An Ex-Muslim Is Granted Residency: Guest Post by Alishba Zarmeen
“In recent weeks, a string of slayings in Karachi and beyond has presented a grim picture for minorities in Sunni-dominated Pakistan, as well as for Pakistani human rights activists and others who speak out against injustices.” – Saher Baloch – “Pakistani Activists Risk Death” LA Times
Guest post by Alishba Zarmeen
I am still feeling very surreal about the fact that I am finally safe. I finally have a home. I won’t have to worry about having to go back to a place where either a lynch mob or the legislation, both full of religious and nationalistic lunacy, are out to get anyone who does not think the same way as the herd. I finally have a country to call my own which has promised to protect my human rights and freedom, and where violence is taboo instead of being a norm. I can finally live and breathe democracy instead of hiding away from corrupt politicians and sell-out Islamists. I am finally able to have an apartment lease with my name on it and wake up next to the love of my life every morning and not worry about what if I have to return to an Islamic hellhole of a country. I can establish my own business, continue higher education at little to no cost of my own (to be fair, I owe Davis United World College Scholars Program my life).
In the last two days, I was asked twice if I am from Canada, and I almost teared up both the times when the word “yes” came out of my mouth. One of those people asked where I am originally from and I was the kind of joy I have never felt before when I said, “I was born in Pakistan and I’ve lived all over but Canada is home.”
I don’t think that this sense of feeling safe can ever be put in to words. That I can live my life the way I want, love whoever I want, wear shorts or a saree and have no one ask any questions, eat all the crispy bacon and tikka in the world, identify as an atheist openly on any form, pick up tampons from the grocery store and even male cashiers don’t care, no one worrying about my marital or religious status, dance however long I want, have the luxury of availing paid maternity leave, have free healthcare – plus so much more – and I no longer have to worry about all of it being taken away from me or being left stranded in a crisis and not have a government that worries about how their people are doing at home and abroad.
I am going to have to get used to this feeling of knowing that I am now as safe in this world as anyone possibly can be. But I don’t think I want this feeling to ever sink in because I do not want to forget that there are many out there who may not ever know what it feels like to be accepted by a society and a country and be *allowed* to experience love, freedom, friendship, and happiness.