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← What we don’t know about Europe’s Muslim kids and why we should care | Deeyah Khan | TEDxExeter

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Showing Revision 20 created 01/27/2017 by Krystian Aparta.

  1. When I was a child,
    I knew I had superpowers.
  2. That's right.
  3. (Laughter)

  4. I thought I was absolutely amazing
    because I could understand

  5. and relate to the feelings
    of brown people,
  6. like my grandfather,
    a conservative Muslim guy.
  7. And also, I could understand
    my Afghan mother, my Pakistani father,
  8. not so religious
    but laid-back, fairly liberal.
  9. And of course, I could understand
  10. and relate to the feelings
    of white people.
  11. The white Norwegians of my country.
  12. You know, white, brown, whatever --
  13. I loved them all.
  14. I understood them all,
  15. even if they didn't always
    understand each other;
  16. they were all my people.
  17. My father, though,
    was always really worried.

  18. He kept saying that
    even with the best education,
  19. I was not going to get a fair shake.
  20. I would still face discrimination,
    according to him.
  21. And that the only way
    to be accepted by white people
  22. would be to become famous.
  23. Now, mind you, he had this conversation
    with me when I was seven years old.
  24. So while I'm seven years old, he said,
  25. "Look, so it's either got to be sports,
    or it's got to be music."
  26. He didn't know anything about sports --
    bless him -- so it was music.
  27. So when I was seven years old,
    he gathered all my toys, all my dolls,
  28. and he threw them all away.
  29. In exchange he gave me
    a crappy little Casio keyboard and --
  30. (Laughter)

  31. Yeah. And singing lessons.

  32. And he forced me, basically, to practice
    for hours and hours every single day.
  33. Very quickly, he also had me performing
    for larger and larger audiences,
  34. and bizarrely, I became
    almost a kind of poster child
  35. for Norwegian multiculturalism.
  36. I felt very proud, of course.
  37. Because even the newspapers at this point
  38. were starting to write
    nice things about brown people,
  39. so I could feel
    that my superpower was growing.
  40. So when I was 12 years old,
    walking home from school,

  41. I took a little detour,
  42. because I wanted to buy
    my favorite sweets called "salty feet."
  43. I absolutely love them.
  44. So on my way into the store,
  45. there was this grown white guy
    in the doorway blocking my way.
  46. So I tried to walk around him,
    and as I did that, he stopped me
  47. and he was staring at me,
  48. and he spit in my face, and he said,
  49. "Get out of my way
  50. you little black bitch,
    you little Paki bitch,
  51. go back home where you came from."
  52. I was absolutely horrified.
  53. I was staring at him.
  54. I was too afraid
    to wipe the spit off my face,
  55. even as it was mixing with my tears.
  56. I remember looking around,
    hoping that any minute now,
  57. a grown-up is going to come
    and make this guy stop.
  58. But instead, people kept hurrying past me
    and pretended not to see me.
  59. I was very confused
    because I was thinking, well,
  60. "My white people, come on!
    Where are they? What's going on?
  61. How come they're not
    coming and rescuing me?"
  62. So, needless to say,
    I didn't buy the sweets.
  63. I just ran home as fast as I could.
  64. Things were still OK, though, I thought.

  65. As time went on,
    the more successful I became,
  66. I eventually started also attracting
    harassment from brown people.
  67. Some men in my parent's community
    felt that it was unacceptable
  68. and dishonorable for a woman
    to be involved in music
  69. and to be so present in the media.
  70. So very quickly, I was starting
    to become attacked at my own concerts.
  71. I remember one of the concerts,
    I was onstage, I lean into the audience
  72. and the last thing I see
    is a young brown face,
  73. and the next thing I know is some sort
    of chemical is thrown in my eyes
  74. and I remember I couldn't really see
    and my eyes were watering
  75. but I kept singing anyway.
  76. I was spit in the face in the streets
    of Oslo, this time by brown men.
  77. They even tried to kidnap me at one point.
  78. The death threats were endless.
  79. I remember one older bearded guy
    stopped me in the street one time,
  80. and he said, "The reason
    I hate you so much
  81. is because you make our daughters think
  82. they can do whatever they want."
  83. A younger guy warned me to watch my back.
  84. He said music is un-Islamic
    and the job of whores,
  85. and if you keep this up,
    you are going to be raped
  86. and your stomach will be cut out so that
    another whore like you will not be born.
  87. Again, I was so confused.

  88. I couldn't understand what was going on.
  89. My brown people now starting
    to treat me like this -- how come?
  90. Instead of bridging the worlds,
    the two worlds,
  91. I felt like I was falling
    between my two worlds.
  92. I suppose, for me, spit was kryptonite.
  93. So by the time I was 17 years old,

  94. the death threats were endless,
    and the harassment was constant.
  95. It got so bad, at one point
    my mother sat me down and said,
  96. "Look, we can no longer protect you,
    we can no longer keep you safe,
  97. so you're going to have to go."
  98. So I bought a one-way ticket to London,
    I packed my suitcase and I left.
  99. My biggest heartbreak at that point
    was that nobody said anything.
  100. I had a very public exit from Norway.
  101. My brown people, my white people --
    nobody said anything.
  102. Nobody said, "Hold on, this is wrong.
  103. Support this girl, protect this girl,
    because she is one of us."
  104. Nobody said that.
  105. Instead, I felt like --
    you know at the airport,
  106. on the baggage carousel
    you have these different suitcases
  107. going around and around,
  108. and there's always
    that one suitcase left at the end,
  109. the one that nobody wants,
    the one that nobody comes to claim.
  110. I felt like that.
  111. I'd never felt so alone.
    I'd never felt so lost.
  112. So, after coming to London,
    I did eventually resume my music career.

  113. Different place, but unfortunately
    the same old story.
  114. I remember a message sent to me
    saying that I was going to be killed
  115. and that rivers of blood
    were going to flow
  116. and that I was going to be raped
    many times before I died.
  117. By this point, I have to say,
  118. I was actually getting used
    to messages like this,
  119. but what became different was that
    now they started threatening my family.
  120. So once again, I packed my suitcase,
    I left music and I moved to the US.

  121. I'd had enough.
  122. I didn't want to have anything
    to do with this anymore.
  123. And I was certainly not
    going to be killed for something
  124. that wasn't even my dream --
    it was my father's choice.
  125. So I kind of got lost.

  126. I kind of fell apart.
  127. But I decided that what I wanted to do
  128. is spend the next
    however many years of my life
  129. supporting young people
  130. and to try to be there in some small way,
  131. whatever way that I could.
  132. I started volunteering
    for various organizations
  133. that were working
    with young Muslims inside of Europe.
  134. And, to my surprise, what I found was
  135. so many of these young people
    were suffering and struggling.
  136. They were facing so many problems
    with their families and their communities
  137. who seemed to care more
    about their honor and their reputation
  138. than the happiness
    and the lives of their own kids.
  139. I started feeling like maybe I wasn't
    so alone, maybe I wasn't so weird.
  140. Maybe there are more
    of my people out there.
  141. The thing is, what most people
    don't understand

  142. is that there are so many of us
    growing up in Europe
  143. who are not free to be ourselves.
  144. We're not allowed to be who we are.
  145. We are not free to marry
  146. or to be in relationships
    with people that we choose.
  147. We can't even pick our own career.
  148. This is the norm in the Muslim
    heartlands of Europe.
  149. Even in the freest societies
    in the world, we're not free.
  150. Our lives, our dreams, our future
    does not belong to us,
  151. it belongs to our parents
    and their community.
  152. I found endless stories of young people
  153. who are lost to all of us,
  154. who are invisible to all of us
  155. but who are suffering,
    and they are suffering alone.
  156. Kids we are losing to forced marriages,
    to honor-based violence and abuse.
  157. Eventually, I realized after several
    years of working with these young people,

  158. that I will not be able to keep running.
  159. I can't spend the rest of my life
    being scared and hiding
  160. and that I'm actually
    going to have to do something.
  161. And I also realized
    that my silence, our silence,
  162. allows abuse like this to continue.
  163. So I decided that I wanted to put
    my childhood superpower to some use
  164. by trying to make people on the different
    sides of these issues understand
  165. what it's like to be a young person stuck
    between your family and your country.
  166. So I started making films,
    and I started telling these stories.

  167. And I also wanted people to understand
    the deadly consequences of us
  168. not taking these problems seriously.
  169. So the first film I made was about Banaz.

  170. She was a 17-year-old
    Kurdish girl in London.
  171. She was obedient, she did
    whatever her parents wanted.
  172. She tried to do everything right.
  173. She married some guy
    that her parents chose for her,
  174. even though he beat
    and raped her constantly.
  175. And when she tried to go
    to her family for help, they said,
  176. "Well, you got to go back
    and be a better wife."
  177. Because they didn't want
    a divorced daughter on their hands
  178. because, of course,
    that would bring dishonor on the family.
  179. She was beaten so badly
    her ears would bleed,
  180. and when she finally left
    and she found a young man that she chose
  181. and she fell in love with,
  182. the community and the family found out
  183. and she disappeared.
  184. She was found three months later.
  185. She'd been stuffed into a suitcase
    and buried underneath the house.
  186. She had been strangled,
    she had been beaten to death
  187. by three men, three cousins,
    on the orders of her father and uncle.
  188. The added tragedy of Banaz's story
  189. is that she had gone to the police
    in England five times asking for help,
  190. telling them that she was
    going to be killed by her family.
  191. The police didn't believe her
    so they didn't do anything.
  192. And the problem with this

  193. is that not only are so many of our kids
    facing these problems
  194. within their families
    and within their families' communities,
  195. but they're also meeting misunderstandings
  196. and apathy in the countries
    that they grow up in.
  197. When their own families betray them,
    they look to the rest of us,
  198. and when we don't understand,
  199. we lose them.
  200. So while I was making this film,
    several people said to me,

  201. "Well, Deeyah, you know,
    this is just their culture,
  202. this is just what those people
    do to their kids
  203. and we can't really interfere."
  204. I can assure you
    being murdered is not my culture.
  205. You know?
  206. And surely people who look like me,
  207. young women who come
    from backgrounds like me,
  208. should be subject to the same rights,
    the same protections
  209. as anybody else in our country, why not?
  210. So, for my next film,
    I wanted to try and understand

  211. why some of our young
    Muslim kids in Europe
  212. are drawn to extremism and violence.
  213. But with that topic,
  214. I also recognized that I was going
    to have to face my worst fear:
  215. the brown men with beards.
  216. Similar men to the ones that have
    hounded me for most of my life.
  217. Men that I've been afraid of
    most of my life.
  218. Men that I've also deeply disliked,
  219. for many, many years.
  220. So I spent the next two years
    interviewing convicted terrorists,

  221. jihadis and former extremists.
  222. What I already knew,
    what was very obvious already,
  223. was that religion, politics,
    Europe's colonial baggage,
  224. also Western foreign policy
    failures of recent years,
  225. were all a part of the picture.
  226. But what I was more interested
    in finding out was what are the human,
  227. what are the personal reasons
  228. why some of our young people
    are susceptible to groups like this.
  229. And what really surprised me
    was that I found wounded human beings.
  230. Instead of the monsters
    that I was looking for,
  231. that I was hoping to find --
  232. quite frankly because
    it would have been very satisfying --
  233. I found broken people.
  234. Just like Banaz,
  235. I found that these young men
    were torn apart
  236. from trying to bridge the gaps
  237. between their families
    and the countries that they were born in.
  238. And what I also learned
    is that extremist groups, terrorist groups
  239. are taking advantage
    of these feelings of our young people
  240. and channeling that -- cynically --
    channeling that toward violence.
  241. "Come to us," they say.
  242. "Reject both sides,
    your family and your country
  243. because they reject you.
  244. For your family, their honor
    is more important than you
  245. and for your country,
  246. a real Norwegian, Brit or a French person
    will always be white and never you."
  247. They're also promising our young people
    the things that they crave:
  248. significance, heroism,
    a sense of belonging and purpose,
  249. a community that loves and accepts them.
  250. They make the powerless feel powerful.
  251. The invisible and the silent
    are finally seen and heard.
  252. This is what they're doing
    for our young people.
  253. Why are these groups doing this
    for our young people and not us?
  254. The thing is,

  255. I'm not trying to justify
  256. or excuse any of the violence.
  257. What I am trying to say
    is that we have to understand
  258. why some of our young people
    are attracted to this.
  259. I would like to also show you, actually --
  260. these are childhood photos
    of some of the guys in the film.
  261. What really struck me
    is that so many of them --
  262. I never would have thought this --
  263. but so many of them
    have absent or abusive fathers.
  264. And several of these young guys
  265. ended up finding caring
    and compassionate father figures
  266. within these extremist groups.
  267. I also found men
    brutalized by racist violence,
  268. but who found a way
    to stop feeling like victims
  269. by becoming violent themselves.
  270. In fact, I found something,
    to my horror, that I recognized.
  271. I found the same feelings that I felt
    as a 17-year-old as I fled from Norway.
  272. The same confusion, the same sorrow,
  273. the same feeling of being betrayed
  274. and not belonging to anyone.
  275. The same feeling of being lost
    and torn between cultures.
  276. Having said that,
    I did not choose destruction,

  277. I chose to pick up a camera
    instead of a gun.
  278. And the reason I did that
    is because of my superpower.
  279. I could see that understanding
    is the answer, instead of violence.
  280. Seeing human beings
  281. with all their virtues and all their flaws
  282. instead of continuing the caricatures:
  283. the us and them, the villains and victims.
  284. I'd also finally
    come to terms with the fact
  285. that my two cultures
    didn't have to be on a collision course
  286. but instead became a space
    where I found my own voice.
  287. I stopped feeling
    like I had to pick a side,
  288. but this took me many, many years.
  289. There are so many
    of our young people today
  290. who are struggling with these same issues,
  291. and they're struggling with this alone.
  292. And this leaves them open like wounds.
  293. And for some, the worldview
    of radical Islam
  294. becomes the infection
    that festers in these open wounds.
  295. There's an African proverb that says,

  296. "If the young are not
    initiated into the village,
  297. they will burn it down
    just to feel its warmth."
  298. I would like to ask --
  299. to Muslim parents and Muslim communities,
  300. will you love and care for your children
  301. without forcing them
    to meet your expectations?
  302. Can you choose them instead of your honor?
  303. Can you understand
    why they're so angry and alienated
  304. when you put your honor
    before their happiness?
  305. Can you try to be a friend to your child
  306. so that they can trust you
  307. and want to share with you
    their experiences,
  308. rather than having
    to seek it somewhere else?
  309. And to our young people
    tempted by extremism,

  310. can you acknowledge
    that your rage is fueled by pain?
  311. Will you find the strength
    to resist those cynical old men
  312. who want to use your blood
    for their own profits?
  313. Can you find a way to live?
  314. Can you see that the sweetest revenge
  315. is for you to live
    a happy, full and free life?
  316. A life defined by you and nobody else.
  317. Why do you want to become
    just another dead Muslim kid?
  318. And for the rest of us, when will we start
    listening to our young people?
  319. How can we support them
  320. in redirecting their pain
    into something more constructive?
  321. They think we don't like them.
  322. They think we don't care
    what happens to them.
  323. They think we don't accept them.
  324. Can we find a way
    to make them feel differently?
  325. What will it take for us
    to see them and notice them
  326. before they become either the victims
    or the perpetrators of violence?
  327. Can we make ourselves care about them
    and consider them to be our own?
  328. And not just be outraged when the victims
    of violence look like ourselves?
  329. Can we find a way to reject hatred
    and heal the divisions between us?
  330. The thing is we cannot afford
    to give up on each other or on our kids,
  331. even if they've given up on us.
  332. We are all in this together.

  333. And in the long term, revenge and violence
    will not work against extremists.
  334. Terrorists want us
    to huddle in our houses in fear,
  335. closing our doors and our hearts.
  336. They want us to tear open
    more wounds in our societies
  337. so that they can use them
    to spread their infection more widely.
  338. They want us to become like them:
  339. intolerant, hateful and cruel.
  340. The day after the Paris attacks,

  341. a friend of mine
    sent this photo of her daughter.
  342. This is a white girl and an Arab girl.
  343. They're best friends.
  344. This image is the kryptonite
    for extremists.
  345. These two little girls
    with their superpowers
  346. are showing the way forward
  347. towards a society
    that we need to build together,
  348. a society that includes and supports,
  349. rather than rejects our kids.
  350. Thank you for listening.

  351. (Applause)