I don’t understand…

…folks here* who hear that I’m “good at English” and so want me to join them in mocking everyone else’s English abilities.

Like, okay, let’s pretend that I believe the colonial, Western notion that English proficiency determines one’s intelligence, and that I also believe that people should only be treated well if they are intelligent or innovative or whatever and not, you know, because they’re humans and thus deserving of basic human dignity.**

Let’s pretend that I actually adhere to the same values as you, fine. But what makes you think that once I start mocking others, you’ll be safe?

I have native level proficiency in English. When I hear a sentence, I can identify exactly how it’s wrong and give you 10 ways to correct it. I don’t know grammar rules, I breathe them; they are a part of me. I write in English, I think in English (and translate into Urdu, not the other way around as you do), I dream in English, I sleeptalk in English. I went from bearing the stigma of being an ESL student to reading college-level books within the same year, at 9, leaving my haters behind. English belongs to me, though I, obviously Muslim and Pakistani as I am, never can belong to it.

How arrogant do you have to be to believe that you, who learned English as a subject or a hobby, can achieve the same level of proficiency as me, who learned English as a survival tactic? For you, English is a status symbol; for me, it was always the double-edged sword I wielded.

So yes, let’s pretend that even though English forced itself down my throat at gunpoint and I chose to swallow, I still believe those who speak English “well” to be worthy. In that case, neither your SAT score nor your online articles nor internships at English newspapers and magazines nor your grades will matter.

Your English, my friend, and thus you, would not be worthy.

 

*by “here”, I mean at my university, in my city, in my country, etc. Choose your scale as you wish; it’s all the same in the end.

**DISCLAIMER: I don’t believe that.

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Fear and Silence

It’s pretty obvious that one of the tactics used to silence women’s voices – women’s dissent with the way things are, whether the criticism is valid or invalid – is fear. Fear of physical and verbal violence – rape, murder, abuse, assault, harassment, kidnapping; fear of rejection – from family, friends, boys, society in general; and fear of dismissal – not being taken seriously. And all of this contributes to women literally fearing to speak, especially when combined with the praise that the stoic, self-sacrificing, and calm women get (think Hazrat Khadija – there’s a reason she’s so exalted by a specific type of men) and the promise of the afterlife (because this argument has the added benefit of painting you as a non-believer and traitor, and as such a lesser being, if you argue).

And then men have the audacity to wonder why we don’t always speak up.