What’s in a Name?

So I’m British born and bred, I have worked, studied or lived in the UK my entire life, so does it matter that I am Asian or Muslim?  I am proud of my heritage, I am proud of being British, all these things have contributed to the person that I am today.

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After watching the events in the news over the last few weeks, from the tensions in Ferguson, USA to the Anti-Islamification marches in Germany, to the innocent school children massacred in Peshawar, Pakistan, I have been reflecting about what racial tension and issues that are present in the world today and what we may ourselves in the UK face.  I was brought up in the era of post Steven Lawrence enquiry where the UK was branded as being “institutionally racist” and I wonder some 15 years later has anything changed or has the situation in fact taken a further turn for the worse and we have become even more segregated as a community.  Why in 2014 do I have to think and worry about these issues, does it matter to people that I am asian and a Muslim?

I have to admit that I have a growing unease as how as a race and religion we are often demonised in a range of media because of the actions of a few.  What I find genuinely upsetting is that actions of the vast majority are instantly forgotten when a handful of individuals go ahead and carry out their selfish actions.  Should I be worrying about my mum because she wears traditional asian clothes? Does my brother face potential attack as he has a long beard? Should I be worrying for the safety of my best friend just because she wears a headscarf?  In the aftermath of 9/11, we were then students in Manchester and the amount of racism and abuse that several of my friends faced was unbelievable and it was purely because they were Muslims.  During my life I have had minor verbal racial abuse, for me personally it was water off a ducks back and I just brushed off these comments as the people were being small minded neandrathrals, but why should anyone have to endure racial abuse just because of their skin colour? I never did quite understand the notion of “go home” when this has always been my home, where do these people want to me to go? (OK, i love travelling but like a little choice in the matter).

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The loss of any innocent life is a genuine atrocity to all of mankind and those claiming any justification are misguided, wrong and behaving in a manner which for me removes all the characteristics of what I regard as being human. I still remember the Oklahoma bombing from the 90s (I did an English talk on it), I studied the IRA bombings and issues in Ireland in depth for my A Levels and have only learnt throughout the history of mankind that the actions of the few are never reflective of the entire community that they belong.

I worry constantly about the society that our children will live in and it got me think about Shakespare’s famous soliloquy

rose shakespeareOn most occasions, our name is what someone will learn about us first (often without meeting us face to face) and I wondered what conseuqence does our name have on people’s opinion of us.  There were lots of children called Maya (or some spelling variant of the name) when our daughter was born in 2009 and I do sometimes lay awake in bed thinking that if Maya’s surname ended in Smith or Harvey would it matter.  Will it matter to her in the future that she has an Asian surname, skin colour and from a muslim faith so that it will affect her job prospects/future?  As a parent, the realisation soon hits you that we have very limited control of many aspects of our children’s lives but I refuse to let other people’s prejduces and small mindedness affect my children’s futures.   I was having this conversation with Doc the other day and he said that he had come across some employers who were wary or almost put off solely as the applicant had a non-English name.  Even if you do a quick google check of this issue, you’ll find results showing that people conducted a few tests and the results did indicate that having a non ‘white’ name (where all the applicants other information was the same) did disadvantage the applicant.  That realisation that even though we are nearly in 2015 that these issues are still around upsets me to my very core.

So how can we help?

I have to firstly say that I was genuinely impressed with the reaction in Australia after the terrible events of last week.  As a country they spoke as a united voice to ensure that all factions understood that these were the actions of one individual and the consequences of these should not have ramifications to a whole faith whose only connection to the indivusual was that they follow the same faith.  Seeing the #Iwillridewithyou actually filled me with some hope that there may be a brighter future.   I believe it is more important then ever that when these awful events do occur that we band together as a community and ensure that our youngsters and communities are not led down a path whereby we brand a whole section of our community just because of the actions of a deluded few.

Photo by Fotolia/Alx

Photo by Fotolia/Alx

We need to be a good example for our children as majority of what they see and learn is from other people.  I for one strive to get my little adventurers to be understanding and reinforce the idea that people are just that, people.  I have friends from all backgrounds, faiths, creed and colour.  It has never fazed me to speak to anyone, I love to meet new people and actively seek to make friends with ANYONE.  Thats the only one thing as human beings we have in common that we are ALL different.  I want my children to meet an individual and not to think anything of their colour, religion, disability etc, they should just see a human being, a potential friend, loved one, a person to share adventure with.

Through the media we are often shown images, views and coverage which leads to developing unconscious biases about people.  By this I mean that often we end up with biases within ourselves which we may not even be aware of that influences our decisions.  Where we get a chance to mix in with other communities, we should give it a wholehearted try.  There is often small prejudices (on both sides) based around our own inexperience or lack of knowledge and by letting ourselves have the opportunity to integrate we are able to learn that these misconceptions are often unfounded.  This also helps to reduce or remove any unconscious bias we may have.  For me this is key and I try and get my children involved in as many different things as possible. It is also one of the reasons why I want to go travelling so my little adventurers learn first hand that regardless of where people are from we are all the same.

So I will end with does it matter that my name is Nisbah and not Jane? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Nisbah

I am a traveller, mother and blogger. We love to go on adventures (big and small, near and far) and strive to show our children how amazing and beautiful the world is! I caught the travel bug many moons ago and despite having three little adventurers, I still suffer from "itchy" feet. We love the great outdoors and one another. Come and join the fun :)

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21 Responses

  1. Sheralyn says:

    I think hate based solely on religion or race is disgusting – it makes me so sad when I hear of it. Most people are good, and I think it’s only by interacting MORE with each other like you say, that we learn how alike we all are at our cores. And traveling is great for that – you can’t help but notice how many similarities we all have when you see it firsthand.

    • nisbah says:

      Hi Sheralyn

      Many thanks for reading. Hate of any type is awful. when based on misconceptions it really saddens me as if they got to know the subjects of their prejudices they would realise most of these ideas are unfounded. Travel is amazing especially for youngsters as it makes you realise just how small the world is and how we are similar 🙂 many thanks for taking the time to comment!

  2. Alice Saigal says:

    Nisbah, I worry about much the same things…and then I remember. We are the window our children see the world through. Folks who hate and abuse have a window they cannot see through….and it makes them fearful. Fear is a powerful force for evil.

    I am married to man from Kashmir. I grew up traveling and lived in England for 4 years. We still have life long family friends there. I too love that everyone is different in packaging and yet at our core we all have the same needs.

    We recently moved from the San Fransico bay area back to Austin, Texas. Austin is a lovely place with lots of fun and weird things going on. I worried my son no longer was living in a neighborhood representing every country in the world. But we have made amazing friends who all look the same but have such great family stories. When Krish began his new school he came home and said: Mama, I am a Hindu man or an English man….I don’t know Spanish(It’s a Spanish Immersion school). Sweetheart we are citizens of the world. A year later he tells us he is smarter than us….because he knows Spanish and we do not. Darling son, every person we meet knows something we do not. We must inquire and find what it is.

    • nisbah says:

      Hi Alice

      Lovely to hear from you and many thanks for taking the time to comment! I totally agree with your comment and all we can do is show to our children that the world is an amazing place, full of people of all kinds but people none the less. We should learn to everyone and never hold things against anyone. We love meeting new people and hope that we help to make the next generation more accepting! 🙂

  3. Talitha says:

    Hello!
    what a beautiful post – I was very touched by the ‘name-issue’.We have three children with “different” names (we live in France, my husband is french but I am belgian from the dutch-speaking side). We gave our children what we thought of as “international names”. Our youngest daughter is called Kenza (treasure in Arab). Of course, she has had remarks about that name … and I can only hope it will not bring her prejudice when she starts looking for a job. It did give us a few wonderful opportunities to get in touch with the locals when we were in Morocco. The beautiful blond girl with blue eyes … and an Arab name! Never on a trip have we been invited so much as that year!
    “Nomen est omen” the roman say … so, yes : what’s in a name?!

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Talitha

      Thanks for the lovely comment, really glad you enjoyed the post! What a lovely story about your daughter in Morocco, love her name too! 🙂 Our daughter is called Maya and we have found it to be such a common name across so many cultures. 🙂 I strongly believe that in this day and age a name should not be a limiting factor for someones future. Thanks again for reading 🙂

  4. Emma T says:

    Powerful post and so true. I have to admit I’m probably more judgemental against people’s names that are made up/incorrectly spelt than one that is not ‘white’…and so few are nowadays because either people look for more ‘exotic’ names, or have a different cultural heritage.

    We live in a rural area, so until you go into town there aren’t many asians. There was one asian boy at nursery last year, although he’s now moved up to school, and there’s a french/english boy (with the name Tom – very English!), and it was great for N to learn that people can look and talk differently with different accents rather than him just living in a very ‘white’ world. Thankfully he doesn’t notice at his age, in real life or on tv, that there’s anything different between people. I guess it’s just fingers crossed that over time there’ll be so many more names around (in particular first names), that there’ll be more acceptance and less stand out against those previously seen as different.

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Emma

      Thanks for the comment! It’s a subject very close to my heart, I want all parts of our community to live as cohesively as possible. We are all people 🙂 a name doesn’t define a person and nor should we let it! I love childrens outlook on life, we could all do with a dose of it 🙂

  5. Honest Mum says:

    Such an interesting post, my parents gave me an English name Vicki as they felt as Greek Cypriot immigrants that in 1980, my life would be easier if I had a non-Greek name. They loved it and it was a derivative from my Grandma’s Greek name Vikenta-then 2 years later they changed their minds and called my brother Solos, a Greek name. I hope that names will be irrelevant now in this day and age, that they do not limit in any way. Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts, please do add my badge or link back if you can. Thanks

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Vicki

      Love the story about your parents. Our second child is called Raihan so we gave him a more traditional name. Fingers crossed that the future generation are more accepting 🙂

  6. Shona says:

    Well said! I just don’t understand all this violence lately. Hate to think that something as simple as a name can cause such hatred in people. Love the name Maya btw, gorgeous.

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Shona

      Thanks for reading and your lovely comment. All the senseless violence is horrendous in this day and age, my heart goes out to all the poor families affected.

      Maya was our favourite name and we were ecstatic to have a little girl 🙂

      X

  7. Karen says:

    What a beautiful and honest post. For a person to hate another for reasons of religion or sex or race is abhorrent. I raise my three daughters to mighty girls which involves appreciating the beliefs and opinions of others. they do not need to agree but simply listen, understand and appreciate.

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Karen

      Thanks for reading and commenting! I totally agree, hatred based on anything such as faith, race or colour is totally unacceptable. I love the idea of raising mighty children! 🙂 that’s my greatest wish for my little adventurers that they are accepting and friends with everyone. Thanks again for reading 🙂

  8. Nisbah, this makes me feel so sad. I think this issue is a problem on both sides of the fence. Bridges need to be built to stop extremists winning. What should be important is being a citizen, caring for and respecting our neighbours. Like you say we are all different and that should be celebrated. A minority is ruining the world for us all and its a tragedy x

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Sarah

      Thanks for reading, definitely the efforts to build a more cohesive and unified community needs all the sections of our community working together. Definitely agree with you, caring and being a good person and part of community is whats needed. We used to love helping our neighbour, Jack. I am really keen to get our community working again and having my own scouts hroup to try and help the communities integrate together! Thanks for reading 🙂

  9. A very thoughtful post; it’s helpful to see that others wonder about these types of issues. I suppose it’s human nature to distinguish between things / people based on different criteria. Of course, it shouldn’t matter whether you’re male or female, or Mike or Miguel etc. I’ve decided that since I only have one life to live and I have little control over other people’s actions, I’m just going to carry on as best as I can no matter how others react to me. I’ll have to raise my child to love, even the ignorant despite any hate. I’ll have to bring him up to treat others how he’ll like to be treated, however, others might react to him.

    It shouldn’t matter whether you’re Nishbah or Jane; and to those it matters to, what a loss and a disadvantage they’ve put themselves in. They’ll never know the blessing of knowing you. #SundaysStars

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment 🙂 I spend a lot of time thinking about this issue and ways we can help to make things better. totally agree with your philosophy, if we all treated others how we want to be treated, the world would be a much happier place! X

  10. A very well written post and terrible that this is even more poignant this week. It is truly shocking that a few can influence the views of millions, but unfortunately this is nothing new. Its sad that time has not changed this enough. #sundaystars

    • Nisbah says:

      Hiya Karen

      It is awful to see the events of this week. Truly heart breaking for the families involved. Let’s hope our children are able to live happily in a more accepting and cohesive society then the one which is around at the moment. Many thanks for reading x

  11. It doesn’t matter to me! I’m with Emma – I’m bothered by names that are spelled in a ridiculous way. I’m sure in years to come they’ll be able to guess people’s ages if they’re called Gemma, Jacob, Imogen or Logan – spelled with 15 letters including 11 vowels…

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