In an afternoon class one day, a professor was demonstrating a scene from Pakistan and the call for prayer in the early morning. After a failed attempt and garbled speech, he looked at me and politely apologized for his ignorance. Dumbstruck, I could only say, 'It is fine and I am not a Muslim'. I had a strong urge to declare loud that all Asians are not Muslims but, I let it pass.
It's been a few months in Britain now and I have had my own share of experiences. The freedom, equality, civility and tranquility has enthralled me beyond words. Never before have I seen a culture so vibrant. I have come to revere the spirit of the Englishmen and developed a deep fascination for the English heritage.
England has had a profound impact on my outlook towards life. As a woman, I have never felt more secure, as a student, I have never been more valued, as an individual, I was never more independent. However, like all other countries Britain too has its own problems, the most striking of which is its state complacence.
As diverse and rich as Britain is, it constantly shields itself from the influence of other cultures and remains in a self imposed oblivion. In an attempt to safeguard its individuality, it appears to have consciously avoided learning more about different cultures around the world.
Since my arrival, the most frequently posed question to me has been that, where did you learn English? For a language, English is often used as a medium of communication in most Asian countries and is widely spoken by urban youth. Is it some righteous claim over the language or mere ignorance that people are so surprised to see an Asian fluent in English? I settle for latter.
While it can easily be brushed aside as lack of awareness, it is dangerous for a country as diverse as Britain to be unaware of the languages and religion around the world. It is imperative to protect one's identity, but too much of conformity can make way for prejudice and stereotype. Therefore, it is not surprising to see that immigration hysteria has grappled Britain for a long period of time.
When a country fiercely guards its cultural and intellectual borders, what trespasses is fear and xenophobia. The fear that has been constantly exploited by the right-wing media to portray immigrants in a bad light and only highlight events such as genocide in Syria, bombing in Afghanistan and molestation in India.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially for a progressive nation that holds moral responsibility to counter ignorance and illiteracy in the under-developed countries. As beautiful country as Britain is, it needs to broaden its horizons and better assimilate with different cultures, for the sake of intellectual prosperity and global understanding. While the country has taught me a lot, for all its greatness, I am sure that Britain will be more amicable and truly cosmopolitan, in times to come.