Saturday, July 08, 2006

Letter From Leeds, by Hassan

A year ago, Hassan wrote Postcards from Tavistock Square, which was published on this blog. Previously , his Letter to the Terrorists was published in the Guardian.

Thank you Hassan, and keep writing. Contact Hassan -hassanwillbeking at hotmail.com


LETTER FROM LEEDS by Hassan – July 6, 2006

Dear dead or alive terrorists (As Salaam Alaikum doesn't apply to you),

Just wanted you to know it’s almost one year since 7/7 and I’m a still a Muslim.

I did something today that I’ve thought about doing for the past year. I made the 15-minute journey from where I live in Bradford to Burley Lodge in Leeds. I actually pass by this area several times a week.

Number 18 Alexandra Grove is surreal to look at. No one is living there now. There are several small blocks of flats surrounding one another. And flat number 18 is on the ground floor. There’s a path beside the bathroom window that people use to get to the bus stop right beside number 18. Because of what was being made in the bathroom, the plants outside the bathroom window really have withered, but they’re still living, somehow. And the bus stop’s notice confirms where I am: Alexandra Grove/Hyde Park Road – School Services Only.

It would be so much easier for me to say I’ve never been to this area and that I don’t know it at all. It would be easier for me to say that when I was at Leeds Uni, a good friend of mine didn’t used to live at number 24 Kelsall Place, which is adjacent to Alexandra Grove. It would be easier to say that my best friend who now lives in London, didn’t used to live about 30 seconds walk from here at Autumn Grove. It would be easy for me. But I’m standing here again today, and I know that I really have stayed with friends who lived in these streets. So it isn’t easy. It’s just my way of trying to understand what’s happened here. That’s all.

I had a job in Dewsbury once. Worked there for almost a year. Used to visit mates in Beeston too. Musicians. Introduced an Afghani friend to a youth theatre class in Holbeck a few years back. Used to stay over with another friend in Huddersfield. It could be easier. But it’s not.

My diary from last year says I went to the cinema in central Leeds on Wednesday, July 6 2005. It makes me think about how I must have taken the journey home that night and passed alongside Burley as I always do. It makes me think about the final few hours that were remaining before you set off to London. It makes me think about death being assembled in the bathroom of this flat and sitting here, ready to be taken to London. It makes me think, that’s all.

The next day in last year’s diary says that I had an appointment at Russell Square on the morning of Thursday, July 7. But that this was cancelled against my wishes...

Life has changed so much in my short lifetime. I’ve learned that a war for peace can never succeed. That terrorism doesn’t build a better future for Muslims. And that voting alone doesn’t protect us anymore. I’ve seen terrorism put an instant cloud over the joy of Live8 and a winning Olympic bid. I’ve seen the sunshine torn right out of our July. But more than anything, I’ve learned this from what I have seen.

You terrorists, you can try to kill us all during every rush hour, but you can never kill our hope. Because it doesn’t just live with us when we’re on our way to work. Hope lives on during every single minute of our lives and it always keeps on going, it never stops. Hope lives in the women and men who courageously saved lives on July 7 2005. Hope is what being British is to me today.

Unlike all of you, I am hopeful knowing that more and more British people genuinely do care about the lives of Muslims they've never met, who live in countries they've never been to. So British lives should not be taken today by so-called Muslims who have no rules. Because parents are never supposed to bury their children. Going to a job in London will never be an international crime. And caring about Muslims everywhere in the world is never going to justify killing innocent people anywhere in the world.

Life is changing so much during my lifetime. Every time the calendars and diaries reach another July 7, you expect British-Muslims to feel wrong for peacefully believing in Islam. But I’d rather live a lifetime in hell, than spend one single minute in your phoney heaven. Terrorists will not stop millions of Muslims like me from achieving our ambitions. It just makes me more determined to succeed as a British-Muslim.

I’m British, me. And a Northerner yeah, too right. When me friends ask me how I’m doing, I say am doing fine, even during times when am not. But y’know something? I hope that someone remembers these memories of ours one day, and that they can find some way to stop this from happening again. Because one year on from 7/7, I’m standing alone out here I am.. I’m standing out here in front of this tiny little fucking flat.. number 18, Alexandra Grove.. and even though I don’t cry, I know I don’t know how to stop this from happening again.

I think about how badly some people have treated me in the past year because of what you've done, and I just want the whole world to know that not all Hassan’s are like you. I was born in the same hospital as one of you. In Bradford, West Yorkshire. And my Mother grew up near Brick Lane, and was born in Cardiff, Wales. I am Afghani-Welsh-English-Northern-Muslim-box-number-6-other-please-specify.

And as a categorically uncategorised citizen of my own country, I’m asking British people for just one thing. I want one single minute of freedom. Just one.. A single minute where someone can look at a Muslim person’s job or college application and forget that 7/7 ever happened. A minute of freedom for a Muslim on a bus, a train, or in a public place in London, where people remember that not all Muslims carry with them the evil that you made in this flat. Let’s follow silent memorials by speaking up for what we really want, loud and clear. Read The Qu’ran for peace. Or don’t read it at all. Be a Muslim who believes in peace. Or don’t be a Muslim at all. Live your life in this beautiful country for peace. Or get out, stay out, and leave us the fuck alone.

For all the tears one year on. For all the lost nights and days. For all our arguments and fear over what the future might bring, I know now more than ever.. that I’ve never even lived in a Muslim country. I was born in Bradford, me. And Britain, this is my country. And people always find a way to keep on going in my country, today and every day.. No matter what happens during one day on our way to work.

Hassan, Alexandra Grove, Leeds July 6 2006 © Hassan 2006
Contact: hassanwillbeking AT hotmail.com

7 Comments:

Blogger beethoven writes said...

Very moving. When I saw the pictures of the bathroom where the bombs were prepared, what was so chilling about it was how mundane the room was. If it was not in a block of flats, I think that that place should be torn down.

July 08, 2006 6:23 pm  
Blogger parnellpr said...

First off I agree with Tom the injured cyclist. Secondly what a powerful letter.... I hope it gets printed and reprinted.

Rachel- thank you for taking the time to come and read my post. It was probably the hardest I ever had to write, but I was heartened beyond belief to see your kind comments. Thank you. Pippa.

July 08, 2006 9:42 pm  
Anonymous Muhammad Azeem Akhter said...

An excellent article!

I hope that Tony Blair will give you a ‘single minute of freedom’.

You say that, “I want one single minute of freedom. Just one.. A single minute where someone can look at a Muslim person’s job or college application and forget that 7/7 ever happened.”

Do you want to know, what Tony Blair thinks about your ‘single minute of freedom’?

The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair said, “if we want to defeat the extremism, we have got to defeat its ideas and we have got to address the completely false sense of grievance [among Muslims] against the West.” while delivering a virtual sermon to British Muslims. It is crucial to find out if there are any grounds for grievance among Muslims in United Kingdom (UK)? Whether these grievances are based on facts or perceptions? There has been a long debate in the West about reasons of resentment and alienation among non-white migrants and particularly among Muslim youth since September 11. Therefore, it is vital to find out answers to this important debate, because, it will determine the policy direction of the West to manage this resentment and alienation.

Usually, levels of resentments in any community are a reflection of its economic, political, and social conditions. Communities which are economically well off are less likely to resent and show alienation to wider society...Read More

July 08, 2006 10:06 pm  
Anonymous Muhammad Azeem Akhter said...

An excellent article!

I hope that Tony Blair will give you a ‘single minute of freedom’. You say that, “I want one single minute of freedom. Just one.. A single minute where someone can look at a Muslim person’s job or college application and forget that 7/7 ever happened.”

Do you want to know, what Tony Blair thinks about your ‘single minute of freedom’?

The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair said, “if we want to defeat the extremism, we have got to defeat its ideas and we have got to address the completely false sense of grievance [among Muslims] against the West.” while delivering a virtual sermon to British Muslims. It is crucial to find out if there are any grounds for grievance among Muslims in United Kingdom (UK)? Whether these grievances are based on facts or perceptions? There has been a long debate in the West about reasons of resentment and alienation among non-white migrants and particularly among Muslim youth since September 11. Therefore, it is vital to find out answers to this important debate, because, it will determine the policy direction of the West to manage this resentment and alienation.

Usually, levels of resentments in any community are a reflection of its economic, political, and social conditions. Communities which are economically well off are less likely to resent and show alienation to wider society...Read More

July 08, 2006 10:13 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Hassan, you're more of a man than a million of them put together.

From one Brit Northerner to another - You'll do for me, mate.

July 08, 2006 11:39 pm  
Blogger bandicoot said...

If all Muslims have a bit of Hassan in them, and all non-Muslims have some of your spirit, we would've been a lot better off, and probably without the scare and scars of terrorism. There were 2 posts on this topic on our local UAE forum and a bit of discussion. If you're interested, click , scroll down and look for "Muslims Not Doing Enough...", and farther down for "One Year Later."
Great blog Rachel; enjoyed visiting and will be coming back often. Cheers.

July 09, 2006 9:52 am  
Blogger Kate said...

Thanks for posting this Rachel, it is a wonderful piece.

Hassan - It comes as no surprise to see a fellow Tyke is the one who makes the most sense.

July 10, 2006 2:36 pm  

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