At Eid prayers in a rainswept Aberdeen this month, the imam gave thanks to Allah Almighty for the blessings of life in Britain. We had successfully completed a month of fasting while Muslims in China were banned from observing Ramadanand in other parts of the world, many fasted through distressing circumstances of poverty and war. In the sports hall that was booked for the prayers, we listened to the imam in our rain-splattered best clothes before heading for our first morning coffee in a month and the candy floss on sale for the children.
Older, first-generation immigrants understood the logic of Britain being better and freer than “our own home countries”. But the young who were born and grew up in Britain would say that it is hard work being a British Muslim.
On top of exam stress, friendship troubles and anxieties over body image, on top of the pressures experienced by other immigrant children and youngsters of colour, Muslims are required to be on alert, distancing themselves from extremism, apologising for the latest atrocity, explaining, defending, dodging, avoiding confrontations or even discussions. Before even being exposed to radicalisation, young Muslims are talked down to and told off. They are shoved under the microscope. Whatever the news item, whatever the issue, be it cultural practice or immigration rules, regardless of how religious they are or how much they practise, by simply being Muslim the youth are made to feel that they are on the wrong side.
It is a climate. It clings and pervades. We feel it, young and old. Holding our breath, afraid of what can happen next. Another terror attack? And then the aftermath, the repercussions, the revenge. Perhaps in the future, people will look back and talk about these years the way we now talk about the “cold war climate”? Perhaps in the future, they will laugh, as we cannot do now, about reports that link extremism with not shopping in M&S and not celebrating Christmas.
On the day following the Charlie Hebdo attack, my friend’s 15-year-old daughter takes off her hijab. We are relieved. Her safety matters more than anything else. There will be those in her school and on the way to school who will hold her responsible for what happened in France. Or those who will belligerently want to question her faith, demanding answers and condemnations. Better not provoke them with a hijab or anything else. And this “better not provoke them” wariness is part of the climate, part of the holding back when integration and oneness are urged as the cure.
The prime minister’s speech against extremist ideology might reassure religious Muslims, perhaps even the silent majority, that a peaceful, proper, official Islam will be upheld by the government, similar to the situation in many Muslim countries. But those who condemn the repressive situation in Muslim countries and feel strongly against the injustices in Palestine, Syria and Iraq, the articulate and the engaged, will lean towards the argument that it is politics and foreign policy rather than ideology which are the root causes of terrorism.
The causes and solutions can be hotly debated but it makes little difference to the daily life of Muslims. Until this climate eases, the day-to-day anxiety, the feeling of being tainted, of being tested, will still be the same. Ironically, it is liberal integrated Muslims who bear the brunt. On them lies the responsibility of explaining and apologising. If you live in the kind of ghetto where you never read the newspapers, never make friends with non-Muslims, never participate in sports, you can feel safe and oblivious. Start to engage and you will immediately realise just how careful you need to be. Young British Muslims are being watched. This is not paranoia. This is just how things are after 9/11 and 7/7
For more: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/27/britain-young-muslims-suspicion?CMP=fb_gu