I am your Muslim neighbour in London. As there are almost a million of us here (almost one in eight people), I would not think my presence here is strange at all. But it can be alienating to be a Muslim in London these days. While Muslims are a familiar sight, there are still some deep rifts between us and other Londoners. After the terrorist attack of 7/7 (nearly fifteen years ago!) and the recent spate of terrorist attacks, the deep suspicions towards us has increased tremendously. Added to that is the racist Tommy Robinson whose puerile approach to Islamic texts attracts the most intellectually bereft, the situation has actually become dangerous for us.
This is why I write this piece – as your Muslim neighbour. I would like you to know that we are human, just like you, with human failings. Of course, that is an obvious fact, biologically speaking, but I am speaking ideologically and from the angles of culture and civilisation. And being human means we do not express our identities in the exact same way either. There are a myriad of factors which influence our expression and you should know about this.
I will be completely honest with you – most of us know almost nothing about our faith. The reason for this is simple – we don’t have to know much about it. The Islamic priesthood – and make no mistake, that’s what they are: priests – scares with the idea that unless we are guided by a ‘qualified scholar’, we will be guided by the devil himself. This suits the ordinary Muslim just fine. He is content to remain focused on the performance of rituals. Let the ‘qualified scholars’ deal with the deep study.