Perhaps I just wasn’t aware of it but growing up faith didn’t seem something you displayed openly. I remember finding it strange if anyone used such phrases as God Bless anywhere outside the conventional origins of the phrase; ie. in a church setting; even though the phrase fitted the language. Faith in the UK is quieter and, generally, the practise of Christianity is not openly identifiable when you meet a Christian person. As a Muslim woman who chooses to wear a headscarf I openly declare our families faith, and though my decision is unwavering, I do sometimes wonder if I’ve (un)necessarily complicated things. When I think about travelling to, and certainly in relation to living for any period of time in the UK, the governments Prevent movement is ever present in the back of my mind. Playing here, our kids are accustomed to hearing calls of Allah Akbar when their battalion of ‘soldiers’ charge; to call on God as you go into anything is as normal as asking for a blessing before beginning any meal or starting up the car. Inshallah, bismillah – and yes, Allah Akbar – are part of our everyday phrases. Except, while In the Name of God – even said in Arabic – sounds utterly non threatening when said whilst speaking English, “Praise be to God” has a different connotation. In the wake of world events recently, the idea of walking through an airport with my Turkish husband and children liable to break into the call of Allah Akbar; myself wearing a headscarf, returning from the border country to ISIS with Arabic named contacts programmed into my phone -well, there’s a myriad of ways that could end badly. I have, unlike friends subhanallah, never been asked to remove my scarf in addition to the security basic pat-down, but I have nevertheless started wondering if a hat would be a safer bet when traveling and if it would be wise to carry a never ending gob-stopper supply for the kids.
I took this picture the morning of the first day of Eid Al Hada.
When I took it it represented to me the beauty of it, how after every Festival of Sacrifice Allah sends the rains as if to clean the blood left behind and with it the stains from our souls from the year that’s passed. A few days later I’m looking at it seeing how twee that sounds despite its sincerity. It’s a delicate balance, linking Turkish and British cultures and the roles Islam plays in both. Whilst the holidays we celebrate here are Islamic festivals, there’s still much of the culture that’s not; and the holiday’s the UK celebrates are in no way connected to ours. For most of the UK, our holidays hold no meaning and as Islam is thrust into the spotlight in exceedingly negative ways it frustrates me that the beauty of Islam is lost – but how do you share sentiments like the feelings I shared above without coming off as a bit of a religious nut? In a culture where fish bones are removed before serving, is it possible for animal sacrifices to be seen through any other eyes than ones that see only the blood and death? Is it possible for the beauty of our religion to ever be seen for what it is to me; a chosen surrender to peaceful living, where family and charity comes first? Will our children be fighting the stereotyping all their lives, and how can we make that easier?
Religion, and it feels Islam is particular is rather like the kids favourite slide. This slide is less a slide and more a perfectly angled wall, from which you throw yourself vertically down! It’s about comfortable fear. And it’s this I feel so often when religious anxiety kicks in; about our families and responsibilities to them, the practicalities of everything that’s entailed in coordinating lifestyles, cultures, words; and I think it’s how I feel too about wearing hijab. It’s on one level the most comfortable thing to do, and on another a flashing beacon of faith I might never be quite free of the fear of. Were we in the UK I wouldn’t want to be the mum who tells her kids to avoid “inshallah” before sports matches, but I wouldn’t want my kids being the ones saying it out load. I want them to be accepting and welcoming to all people regardless of how they live their lives, but I need to educate them that not everyone will be as tolerant of theirs. They need to know that’s ok and it needn’t, shouldn’t, change the way they react to the world. It’s just how to teach that while I struggle with the anger and frustration myself. It’s easy now, they accept most of everything I say; as they grow older and their debating skills strengthen, that’s when the difficulties will come. I just pray that by then this will all be redundant time I’ve spent worrying on this. But if not, remember little ones…If in the face of darkness you can give back light, you’re winning my darlings, I promise.