I’m very proud of schoolgirl Yara who refuses to be described as ‘other’, says head of North West Migrants Forum


A recent tweet on the @VIEWdigital Twitter account prompted a phenomenal response on social media.

It was in connection with a letter (below) from a young Muslim girl called Yara to Lilian Seenoi Barr, Director of the North West Migrants Forum. 11-year-old Yara described how she found it hard to sign up for schools because only two religious backgrounds are included in the criteria and she rejected the choice of ‘other’ to describe her when she was applying for a place at an integrated school in Northern Ireland.

11-year-old Yara Moustafa

Currently, applicants to integrated schools are asked if they are from the ‘Protestant community’, ‘Roman Catholic community’ or ‘none/other’.

“I refuse to be called other, it isn’t nice,” Yara told Lilian in her letter.

VIEWdigital recently spoke to Ms Barr to get her reaction to Yara’s letter.

“I am very proud of Yara,” replied Ms Barr. “She decided to take action about something she doesn’t like. It makes her feel alienated in her own society, a place that she calls her home.”

“The question that is being asked is on the binary of religion, and also sometimes on the two traditions that are here in Northern Ireland. It’s assumed that they’re the only ones and everybody else is the ‘other’. My suggestion is very clear. Just ask a straight question, what is your ethnicity, and what is your religion?

“There are so many people who live in this country who do not identify of any religion, they don’t practice any religion. For example, I’m a Kenyan, a dual citizen. I identify also as Irish. But if I get that form, I can’t find a place where I can myself feel that I belong, because I cannot identify myself.

“Many people feel that they do not want to identify with the two binary traditions that has been created here. They want a progressive society where they feel they can be themselves and they don’t have that chance. Their identity is alienated, it’s hidden, and they can’t feel that sense of belonging.

Lilian Seenoi Barr, Director of the North West Migrants Forum

“If Northern Ireland is to move on and become an inclusive society then we need to stop using this language, we need to start recognising that these young people have an identity that they are very proud of and that they are much more than an ‘other’.”