Dear average citizen,
I am a Muslim. By now, every inkling of your rational brain that held on to the hope that I am not a walking box of radicalised extremist should be gone. So you demand an apology. You, like Culture Secretary Sajid Javid, feel that I have a burden to track down extremism. I'm not here to tell you why you shouldn't think that, and am certainly not here to give you evidence that Muslims are 'just like the rest of us'. I want to explain why the UK is so comfortable with the ostracisation of an entire group of people, and what it means to me, a young British Muslim woman.
British Muslims are becoming a separate entity entirely. Below is a guide of how to deal with the average Muslim in a bid to mend the 'us versus them' paradigm.
How to deal with un-British Muslims;
Perhaps give them a definition, and you will realise that your version of what it means to be British, i.e. liberal values, freedom of speech etc, closely aligns with the values they hold too.
- After the Charlie Hebdo incident, don't engage in conversation about Islam and values of freedom of speech and expression with Muslims. Why? We know why you're asking; you don't think Islam is compatible with satire, and that's why you're arguing with them when they tell you something you weren't expecting. You expect them to apologise and defend the right version of Islam; that is not their responsibility.
- Don't use terms like 'moderate Muslim' or 'progressive Muslim' When you say that, you're telling Muslims that they should hold certain views. You're essentially telling them how to be the right kind of Muslim, the acceptable kind. Perhaps refrain from making the distinction, they are an individual ultimately.
How to deal with Muslim women;
When you think the Niqaab or Hijab is oppressive you're telling me that Muslim women have no intellectual or individual capacity. Muslim women could scream to you that they lead typical lives, but you would still believe that their choices are rooted in patriarchy. We are aware that the niqab and hijaab makes us stand out. Please don't boil down our, frankly quite brave, choice to identify as a part of an ever more detested religion in an increasingly islamophobic society.
- When you see a Muslim woman, don't speak to her about being a Muslim woman. Know that she is much more than what she wears. For all you know, she could be a scientist, or a historian. But as far as you can tell, she is only qualified to speak about gender issues in Islam.
How to deal with young British Muslim students;
Universities are the hubs of academic discussion. Most conversations about Islam that take place are anything but academic.
- When dealing with issues of extremism, please do not use the terms; jihadist, fundamentalist, Islamist and, extremist interchangeably. They don't mean the same thing.
- Don't ask them whether they condemn [insert terrorist incident here]. You're basically doing the same thing as asking a white person if they agree with slavery.
- If you're going to make sure that the discussion leads towards trends of radicalisation, then ask yourself whether you would be having this conversation if a Muslim was not there.
- Perhaps don't make every social start with pub and end with crawl.
How to deal with 'anti-social' Muslims.
So you ask [insert Muslim name] to come for a drink after a long day at the office. They decline. You wonder why they decline... it must because they're Muslim. Well, being Muslim certainly has something to do with it.
- Give them a break. Maybe they don't want to go to the pub because they're tired of Islam being the centre of conversation. Give them time to relax, put their feet up maybe. Some people are tired of repetitive problem solving at work. Muslim's are tired having to learn the in and outs of their religion, even if they only identify as a Muslim and don't practise it, in order to give you a satisfactory answer for why [insert topic that polarises Islam and the West].
- Know that whatever sector a Muslim works in, they have to defend Islam in ever day working life. Give them a bit of credit.
- Imagine if you, out of choice, refused to drink orange juice. You've had a long day at work; you want to hang out with some colleagues. Oh wait, they're all going to the orange juice factory. You could go, I mean, you're not going to be drinking it so what's the problem right? The problem is, it's hard to have fun in an orange juice factory if you find the idea of drinking said beverage opposite to your moral standards.
If you're going to pick up on one tip; Please understand the difference between bombarding the Muslim community for apologist explanations for terrorism, whilst simultaneously not including them in debates that concern their well being in Britain. For example, if you have perceptions about the well being of Muslim women who observe the face-veil, then take a chance to open-mindedly listen to whether they actually are. This is a direct criticism of BBC Question Time failing to bring adequate Muslim women's opinions to light whilst discussing said issue live on TV. If you think that Muslim men shouldn't control the way I dress, then white middle class men certainly should have no say either.
Most Muslims would want you to ask them about questions you find intriguing about Islam. However, when you do, be open to a positive answer. Don't start using offensive phrases like 'barbaric' when you find that their views fail to match yours. Please don't attempt to use the words of one Muslim scholar to describe what every Muslim's opinion should be.
I know this isn't just me feeling this way, so please be careful with your words, you could be marginalising an entire population. Really we know you can't help but ask Muslim people their opinion on what are shown by media channels as a Muslim issue. But please discuss other things too.
Feel free to comment below with your tips and tricks, I'm sure some Muslim commenters can think of ways to solve frustrating issues that you might hold to be the beginning of the downfall of British life.