Islam in the UK has sadly become a topic that is all too cautiously dealt with and even feared in some ways. The air surrounding the topic of Islam in the UK makes it seem almost taboo. This needs to be removed so that we may learn more and discuss this element of our culture openly. After all Islam will play a huge role in Britain’s future generations and has much to offer.
I am not a Muslim myself but welcome the peaceful faith as part of my culture. I lived in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country for three years with the Muslim side of my family. I remember feeling a bit guilty during the first few days of Ramadan as I was not fasting. My cousins were observing the fast whilst I was trying not to be seen having my lunch. I decided the next day to get up for Sahur (The meal before sunrise) and see if I could join them in fasting. Through my decision to fast I soon learned a lot more about Islam. I observed Ramadan, celebrated Eid and discussed the Qu’ran. I wanted to ask questions and people seemed happy to answer. Being respectfully inquisitive allowed me to better understand this peaceful, loving and inclusive Religion.
During the day I was working in a youth centre with Muslim teenagers. ‘Assalamualaikum Abang Ian’ (Peace be upon you big brother Ian) was my usual greeting from the kids. All the girls would come into the youth centre from School wearing hijab, as part of School uniform. On non-School days few would be wearing it.
I was lucky enough to have a close friend, who wore the hijab to discuss this with. She explained why she had decided to wear it and how it helped her to remain humble and peaceful. She, like many others, believe it should be a choice. If young girls were forced to wear it they would not understand its importance and it could become just part of a uniform.
During my time in Malaysia there were also more trivial questions that arose… Why does almost every café have cats that seem to be communally fed by the dinners? The reply came that the prophet Muhammad loved cats… he even cut the robe he was wearing once so that he would not disturb the cat lying on it when he stood up.
British culture has always embraced change and perhaps with a little more understanding we could all happily accept what Islam has to enrich our society. More importantly little Muslim boys and girls in the UK should feel empowered to ask questions and grasp a clear understanding of their faith. We need to be more relaxed and embrace Islam into British culture so that future generations feel free to discuss their faith, in the same way that modern Islam continues to develop in South East Asia.