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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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    When I was a child,
    I knew I had superpowers.
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    That’s right.
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    I thought I was absolutely amazing because
    I could understand and relate to
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    the feelings of brown people like
    my grandfather, a conservative Muslim guy,
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    and also I could understand
    my Afghan mother and Pakistani father,
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    not so religious but
    laid back, fairly liberal.
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    And of course I could understand and
    relate to the feelings of white people,
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    the white Norwegians of my country.
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    You know white, brown,
    whatever, I loved them all.
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    I understood them all even if they
    didn’t always understand each other
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    They were all my people.
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    My father though was
    always really worried.
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    He kept saying that,
    even with the best education
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    I was not going to get a fair shake,
    I would face discrimination,
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    according to him, and the only way
    to be accepted by white people
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    would be to become famous.
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    Now mind you, he had this conversation
    with me when I was seven years old.
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    So, while I’m seven years old he said
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    'Look, so its either got to be sports
    or its got to be music.'
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    He didn’t know anything about sports,
    bless him, so it was music.
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    So when I was seven years old
    he gathered al my toys, all my dolls,
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    and he threw them all away.
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    In exchange he gave me a crappy little
    Casio keyboard, and singing lessons,
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    and forced me to practice for hours
    and hours every single day.
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    Very quickly he also had me performing
    for larger and larger audiences,
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    bizarrely I became almost a poster child
    for Norwegian multiculturalism.
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    I felt very proud of course because
    even the newspapers at this point
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    were starting to write
    nice things about brown people,
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    so I could feel that
    my superpower was growing.
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    So when I was 12 years old walking home
    from school I took a little detour
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    because I wanted to buy
    my favourite sweets called 'salty feet'.
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    I know they sound kind of awful,
    but I absolutely loved them.
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    They are basically these little
    salty licorice bits, in the shape of feet.
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    And now that I say it out loud I realise
    how terrible that sounds,
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    but be that as it may,
    I absolutely loved them.
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    On my way into the store, there was this
    grown white guy in the doorway
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    blocking my way, so I tried to walk around
    him, and as I did that he stopped me,
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    and he was staring at me,
    and he spit in my face and he said
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    ‘Get out of my way you little black bitch,
    you little Paki bitch, get out of my -
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    go back home where you came from.’
    I was absolutely horrified.
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    I was staring at him, I was too afraid
    to wipe the spit off my face,
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    even as it was mixing with my tears.
    I remember looking around,
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    hoping any minute now a grownup
    is going to come and make this guy stop.
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    But instead people kept hurrying past me
    and pretending not to see me.
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    I was very confused because I was thinking
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    ‘Well, my white people come on,
    where are they? What’s going on?
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    How come they’re not
    coming and rescuing me?’
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    So needless to say I didn’t buy the sweets
    I just ran home as fast as I could.
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    Things were still ok though, I thought.
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    As time went on, the more
    successful I became,
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    I eventually started attracting
    harassment from brown people.
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    Some men in my parents community felt that
    it was unacceptable and dishonorable
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    for a woman to be involved in music,
    and to be so present in the media.
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    So very quickly I was starting to
    become attacked at my own concerts.
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    I remember one of the concerts, I was
    on stage, I lean in to the audience,
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    and the last thing I see is
    a young brown face,
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    and the next thing I know is some sort
    of chemical is thrown in my eyes.
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    And I remember I couldn’t really see,
    and my eyes were watering,
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    but I kept singing anyway.
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    I was spit in the face in the streets
    of Oslo, this time by brown men.
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    They even tried to kidnap me at one point.
    The death threats were endless.
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    I remember one older bearded guy
    stopped me in the street one time and said
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    ‘The reason I hate you so much is that
    you make our daughters think
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    they can do whatever they want.’
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    A younger guy warned me
    to watch my back, he said
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    ‘Music is un-Islamic
    and the job of whores,
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    and if you keep this up you are going to
    be raped and your stomach will be cut out,
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    so that another whore
    like you will not be born.’
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    Again I was so confused.
    I couldn’t understand what was going on,
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    my brown people now
    starting to treat me like this.
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    How come?
    Instead of bridging the two worlds,
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    I felt like I was falling
    between the two worlds.
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    I suppose for me,
    spit was kryptonite.
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    So by the time I was 17 years old
    the death threats were endless,
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    and the harassment was constant.
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    It got so bad at one point
    my mother sat me down and said
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    ‘Look, we can no longer protect you,
    we can no longer keep you safe,
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    so you’re going to have to go.’
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    So I bought a one-way ticket to London.
    I packed my suitcase, and I left.
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    My biggest heartbreak at that point
    was that nobody said anything.
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    I had a very public exit from Norway.
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    My brown people, my white people,
    nobody said anything.
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    Nobody said ‘Hold on, this is wrong.
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    Support this girl, protect this girl
    because she is one of us.’
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    Nobody said that. Instead I felt like,
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    you know at the airport,
    on the baggage carousel,
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    you have these different suitcases
    going round and round,
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    and there’s always
    that one suitcase left at the end.
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    The one that nobody wants.
    That nobody comes to claim.
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    I felt like that. I’d never felt so alone.
    I’d never felt so lost.
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    So, after coming to London,
    I did eventually resume my music career.
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    Different place, but unfortunately
    the same old story.
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    I remember a message sent to me saying
    that I was going to be killed,
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    and that rivers of blood
    were going to flow,
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    and that I was going to be raped
    many times before I died.
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    By this time I has to say I was actually
    getting used to messages like this.
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    But what became different was that now
    they started threatening my family.
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    So once again, I packed my suitcase,
    I left music, and I moved to the US.
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    I’d had enough. I didn’t want to have
    anything to do with this anymore.
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    And I wasn’t going to be killed for
    something that wasn’t even my dream,
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    it was my father’s choice.
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    So I kind of got lost,
    I kind of fell apart,
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    but I decided that what I wanted to do is
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    to spend the next however many years
    of my life supporting young people,
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    and to try to be there in some small way,
    whatever way that I could.
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    So I started volunteering for various
    organisations that were working
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    with young Muslims inside of Europe.
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    And, to my surprise what I found,
    was so many of these young people
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    were suffering and struggling.
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    They were facing so many problems
    with their families and their communities,
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    who seemed to care more about
    their honour and their reputation
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    than the happiness and
    the lives of their own kids.
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    I started feeling like maybe I wasn’t
    so alone, maybe I wasn’t so weird.
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    Maybe there are more
    of my people out there.
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    The thing is what most people
    don’t understand,
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    is that there are so many
    of us growing up in Europe
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    who are not free to be ourselves.
    We are not allowed to be who we are.
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    We are not free to marry, or to be
    in relationships with, people we choose,
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    we can’t even pick our own career.
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    This is the norm in
    the Muslim heartlands of Europe.
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    Even in the freest societies
    in the world, we are not free.
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    Our lives, our dreams, our future,
    does not belong to us,
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    it belongs to our parents,
    and their community.
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    I found endless stories of young people,
    who are lost to all of us,
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    Who are invisible to all of us,
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    but they are suffering and
    they are suffering alone.
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    Kids that we are losing to forced marriages,
    to honour based violence and abuse.
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    So eventually I realised, after several
    years of working with these young people,
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    that I will not be able to keep running,
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    I can’t spend the rest of my life
    being scared and hiding,
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    and that I’m actually going
    to have to do something.
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    And I also realised that
    my silence, our silence,
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    allows abuse like this to continue.
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    So I decided that I wanted to put
    my childhood superpower to some use,
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    by trying to make people on
    the different sides of these issues
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    understand what it's like to be
    a young person stuck
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    between your family and your country.
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    So I started making films,
    and I started telling these stories.
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    And I also wanted people to understand
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    the deadly consequences of us
    not taking these problems seriously.
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    So the first film I made was about Banaz.
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    She was a 17 year old
    Kurdish girl in London.
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    She was obedient, she did
    whatever her parents wanted.
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    She tried to do everything right.
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    She married some guy
    that her parent’s chose for her,
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    even though he beat
    and raped her constantly.
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    And when she tried to go
    to her family for help they said
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    ‘Well, you’ve got to go back
    and be a better wife.’
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    Because they didn’t want
    a divorced daughter on their hands,
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    because of course, that would bring
    dishonor on the family.
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    She was beaten so badly
    her ears would bleed.
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    And when she finally left, and she found
    a young man that she chose,
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    and she fell in love with, the community
    and the family found out,
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    and she disappeared.
    She was found three months later.
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    She’d been stuffed into a suitcase,
    and buried underneath a house.
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    She had been strangled,
    she had been beaten to death,
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    by three men, three cousins,
    on the orders of her father and uncle.
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    The added tragedy of Banaz’s story,
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    story is that she had gone to the police
    in England five times asking for help.
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    Telling them that she was going
    to be killed by her family.
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    The police didn’t believe her,
    so they didn’t do anything.
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    And the problem with this,
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    is that not only are so many of
    our kids facing these problems,
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    within their families and
    within their families communities,
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    but they are also meeting
    misunderstanding and apathy
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    in the countries they grow up in.
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    When their own families betray them,
    they look to the rest of us.
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    And when we don’t understand,
    we lose them.
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    So while I was making this film,
    several people said to me
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    'Well, Deeyah, you know
    this is just their culture,
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    this is just what those people do to
    their kids and we can’t really interfere.’
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    I can assure you,
    being murdered is not my culture.
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    And surely people who look like me,
    young women who come
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    from backgrounds like mine,
    should be subject to the same rights,
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    the same protections,
    as anybody else in our country.
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    Why not?
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    So, for my next film, I wanted
    to try and understand why
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    some of our young Muslim kids in Europe
    are drawn to extremism and violence.
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    But with that topic,
    also recognised
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    that I was going to have
    to face my worst fear.
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    The brown men with beards.
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    The same men, or similar men, to the ones
    that have hounded me for most of my life.
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    Men that I’ve been afraid of
    most of my life.
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    Men that I’ve also deeply disliked
    for many many years.
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    So I spent the next two years
    interviewing convicted terrorists,
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    jihadis and former extremists.
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    What I already knew,
    what was very obviously already,
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    was that religion, politics,
    Europe’s colonial baggage,
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    also Western foreign policy failures
    of recent years,
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    were all a part of the picture.
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    But what I was more interested
    in finding out, was what are the human,
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    what are the personal reasons
    why some of our young people
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    are susceptible to groups like this.
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    And what really surprised me,
    was that I found wounded human beings.
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    Instead of the monsters that I was
    looking for, that I was looking to find,
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    quite frankly because it would have been
    very satisfying, I found broken people.
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    Just like Banaz, I found that
    these young men were torn apart
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    from trying to bridge
    the gaps between their families,
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    and the countries that they were born in.
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    And what I also learnt is that
    extremist groups, terrorist groups,
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    are taking advantage of
    these feelings of our young people,
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    and channeling that cynically,
    channeling that towards violence.
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    ‘Come to us!’, they say.
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    ‘Reject both sides, your family and
    your country, because they reject you.
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    For your family, their honour
    is more important than you,
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    and for your country, a real Norwegian,
    Brit or a French person
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    will always be white and never you.’
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    They are also promising our young people
    the things that they crave,
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    significance, heroism, a sense of
    belonging and purpose.
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    A community that loves and accepts them.
    They make the powerless feel powerful.
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    The invisible and the silent
    are finally seen and heard.
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    This is what they are doing
    for our young people.
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    Why are these groups doing this
    for our young people and not us?
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    The thing is, I’m not trying to
    justify or excuse any of the violence.
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    What I am trying to say,
    is that we have to understand
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    why some of our young people
    are attracted to this.
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    I would like to also show you,
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    these are childhood photos
    of some of the guys in the film.
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    What really struck me is that so many
    of them - I never would have thought this,
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    but so many of them have
    absent of abusive fathers.
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    And several of these young guys ended up
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    finding caring and compassionate father
    figures within these extremist groups.
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    I also found men brutalized
    by racist violence,
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    but who found a way to stop feeling like
    victims by becoming violent themselves.
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    In fact, I found something
    to my horror that I recognised.
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    I found the same feelings that I felt
    as a 17 year old, as I fled from Norway.
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    The same confusion, the same sorrow,
    the same feeling of being betrayed.
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    And not belonging to anyone.
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    The same feeling of being lost
    and torn between two cultures.
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    Having said that,
    I did not choose destruction,
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    I chose to pick up a camera,
    instead of a gun.
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    And the reason I did that,
    is because of my superpower,
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    I could see that understanding
    is the answer, instead of violence.
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    Seeing human beings, with
    all their virtues, and all their flaws,
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    instead of continuing the caricatures
    of us and them, the villains and victims.
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    I had also finally come to terms
    with the fact that my two cultures
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    didn’t have to be on a collision course,
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    but instead became a space
    where I found my own voice.
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    I stopped feeling
    like I had to pick a side.
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    But this took me many, many years.
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    There are so many
    of our young people today
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    who are struggling with these same issues,
    and they are struggling with this alone.
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    And this leaves them open like wounds.
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    And for some, the world view
    of radical Islam
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    becomes the infection that festers
    in these open wounds.
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    There’s an African proverb that says
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    ‘If the young are not
    initiated into the village,
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    they will burn it down
    just to feel its warmth.’
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    I would like to ask to Muslim parents
    and Muslim communities,
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    will you love and care for your children,
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    without forcing them
    to meet your expectations?
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    Can you choose them,
    Instead of your honour?
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    Can you understand why
    they’re so angry and alienated,
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    when you put your honour
    before their happiness?
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    Can you try to be a friend to your child
    so that they can trust you,
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    and want to share with you
    their experiences,
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    rather than having to seek it
    somewhere else?
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    And to our young people,
    tempted by extremism,
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    can you acknowledge that
    your rage is fuelled by pain?
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    Will you find the strength to resist
    those cynical old men,
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    who want to use your blood
    for their own profits?
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    Can you find a way to live?
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    Can you see that the sweetest revenge
    is for you to live a happy,
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    full and free life, a life defined
    by you and nobody else?
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    Why do you want to become
    just another dead Muslim kid?
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    And for the rest of us, when will we
    start listening to our young people?
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    How can we support them
    in redirecting their pain
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    into something more constructive?
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    They think we don’t like them, they think
    we don’t care what happens to them.
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    They think we don’t accept them.
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    Can we find a way to
    make them feel differently?
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    What will it take for us
    to see them, and notice them,
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    before they become either the victims
    or the perpetrators of violence?
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    Can we make ourselves care about them,
    and consider them to be our own,
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    and not just be outraged when the victims
    of violence look like ourselves?
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    Can we find a way to reject hatred,
    and heal the divisions between us?
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    The thing, is we cannot afford
    to give up on each other, or on our kids,
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    even if they’ve given up on us.
    We are all in this together.
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    And in the long term, revenge and violence
    will not work against extremists.
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    Terrorists want us to huddle
    in our houses and fear,
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    closing our doors and our hearts.
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    They want us to tear open
    more wounds in our societies,
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    so that they can use them
    to spread their infection more widely.
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    They want us to become like them,
    intolerant, hateful and cruel.
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    The day after the Paris attacks, a friend
    of mine sent this photo of her daughter.
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    This is a white girl and an Arab girl.
    They’re best friends.
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    This image is the kryptonite
    for extremists.
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    These two little girls,
    with their superpowers,
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    are showing the way forward towards
    a society that we need to build together.
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    A society that includes, and supports,
    rather than rejects our kids.
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    Thank you for listening.
Title:
What we don’t know about Europe’s Muslim kids and why we should care | Deeyah Khan | TEDxExeter
Description:

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Video Language:
English
Team:
closed TED
Project:
TEDxTalks
Duration:
19:58

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