A lesson to learn from London

It was the diversity of London that stole my heart when I first came to the city

Hafsah Sarfraz March 30, 2017
The writer is a freelance journalist and a graduate of the University of London. She is passionate about women empowerment and gender equality

Three years ago I packed my bags, got on a cab to reach Heathrow airport and got on a seven-hour flight to come back home. Walking out of my dorm room, I hugged my Chinese flat mate, said goodbye to the African American warden, handed over my luggage to the Indian taxi driver, grabbed a burger from the Bangladeshi at the chicken shop next door and reached the airport to hand over my check-in baggage to the European guy smiling at the counter. The last person I encountered at the security check before boarding the plane was British who wished me a great journey and told me to come back soon as I left the city.

It was this diversity of London that stole my heart when I first came to the city. In my eyes, nothing made London more beautiful than the fact that it was a huge metropolis where people of all kinds exist alongside in a cacophony of ethnicities, religions, cultures, languages, races and orientations. Nowhere is this more obvious than on the London Underground, London’s convenient yet sprawling subway system where a subtle tap of the Oyster can make you run into people from a range of ethnicities.

I once noticed a middle aged Muslim woman in a veil and reading the Quran on my left and a teenage girl in a crop top with high waist pants reading her copy of 50 shades of grey sitting on my right on the underground. While this sight might have amused me, it sure did not surprise me for I would see girls in gowns and headscarves walking next to those in mini skirts at university everyday and loved how beautifully London had taught everyone to coexist and respect each other.

In my eyes, London was not remarkable because of its architectural wonders and larger than life image but because of its diversity and nowhere is that diversity more apparent than on Brick lane. Brick lane on a Sunday defines what London is — incredibly diverse and soulful. If a fairy God mother had granted me one wish, I would ask her to make the entire world one big Brick Lane; where everyone was welcome despite their origin, their ethnicity and the colour of their skin, where there was no hatred or animosity towards anyone because of their background and one could belong anywhere they wished to. Where people could come from different parts of the world, experience the beauty and leave a part of themselves while departing to make the place even richer than it is, where cultures and history blended and people would continue to come back for more.

Living in London made me realise the greatest benefit of diversity — tolerance, which one can witness everywhere in the British capital. It is this tolerance that makes London a safe haven, precisely the reason why last week’s attack in Westminster was rather shocking. ISIS may have claimed responsibility for the attack but since it often claims responsibility for terror attacks that it has not directly orchestrated or facilitated, the real culprit is yet to be found. However, this was the first time in a very long time that an attack took place in the world where Islam was not immediately blamed and for that the British capital deserves credit.

The reporting after the attack was responsible and equitable, which is a lesson journalists and reporters in London gave out to the world. The country of origin of the attacker was not blamed instead he was called a terrorist and the word “British-born” was used. Theresa May admitted that the attacker had been the subject of a historical investigation over violent extremism by MI5.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said that London stands together in the face of those who seek to harm it and destroy the way of life, giving out a message of solidarity and togetherness. Despite Donald Trump junior sending out a negative tweet to Sadiq Khan, he remained calm and focused on how to help London stand together in the face of adversity. By ignoring a negative tweet, London’s mayor has shown grace and maturity, something the many local and international politicians could learn from.

Bloggers, social media activists and photographers united to send out the message to spread love, hope and kindness because anger achieves nothing. The attack in London revealed how every time Londoners face adversity, its people pull together and stand up for their values. It reminded people that diversity is not a weakness but a great strength. London does all of this brilliantly, leaving one wondering what if the rest of the world did what London does?

Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2017.

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RK Singh | 7 years ago | Reply @KDP: People can get away with murder hiding behind faith. As simple as that.
Hamza sharief | 7 years ago | Reply You don't need to go to London to see the diversity. just peep at your neighbor India. and What you say about fenatic Muslim people who enter illegally and selling fishes in London markets
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