Equal opportunities: a reality or pretense?
I came across a brochure from the British Council and thought I’d share my thoughts.
It said ‘the international reputation of a UK education is so great that students coming to study in the UK bring more money into the country’s economy than is earned by the financial services sector or the automobile industry’ (according to a report compiled by a professor at the University of Sheffield).
I was an international student in the UK once myself. And I remember feeling humiliated at Heathrow Airport on more than one occasion. And this was way before September 11 (in case anyone’s looking to justify it on grounds of national security). As a Pakistani passport holder, I had to apply for a British visa every year for four years. But I was supposed to feel grateful that they approved my visa and allowed me to enter Britain to study. The fact that I was bringing in the money, didn’t give me any additional advantages. On the contrary, I had and an ‘international student status’ and was therefore not given the same rights as British citizens.Now that I think about it, discrimination and unequal opportunities has been a part of my life since I hit adulthood. I worked every holiday, almost every weekend, for three years. At times I had two sometimes three jobs whilst being in full time education. Whilst I ate bread and butter for dinner quite often, I saw my friends (British citizens) spending their grants on nights out; going on shopping sprees because they had a bad day; getting drunk because they had a bad day, getting drunk because they had a good day and getting drunk because they had a boring day. They did of course spend some of the money towards their education.
My dad worked really hard to pay for my education and I was never, and am still not able to accept why I had to pay over £7,000 a year for tuition alone while British citizens got theirs paid for (yes, I’m giving away my age here, it was back in those days).
Now I know people argue that of course British students should pay less in their own country, and if Britain allowed all the foreigners cheap education, we’d have problems accommodating them etc. I know the problems associated with this. But in case you’re thinking along those lines, you may want to consider this:
- You’re thinking inside the box. Just because this is the way the world works doesn’t make it the right way. Please read my previous post ‘Who am I?’ for more on this.
- What about the point of view of those people who were born into families from poor countries. They didn’t choose their country as I didn’t choose to be a Pakistani. Why are they denied rights from the moment they are born? Is this not discrimination?
- It’s ironic that I often hear Islam being accused of inequality and denying non-Muslims equal rights, when I have yet to hear a non-Muslim criticise their governments or system for this inequality and bias. Whilst some criticise an idea: a misconception of inequality in Islam, so vehemently; their silence on the current and very real inequalities of today, is shocking to say the least.
In the past, people used to travel to the Muslim lands from all over the world to receive education and knowledge. There was the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, where scholars studied and discussed regularly, attracting the best thinkers from all over, regardless of their racial background, amongst them Christian and Jewish scholars. Modern medical practice and discoveries in modern science owe much to the Muslims of the past. It was the Muslims that advanced in science whilst Europe was living in the dark ages. The streets in Muslim lands were lit and had running water whilst Europe could only dream of it. Money and self-interest weren’t the driving forces, but encouraging discussions on Islam were motivating factors.
Muslims have a right to go back to strengthening their own lands and becoming self-sufficient just as they did in the past. Westerners should refrain from the temptaion to rule it out just because these thoughts are outside the box. Blaming Islam for inequalities whilst completely ignoring bias and discrimination existent in our current world is hypocritical at best and malicious.