In light of the Channel 4 decision to play the adhan (Muslim call to prayer) daily during the holy month of Ramadan, I thought a post from the perspective of a Western Muslim would be much needed.
Ramadan, which falls on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is the time where Muslims from all over the world abstain from food and drink, smoking and so forth from sunrise to sunset for an entire month. The abstinence is intended to teach about patience, and to remind ourselves of the things we do have and to promote gratefulness. Selflessness is the key.
If you're a reader of the news, or conscious of the movements made on social media, you'll know that this past week there were, unsurprisingly, masses of complaints towards Channel 4 and Muslims of course about their decision to introduce the call to prayer on TV for the whole month of Ramadan. Firstly, a few things should be explained before we delve into the dismissals and bile produced by the Islamophobes, and let us be honest, just plain uniformed and uneducated individuals (Tommy Robinson, I see you).
Channel 4 have actually only decided to air one of the calls to prayer on TV: Muslims prayer five times a day yet only the first call (fajr) which is at sunrise has been chosen to be played. Let me reiterate. Sunrise. This means around 4am. In past experiences, I don't really remember very many people being awake watching TV or engaging in what is going on the television at this time. So sorry to disturb you from your slumber. Please wake up and listen to the adhan against your will.
Secondly, the 'we want Britain to be about British' lines have returned in full force. I say return. They never really left. Just search the hashtag '#muslims', '#islam' or a personal favourite, read EDL members twitter profiles and you'll see that the slurs occur every day. Their fear is impeccable: the fear of the unknown at its greatest. However, at times, one cannot blame them. When the only interaction we see,- let us call ourselves 'moderate' Muslims for the sake of these individuals- is when a Muslim is defending the actions of terrorists of extremists, one begins to feel a lethargic energy. Our mission isn't to sit here and let the wrong doers carry on tarnishing the religion of Islam and its followers. The best way for anyone to represent themselves is to lead by example. Most Muslims are honest, kind and giving people. One of the principles of Islam (in the five pillars) is to give zakat ie. charity. Things like this are downplayed, and instead, one individual or group of individuals demonises millions of people and its holy book. All in the name of Allah.
So when these EDL followers and other bigots give their twisted opinion on Muslims, sometimes, you cannot help but indeed, not blame them.
However, the Channel 4 decision is just one small step in the right direction. With more than 2.7million Muslims in the UK alone, it's a positive stance from a non-Muslim media group to finally give voice to what make up a large percentage of the country. Not only is it positive for Muslims as a sign of recognition, it is also important for non-Muslims to be aware. The mainstream media provides a more than big enough platform. It shouldn't be taken as a threat to British culture: it should be embraced. With the constant struggle for multicultural representation in Britain ever crawling up a very steep (and sometimes impossible) hill, it gives the media stereotypes a rest and a view of Muslims that is never shown on TV before.
Ramadan, and the Ramadan experience, is probably touched upon more so in certain regions of the UK than others. As expected, these regions are those with a high concentration of Muslims where there is more freedom to engage with them. This is not to say that discrimination does not take place though: take for instance the infamous 2001 Oldham riots which were ethnically motivated, and a large majority of those involved in the clashes were Muslim.
As a Muslim, I am sure many will not mind me saying on their behalf that we are more than happy to generate a conversation with you, teach you (not preach to you) about our faith, our customs and our beliefs. A Muslim is not someone you can seek out on the street as easily as one may imagine. One cannot 'look' Muslim so to speak. The headscarf? Visit many cultures in Asia: women adorn the head covering and they are not Muslim, but in fact Hindu and of many other faiths. Some clothing are cultural practice rather than religious practice. A Muslim in China differs to the Muslim in Tunisia to the Muslim in Britain. The one thing that binds us however is the faith in its purest form.
So, take this Ramadan to involve yourself. Ask questions, don't shy away from them. Embrace the diversity that is offered in front of you. Oh, and stop reading the Daily Mail. You probably already knew that though.