“My mother hired a hitman to kill me:”
The shocking story of a Muslim woman whose parents disapproved of her Western lifestyle
ByÂ Sofia Hayat
The text message forwarded to me from my younger sister Saira was concise and chilling: ‘Mum’s sent a hit man to kill you,’ it read. ‘Be careful.’
As I read those words, my first instinct wasn’t fear or even shock, but simply survival.
I’d become accustomed to behaviour like this from both my parents – behaviour that anyone else would find abhorrent – and I was emotionally numb to their threats.
But I also knew that my sister’s warning was deadly serious and my life was in real danger. I’d been in hiding for several weeks when I received the text.
Distorted reading: Sofia blames “the way the Koran has been interpreted” for her parents’ cruel behaviour
“I don’t blame my parents for what they’ve put me through, I blame the fact that Islam has become so distorted…”
- Sounds more like she is completely ignorant of what the Koran teaches…
I was born in Gravesend in Kent in 1974 and brought up there in a devout Muslim family with three sisters and two brothers.
My father Zammurrad, a factory worker, was a deeply religious man but violent towards my mother Surriya and my sisters Zarqa, now 38, Saira, 33, and Tahira, 32.
I tried to be an obedient daughter, praying up to five times a day, but I never felt loved by my parents – or that I really belonged.
In turn, my parents viewed me as something of an oddity. Perhaps it was because I loved performing.
From as young as five, acting and singing was in my blood and at school I won so many competitions for writing songs that if the teachers wanted a song for an assembly they’d ask me to write one and I’d get up on stage and sing it.
My love of singing and dancing wasn’t exactly encouraged at home, but it wasn’t a big problem when I was young. But as I hit my teens, my parents told me I could no longer continue.
I was to forget my childish fantasies of becoming an actress, as in their eyes singing and dancing were on a par with prostitution.
As I grew older, my father started placing increasingly severe restrictions on my life. I was forbidden from making friends with other children and lived a very lonely existence.
On the one occasion I was given special permission to attend a birthday party of a girl who lived 100 metres down the road, I was allowed to stay for only an hour. My life was just school and home, with no free time for myself.
I was to forget my childish fantasies of becoming an actress, as in their eyes it was on a par with prostitution
Throughout my childhood, my father grew more aggressive towards my mother and sisters, regularly throwing plates and knives at us in anger.
My brothers Majid, now 31, and Wajid, 29, were allowed to do as they pleased, but my sisters and I were told that Muslim girls were like a white sheet; once stained, forever ruined.Â
If ever I returned home even five minutes late from the park or school, my father would hit me with his belt, often until I bled. It got so bad that my sisters and I used to wear five layers of clothing to protect ourselves.
On one family outing to Margate when I was about nine, I was ten minutes late back to our meeting point, as I’d stayed to watch a Punch and Judy show.
My father broke a branch from a tree, stripped off all the leaves and started whipping me with it in broad daylight.
If ever I returned home late from the park or school, my father would hit me with his belt, often until I bled
Despite the control they had over me, my mother and father thought that a degree in science, medicine or law was the perfect goal for one of their unmarried daughters and so, at the age of 18, I started a Biology and Management degree at Sussex University and moved into student accommodation in a square near the old pier in Brighton.
I hated the course and secretly switched to a performing arts and music degree at Brighton University, which I loved.
But as my parents were unable to finance me, I supported myself with three different jobs – including three nights a week earning Â£50 a night as a dancer in a nightclub.
Finally, I was enjoying my life and my freedom. But one evening a TV camera crew came to the club and captured me wearing just a cowboy hat, a short skirt and a Wonderbra.
Of course, I knew I was being filmed and I knew there was a slim chance my parents might see it. But I was living away from home, enjoying the independence and, naively, I also thought that if they did see me performing, it might make them realise how passionate I was about acting.
Read the whole thing from Daily Mail