Alexander Khan is a British born Muslim of Pakistani descent, whom was raised in a tough, working-class Northern ‘Mill Town’ in the 1980s. During his childhood he endured racism and cultural ostracization from all sides, for Alexander was neither white nor Asian, but half-caste. Alexander’s father had briefly married a local white woman against the wishes of his strictly religious family, and the result of that fraught union – Alexander – was viewed with open shame and horror from all sides.
In the years that followed Alexander endured a harrowing existence that culminated in his expulsion from his community and his eventual violent kidnapping in Pakistan, where he laboured in a Madrassa on the Afghanistan border in preparation for joining the Mujahedeen in the fight against the Godless Soviets.
Aged 13, incredibly, Alexander escapes from the Madrassa and makes his way back to his father’s village. He finally makes it back to UK shores but only after witnessing a shocking ‘Honour killing’ and being forced to become part of its cover-up.
In 2010, Alexander was eventually reunited with his mother.
Alexander served seven years in an ‘elite’ airborne parachute regiment within the British army, and now a happily-married telecoms engineer. He lives with his wife on the south coast of England.
When I first came across ‘Orphan of Islam’ I immediately visualised a little girl, but to my surprise it was about a little boy who grew up in Bolton, Lancashire where his childhood was far from a loving one. Intrigued by the story, I caught up with Alexander to discuss in finer details his life’s journey, which took him through a roller coaster ride of emotions.
Can you tell us a bit about the book & why did you decide to write this book?
I was born in north-west England in the 70s. My father was a Pathan tribesman from north-west Pakistan and my white mother was a working-class girl from Hyde, near Manchester. Around the age of three my parents had separated and I was living with my mother. My father came to take me out for the day, but instead abducted me and took me to his home village of Tajak, north-west Pakistan, I never saw my mother again. Flung back and forth between England and Pakistan for years, I was eventually kidnapped in Pakistan and taken to a Madrassa on the border with Afghanistan where I was forced to join a camp framed for training members of extreme groups. I escape, and made my way back to my father’s village. Luckily, I was not sent back to the Madrassa, but, I was told I would remain in Pakistan. Eventually I managed to get back to England, but only after witnessing a shocking ‘Honour killing’ and being forced to become part of its cover-up. Aged twenty, I joined the British army, and, it was then that the search for my mother began.
It was 4 years ago when I told my wife everything that had happened to me. At this point we had been together for five years, so it took me a long time to open up, and it was the first time I’d spoken to anyone about my past, in a way it made me feel slightly better in me. My wife told me to write it all down, which I did. It was a friend who advised me to write a book to raise awareness, and help others who might have experience similar situation.
Why do you think you were taken away from your mother?
My father did not want me to be brought up the non-believers way, I was informed that my mother was drinking alcohol, and she was believed to be having different men at her house. I now know that wasn’t the case, and that my father didn’t want me brought up the Kaffir’s way.
What was the worst experience/event of your life?
When I was kidnapped aged thirteen by a family member in north-west Pakistan, and taken to a Madrassa on the border of Afghanistan. I did not know what was happening, or what was going to happen to me. But most of all, seeing a female cousin murdered by her husband for bringing shame on him, and the family.
How do you view Islam as a religion and are you practicing as a Muslim even after what you have experienced?
It’s the religion I was brought up in. I do believe in Allah, and whenever I do wish to pray, I visit the local mosque. It was not the religion that was cruel to me; it was the way my so-called family did things.
Could you explain your life in the British Army, what impact did it have on you?
It was tough at the beginning. Having to come from a completely isolated community where I had no white friends into a large organisation like the Armed Forces. But thearmy has a way of getting round people and building confidence. I served seven years in an elite parachute regiment and left in 2003.
You mentioned being a formed soldier. What does this mean?
I served seven years in an elite parachute regiment within the British Army.
How did you manage to track down your mother? What emotions did you encounter, where you anxious about the meeting?
I hired a private investigator, and within days she had found my mother. I didn’t know if she was alive or dead, but, hearing her voice for the first time is a feeling I can’t explain.
After three decades apart our reunion was very emotional and exciting at the same time. There were lots of tears.
Can you describe your first meeting with your mother? What happened? What did she say to you?
The wife and I took the long drive to Lancashire; I was very nervous, excited and scared at the same time. What if she doesn’t like me? What if there are answers I am not going to like, lots of emotions were in the air then she opens the door, we just look at each, she starts to cry – “Hello my son, she says.”
“Hello mum, I have missed you, I reply”
Is there a reason, purpose or message that you wanted to put forward in this book?
To raise awareness, and help anyone who might find themselves in similar situations to mine. There are organisations such as Karma Nirvana, and many other organisations that can offer help and support to anyone who is suffering abuse, please don’t remain silent, speak to someone.
How could your story inspire others?
I hope it would help and inspire other who are suffering or have suffered at the hand of family members from all cultures. If you are being controlled, or forced to do something you are not happy, then you need to seek help.
Finally, what are your plans for the future?
I am hoping to work with charities to raise awareness from a male prospective. There are many stories of brave women who have been forced to marry, abused and even murdered for bringing shame or dishonoring their family. I am telling my story because there are young boys who are also suffering.
I am in the process of writing the follow up to “orphan of Islam” where I explain about my escape from my so-called family – not the religion, joining the army, my adventures, and conflicts serving the army and eventually finding my mother.
“Orphan of Islam” is out now, available from Waterstones, WHSmith and Amazon.