most apparent; It is painted in the style of a traditional Mughal miniature and features important Indian historical figures such as Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose and Sophia Duleep Singh. Yet upon further inspection, there are very clear British influences evident throughout the piece in the form of landmarks and cultural references. In fact, the painting itself is a reinterpretation of the Victorian painter, Nelson O’Neil’s paintingsEastward Ho (1857) and Home Again (1858). Eastward Ho depicts British soldiers boarding a ship bound forIndia to quell the ‘Indian mutiny’; Whilst, HomeAgain portrays the return of the soldiers having quelled the ‘mutiny’.  EnTWINED subverts O’Neil’s narrative of courageous British soldiers’ participating in supressing the rebellion of 1857; This time, the heroes are those who fought for Indian independence. The painting further features references to both historical and contemporary figures and motifs; the twins themselves are illustrated, wearing the Scottish tartan alongside shalwar kameez. Entwined is the artistic manifestation of BrAsian; synthesising both British and South Asian history and culture, to produce a nuanced piece which unsettles traditional narratives and celebrates the influence that SouthAsians have had on Britain.  The twins have asserted their ‘right to define our own culture and artistic individuality in a way that is meaningful and true to whom we are as British Asians’.[4] When British Asians are given the platform to tell their own stories, perhaps we will eschew reductive narratives which seek to posit a narrow and selective definition of what ‘integration’ and ‘British’ looks like. 


[1] http://www.movingpeoplechangingplaces.org/migration-histories/south-asians-making-britain.html

[2] E. Ann Kaplan, Looking for the Other: Feminism, Film and the Imperial Gaze (Routledge, 1997), 20

[3] N. Ali, V.S. Kalra, S. Sayyid eds., A Postcolonial People: South Asians in Britain, 2005

[4]  http://www.singhtwins.co.uk/INSPIRATION.html