Positivity and religion


Miriam Hussain

A story of a Scottish-Pakistani girl changing the status quo in Edinburgh.

With more and more people from different backgrounds moving to Edinburgh, the influx of new cultures and nationalities is changing the demographics of Scotland. This can be a hard pill to swallow for some, and integration can be even harder for others. Some people are trying to change that; Miriam Hussain is one of those people.

Miriam’s parents both came to Scotland when they were young in pursuit of better work and have since forged a good life for their family, but she says she still feels a close link to her heritage: “I’m Scottish-Pakistani. Born and raised in Fife by Pakistani born parents. Saying ‘Scottish’ doesn’t cover it. I feel just as much Pakistani as I do a Scottish lass.” Growing up in Scotland has given her a Scottish accent, a Scottish sense of humour, a Scottish lifestyle – if you were to close your eyes and talk to Miriam, you would be none the wiser that she is Scottish-Pakistani.

Both of these factors contributed to making Miriam very loud and proud about women’s rights, social issues and religion. She confesses she isn’t quiet, retiring or timid, even when some people expect her to be.

In the final year of her English Degree, Miriam has a positive message to spread, and she wants as many people to feel accepted by her as she can.

“In my experience, Edinburgh is a city where you definitely have to create your own space, which is something I’m doing at Edinburgh Napier”, she says.
“I am the founder and president of Napier’s first Southern Asian Social Society. I didn’t want to feel like ‘the only’ Asian, so I created a space for us to get together and socialise and create our own authentic narrative, our own student community.” She might have created a space for other Southern Asians, but she’s also become a middle-man of sorts between Southern Asians and people of other backgrounds. Miriam feels strongly about answering any questions that you might have and tries to debunk myths people may have of her culture, to avoid ignorance being manifested within her group of friends and family.

A phrase I’ve heard a lot is ‘You’re not like other Asians’ – as if it’s a compliment to compare me to their distorted view on Asian women?

There’s also the assumption that when I tell people I study English, their first instinct is that I’m learning to speak English, rather than studying English literature. It amazes me how casually I’ve experienced it. It’s really scary, just how integrated it is within us all.”

Instead of scaring Miriam off, these prejudices have encouraged Mirian to make a positive change. She spends a lot of her time highlighting indirect racism and misconceptions on a daily basis, and leaves in her wake a trail of enlightened and more supportive people. When she’s not changing the world for the better, one ignorant person at a time, she’s always got a good Halal restaurant recommendation – “Cheap and Cheerful – Spicy Bite” at Fountain Park. It’s owned by a great family, who really took care of me during my first year! And if you really want to treat yourself, head to Dishoom. When I graduate, you’ll find me there.”

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