“How can we kill in the name of saving lives?” asks 22-year-old Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan in her slam-poetry at Last Word Festival by Roundhouse, a London-based charity.
It’s a pertinent question, especially in recent times as Islamophobia escalates across the world. In India, Muslims have been the target of wide-spread lynchings in the past three years, which led to a country-wide protest, Not in My Name last week.
Manzoor-Khan is a British-Muslim Pakistani immigrant, who was born and raised in the United Kingdom, and recently graduated from Cambridge University. She starts her poem saying, “Some poems force you to write them, the way sirens force their way through window panes in the night and you can’t shut out the news even when you try.”
Her poem, This is not a Humanising Poem, which has garnered more than a million views and lavish praise gives the subject a powerful angle:
“I put my pen down, I will not let that poem force me to write it because it’s not the poem I want to write. It’s the poem I am being reduced to, reduced to proving my life is human because it is relatable, valuable because it is recognisable...
So this will not be a ‘Muslims are like us’ poem, I refuse to be respectable. Instead, love us when we are lazy, love us when we are poor...
Love us high as kites, unemployed, joy riding, time wasting, failing at school, love us filthy...Love us...when we don’t offer our homes or free taxi rides after the event. When we’re wretched, suicidal, naked and contributing nothing. Love us then, because if you need me to prove my humanity, I’m not the one that’s not human.”
She then questions the audience, and the world, “Which days of the week might I count as liberal and which moments of forehead to the ground am I conservative? I wonder, when you buy bombs, is there a clear difference between the deadly ones that kill and the heroic ones which scatter democracy?”