We asked Muslim bloggers to tell us their experiences of living as a Muslim in the UK today. Do you agree? Share your thoughts and experiences.
We asked Muslim bloggers to share their own experiences and opinions about living as a Muslim in Britain today. Have you had similar or different experiences? Answer the questions yourself in the comment thread, or fill out the form anonymously below. We'll post a selection of the best responses on the site.
Today, global events have transformed what being a Muslim means from a private to a public experience. We are faced with divisive and worrying questions from our children asking, What does Jihad mean? or What is a Shia or a Sunni? Why or how these questions have been created is debatable. What I do know is being Muslim in essence can never change, only the political rhetoric that surrounds it.
To be a Muslim is a deeply personal and spiritual sense of being that is individual to every Muslim. Of the Sunnah teachings, my favourite is to smile. Smiling is considered a form of charity in Islam and epitomises what being a Muslim means to me. Although, these can be interpreted differently one binding belief is the Shahadah; "There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God." Growing up as a Muslim in London was a unifying experience expressed through actions of kindness and consideration for neighbours, the elderly and each other - regardless of faith.
Are you taking part in #SuhoorSelfie? http://t.co/znFsep2gHB Remember #ASmileIsCharity
Having converted to Islam while living in Italy, my first experience of being a Muslim in the UK was being interrogated by a taxi driver on my way home to spend Christmas with my family. After the dreaded (and all too common) question, "no, where are you really from?" he remarked, I don't get it. You're British but you don't drink beer or eat bacon? There's something not right there.
My Britishness was never in doubt before I became a Muslim, but the habits I had as a Christian are now seen as somehow foreign and mutually exclusive to being a British citizen. The two sit very comfortably side by side in my heart and mind. Not only are my Islamic values filtered through my experience of being raised in Britain, but my British values are also backed up by my Islamic ones
How extraordinary it was, when I arrived in London eight years ago to discover women wearing headscarves at the town hall, in airports or in shopping centres. I felt it was not only acceptable, but also normal to be Muslim. It does not seem a big deal to have Muslim MPs in Britain.
My sister sent me a text message earlier this year to let me know she had seen a woman wearing a headscarf working in a clothes shop in the heart of Paris. I am French, so for me that was such news - it marked a sign of progress.
The condescending remarks I receive for following a religion. I have actually had people say to me: I dont believe in religion, I believe in science. As if I believe in Mickey Mouse! Just because I believe in God does not make me a less rational human being. The prevalent belief that science answers all questions is astonishing. As western philosophers of science point out, science cannot answer questions surrounding the issues of morality, meaning and purpose. Science can only study the physical world, not the metaphysical. Religious people do not reject science; we believe there is more to life than just physical matter. It is interesting to note that this issue is specifically European, as the US the most practising Christian country in the industrialised world has greater respect for religion.
From sharia law, "secret halal" scandals, the burqa, hijab, so called "honour" killings, sex grooming gangs, trojan horses, jihad, terrorism and the annual "Muslims are cancelling Christmas" story, the media has us covered. Except they don't. Given the amount of time the media spends discussing "the Muslims" most people remain ill informed and ignorant about Islam and Muslims. Of course there is a correlation?
Headlines are sensational or distorted and reporting is often deeply racist. This impacts directly on the lives of British Muslims across the UK. Some of the stories that are emerging are painful and disturbing. Visible Muslim women in particular are bearing the brunt of Islamophobic abuse - verbal and physical - on the streets, at schools and colleges, in the office and online. The Everyday Bigotry Project has found that many Muslims are internalising islamophobia and it is being normalised. These are some of responses we got to an online debate:
#IslamophobiaIs when being civically engaged means you're "infiltrating" institutions
#islamaphobiaIS WM calling Muslim women oppressed for CHOOSING to wear the hijab, while calling girls slutty for CHOOSING to wear shorts
#islamophobiaIs On train journeys to London, purposely taking out study texts to show rucksack isn't a bomb
Much post 9/11 popular culture has perpetuated notions of the aggressive Muslim through the sustained demonisation of Islam, Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad (saw). Muslim culture is depicted as unchanging and monolithic whereas Muslims are portrayed as backwards, irrational, and aggressive fanatics; their religion is seen to be wholly incompatible with the ways of the West. Many post 9/11 films have propagated images of the violent barbaric Muslim Other. The Muslim villain is used to portray struggles between good against bad and is accepted because of the historical continuity of negative representations of Muslims since the Middle Ages. The power of stereotypes to inflict damage on innocent people is much greater than before 9/11, as can be seen by the growth of attacks on Muslims.
I identify as a queer Muslim and it is through this intersection that I face the most intolerance and abuse. I face LGBTQ-phobia from some sections of the Muslim community and islamophobia coupled with racism from some sections of the LGBTQ community. This has often meant that I have to downplay the importance of my religion and vice versa when in Muslim spaces. It boils down to safety.
I remember a specific incident while I was clubbing at university. En route to leaving the club a white man had shouted a racist comment at me but I wasnt sure if I had heard it properly so I didnt react. I turned around to see my white friend who was with me confront and challenge him. We ended up getting him kicked out of the club. The bouncers, also white, were excellent at dealing with this situation.
Muslims have made contributions to British society in many ways: culinary, fashion, economic and medical. Yet this is still a young community finding its feet. We have many internal problems to contend with (illiteracy, sectarianism and identity crises to mention a few) and a few external ones that have a tendency to grab the headlines. None are insurmountable, but sometimes they can feel that way.
The Muslim community can be an innovative, socially conscious and energising presence in British society, creating and developing deep links to many of the rapidly growing economies of the world. On the other hand, it could slide into being a persecuted, marginalised and mistrusted minority that is a drain on resources and social cohesion. How things turn out will depend not only on whether we are able to move forward in a way that allows us to remain true to our faith and still be productive British citizens, but also on whether the wider community will allow us the time and space to do so.
I would say I am a British citizen because I was born here and grew up around the culture and values of the majority of Britons. However, I am familiar with my origin and would not disregard this to be more "British" in terms of my values, lifestyle or beliefs. I would not proudly be called "British", but this is not due to arrogance or ignorance; it's simply due to the prejudiced view of certain people living in Britain who feel that this is not "our" country because we have a somewhat different lifestyle and upbringing to theirs.
We are free to live how we want within the boundaries of the UK law but are we not free to choose what is morally right for us? There is more to being British than looking, sounding and dressing a certain way. We can still be educated, successful, socially active and know the A to Z of royal history. As Britons we share some values and recognise that there are commonalities between us which bring us together. Why do people refuse to accept differences if the one thing Britain prides itself upon is being multicultural? Continue reading...