“We are not at home here, dear grandfather, and I’m not sure if we ever will be”

Earlier today, some of my family members gathered at the house of my uncle. What promised to be a typical family Sunday, quickly ran off the rails. When my second cousin Nash asked his mother Badia (my cousin, the daughter of the above mentioned uncle – bear with me, the family structure is not the point of the story) who was coming, she replied: ‘your auntie Assia and your uncle Abdeslam’. Nash got terrified: ‘Abdeslam? Salah Abdeslam?’, he asked, startled.

The etymological meaning of ‘Abdeslam’ (or ‘Abdu-Salaam’) is ‘Servant of (the source of) Peace’. More importantly, it is also the name of one of the purest and kindest souls I have the honor of knowing: my father.

Now some of you may have noticed how I voice my thoughts less and less publicly. Others may not have, and such would only add to the feeling I cannot seem to shake: that these things are not worthy getting angry over, nor are they worth a collective stance in yet another desperate attempt to try and salvage from public disgust, the good that is housed in our religion, and by inevitable and repetitive association, the shades of our eyes, the fabric of our skin, the curls in our hair, the meaning of our names (surely the later Wittgenstein would have confirmed this). Your brother’s name, your prophet’s name, your father’s name. That there’s no way out of the slander and the smear.

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Well, it’s a fact that I hold less public outcries. For I’m tired, I am drained. In addition, and here is my truth in its every dimension: words cannot grasp the extent to which I am enraged, akin to how I am agonized by the attribution of a name I hold so dearly to pure malice and cruelty. I am infuriated with how these things creep into my most intimate space, forever staining it: the space of my loved ones and how I have always called them. My fury surpasses the limits of my voice, which sounds brittle and is growing splinters. And I haven’t told you about my grief; as there is no language vast enough for it to seek shelter or be granted asylum in. Though my sorrow slices through my body, it is no more than a refugee. It sleeps on cold soil and it weighs little.

And so I beg my friends and theirs, to understand this. I need you to understand this. That I suffer more from this. That we suffer more from this. That our way is getting longer by the day, the climb steeper. It is the way into belonging to a nation that should have been home by now – heaven knows it should have been home by now.

As for the latter, Abdeslam was also the name of a man whose courage and tenderness were simply outerworldly. A man who sacrificed everything to ensure a better future for his family, in a country they would be able to call home. It disheartens me, dear grandfather (I hope you’re not confused, I remember how we used to call you ‘Papa Abdeslam’), to see your name being dragged through the mud. I’m not sure how soon it will be washed off and frankly I cannot promise you it will. In a way I am happy that you are no longer here, you were already in such pain. Above all, I am afraid your mission of finding us a home has failed. We are not at home here, dear grandfather, and I’m not sure if we ever will be.

Written by Yousra Benfquih

Yousra Benfquih

Yousra Benfquih is a human rights lawyer and PhD researcher affiliated with the University of Antwerp. (Her research interests concern equality, diversity and inclusive education.) Aside from her legal career, Yousra is passionate about traveling, design (she successfully undertook Engineering-Architecture studies prior to her law training), poetry, fashion and photography. She treasures holistic health, hence her fondness of homemade granola, green juices, yoga, accupuncture, and meditation.