This weekend, Muslim families around the world will be celebrating Eid Al Adha. There’ll be prayers, celebratory meals, presents, visiting of friends and family. Sounds pretty normal doesn’t it?
Newsflash: the Muslim community is pretty normal. Despite the talk of extremism, ISIS and air strikes, amidst the climate of suspicion and fear around them, Muslim life goes on. People go to work, raise children, go to the gym, send texts messages, check Facebook- all the things that everyone else does. Isn’t time we start remembering that? Every discussion, every headline around the Muslim community has the word “extremism” in it. Every US cop show from 24 to Blue Bloods has at one time included a story line on Al Queda and Islamic extremists. There are many who would say “there’s a reason for that”, the whole no fire without smoke thing. But all the while, Muslims all over the place are screaming at the top of their lungs “we are not all terrorists”.
The backlash to this from the Muslim community has of course been seen on Twitter and elsewhere. The #notinmyname hashtag sought to disassociate the Muslim community from terrorism and extremism, while #makingastand saw British Muslim mums doing just that against “bedroom radicalisation” of sons and daughters and “jihadi wives”. Many British Muslim teenage girls are upset over their ‘Muslim sisters’ being sucked into extremism saying they’re “sick to death of it”. Moreover, according to an article in the Telegraph, there are those who even question the mindset behind their actions: why give up the freedoms and opportunities of the West to live as an appendage to a Jihadist, they ask.
And it’s that mindset that is exactly the point. Many in the Muslim community don’t even identify with the desire to become radicalised, let alone wanting to follow in their footsteps.
Isn’t it time we start seeing British Muslims without all the suspicion? Clearly no one denies the existence of radical and militant Islamist groups like ISIS, Al Quaeda and Boko Haram. We can’t be naiive about them and simply say they are just a select minority, because they do seem to be having an impact on the wider community, with girls as young as 15 and 16 being drawn into become jihadi brides, and countless young Muslim men and boys signing up.
But for all those who are travelling to Syria and Pakistan and elsewhere to join the extremist movement, there are tens of thousands of other Muslims who live everyday normal lives like you and I.
And truth be told, it’s not just the West who view Muslims with suspicion and even contempt. There’s inter-racism within the South Asian community too. I’m not talking just about historic conflicts. Post 9/11 has been a difficult time for all Asians, with various sections of our community at one time or another being targets for ignorant racists- those idiots who think any brown skinned person carrying a backpack or wearing a long coat must be concealing a bomb. But we have to get over our prejudice and stand united as a community, as far as we can, because otherwise are simply isolating the Muslim community even further.
So this weekend, greet your Muslim neighbour, colleague, friend and say Eid Mubarak to them. Shake their hands, accept their gifts and remember that we live in a volatile world, in difficult times. It would be refreshing for just one day to forget our differences and remember that we are all human.