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Articles > Culture February, 08, 2016

What Is It Really Like Being A Young British Muslim?

Hanaa Mohammed
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9.10 / 10

When asked what people associate with the word ‘Muslim’, most responses involved words such as terrorism, forced marriages or oppression. As a young British Muslim, I can tell you that I don’t fit into a single one of those remarks, despite them having been thrown at me like sharp knives in recent years. Yes, I’ve had a lot of bad experiences which I’ll share with you below…

british muslim girl wearing hijab with union jack and tea

I’ve always been quite happy as a British Muslim, living in a predominantly white area of north England. And contrary to the life most people assume I have when they scorn at my headscarf; I am a dog walking, cycling and challenge-taking 18-year-old Muslim girl who has never felt restrained from any opportunities. I am a very typical British citizen who enjoys her very British fish and chips and her very British tea and biscuits.

“I heard a man remark to his partner ‘look at that f*cking ninja’. That’s how it is now for a lot of normal Muslims like myself”.

Unfortunately, the negative press surrounding Muslims in recent years  has led to many of us trying to constantly prove ourselves innocent and non-violent. In the summer of 2015, there was a very hot day, and like any other excited Brit I like to take advantage of a day without rain. I was enjoying a nice walk in the heat, eating a cold ice cream when I felt eyes peering into me. Not so long after, someone in a parked up car rolled down their windows and asked if “the weather reminds [me] of back home where [I] belong?”

I ignored it as a one off because I am well aware that most people don’t intend to intimidate me and are actually very friendly, but then I noticed remarks like this more and more often.

For example, as a hyper teenager, supermarket shopping means sliding down the aisles on the trolley while shopping and bopping my head up and down. Usually families join in with me and have a laugh so never have I hesitated in enjoying myself no matter what I do. In my long black garment and headscarf I continued to slide up and down the aisle when I heard a man remark to his partner “look at that f*cking ninja”. That’s how it is now for a lot of normal Muslims like myself.

I feel like British Muslims have become a lot more conscious of how they look to others, and that isn’t just me making an assumption. My mother asked me to remove my black ‘abaya’ ; which is a long dress and replace it with a pair of jeans for my own safety while traveling over to Switzerland. I asked her why she did it, and she said it was so I didn’t intimidate other people and that security will be more vigilant about me being a ‘threat’.

“I believe that no religion promotes violence. No corrupt and deviant individual or group shapes or defines a religion.”

What I say is this: do not feel the need to prove yourself because of the stereotypes put upon your ethnicity, religion or colour. You as an individual are not defined by what the press think that they know about you. Do not remove your hooded jumper just because when paired with your skin colour it makes you seem intimidating, or your headscarf because the media says you’re a threat.

I believe that no religion promotes violence. No corrupt and deviant individual or group shapes or defines a religion. It is basic humanity to know that any sort of violence towards innocent individuals is an act of terrorism and is not acceptable.

I am a young British Muslim. I shop with elderly white couples and help them walk their dogs. I enjoy chick flicks, horror movies and weekends away from school work. It’s sad that I must try to justify myself but, I am not a terrorist.

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  1. Marwa Amrani

    I’ll say one thing: ISLAM has no relationship with terrorism.

  2. Mohamed Ali

    Every Muslim should take the responsibility of being a good ambassador to Islam . This way the people who live with you , stand next to you and go to school with you; will see a different picture as potrayed by the media . This way we can send positive message that Islam isn’t about killing people recklessly and also show the flaws and responsibility of media giving a bad image to Islam .

  3. Adel Abdullah

    I think… The problem here is the media … Media is what ppl believe …

  4. zainab

    I can totally relate to this

  5. Javeria Amin

    This was a great article and I am proud to be British muslim.

  6. sidahmed maaradji

    islam is religionof equality religion of mercy and justice ,not as you think terrorism

  7. s

    I totally agree with this article. Muslim women are seen as terroists but the main cause for this is the media who wants to create newsworthiness. The looks that muslim women get when they are outside their homes is really disturbing and not fair.

  8. Kate Haddley

    I think…excellent article. I have a lot of Muslim friends, but not just those in the UK, but many from abroad…can’t stand the media crap. I’m an atheist, so I’m not religious but I have no problem with anyone enjoying their religion. In fact I don’t see what right anyone has in interfering in someone else’s life. My experience of my Muslim friends is friendly, loving, funny friends..same as anyone else…although better cooks than my non Muslim friends! I should add one more thing I’m gay and my friends do not care, maybe deep down they might, like the way deep down everyone is racist against everyone else apparently…but really they don’t care because what are all these labels people feel the need to use. Can’t we just, as you say, go the park for a walk, have a chat, and eat ice creams? Eee but fish n chips though…they have gone a bit crap imho, tea n biscuits yeah but only for dipping…also a Northerner 🙂 haha. I worry about my friends In these times, what they are going through, how they feel? your experience highlights this. Can’t be doing with idiots who are media slaves. One day it will end!

  9. Nik patel

    I think… people often look at things that happened in the past like 1400 years ago. Even christianity has had its fair share of blood and oppression. Many people look at things in theee own narrow minded views. As a hindu i have worked in many areas which are muslim predominated areas. I dont have problems. The young idiots give the others a bad name. And that is the same for all religions and people. When white people ask me why dont you fear muslims my response when my dad came from india so did many muslims too. They all stack together because of the racism they had suffered. But never did they fight or hate each other they respected each others faith. All religions teach us love and humanity and peace amongst all. Dont let some of the petry idiots that use religion as a tool to divide and conquer to promote hate. Mr NK Patel.

  10. Spatel

    We are all Muslims at the end of the day and if anybody hurts us in any way, we should show them what Islam is really like and that we’re about peace. That is our job in this world no matter what.

  11. Abdul Moiz Javed

    The reason why more than half of Europe hates Muslims is that they have the same Graeco-roman mode of thoughts that separated the world into Greeks and Romans on one side and Barbarians on the other. Naturally, such a narrowed angle of vision is bound to produce a distorted perspective

  12. Fatima Saleh

    Why do we Muslim women get more racial abuse and threats than the Muslim men? yet most of the crimes committed by Muslims are committed by men? (from experience, I get it a lot, whereas the males in my family hardly ever do)

    • SA

      i would say because all most all muslim women have to wear a hijab and that is one of the main signs of islam and most would associate that to it. compared to muslim men who don’t really wear the traditional islamic clothes and would be harder to notice if they’re muslim or not. idk thats just my own take on what you said.

  13. Fatima Saleh

    I think…you cant associate or compare certain countries, laws and beliefs with religion. eg, Andrew Amison mentioned a Christian Pakistani family who took refuge here. I know a few Christian Pakistanis who live here and love going to Pakistan, so maybe it depends on the area theyre in? education? contact with the outside world?…Saudia Arabia is a muslim Country, Just like Dubai. But both treat people of different faith and beliefs differently. As we all know, Saudia Arabia has done some horrific stuff and has harsh rules, but you also need to go there to fully understand it, rather than be brainwashed by the media. There are a lot of white Brits who move there for a better life, who aren’t muslim. My dad met a white Brit whilst visiting there, and he was a manager of a huge successful business, and said that whilst here in England, he was a street cleaner, and was struggling in every way.
    I don’t wear the Islamic dress, except the scarf. One time I did, and I had compliments from people who were interested in what I was wearing, which was nice. I have also received a lot of abuse, been called a ‘high heeled suicide bomber’ ‘turban warrior’ ‘muslims should all get shot’ a gang of men even smashed bottles they were drinking and threatened to glass me and my little sister., oh and also had the scarf pulled off by 3 lads. Anyways, I have also been out with my hair out on a few occasions. I got followed by a man in a van down 3 streets until I threatened to ring the police because I had his reg.. well, id prefer the racial abuse than stalking. Anyways. there’s good and bad everywhere. If religion did not exist and people could not blame religion, then it would be race, language, sexuality etc. Theres always something. and we all know how the media works.
    There were no suicide bombers or strict rules in Afghanistan or ISIS until America and England invaded these countries. Check out Afganistan 15 years ago before all this chaos started…they used to dress similar to the western world, just pants and tops with their faces showing…
    ask yourself these, 9/11 was apparently by Saudi Arabians and Afghanistanis, so why was Iraq invaded? what has this then spread to in Libya? Syria? etc. where did these terrorists come from that never existed before? plus why is the UK govt making all these cuts so the public are struggling, but find billions to spend on defeating ISIS and not care about killing innocent people along the way?
    (plus there’s 2 billion Muslims on this earth… if we were really terrorists, you’d all be dead)

  14. Bismah

    I am a Muslim too.. and after reading your article, I must say, them deep words drove me in tears. I agree with you sister.

  15. Andrew Amison

    I hear people complain about the way they are treated for being Muslim, but honestly how I be treated if I went to Pakistan as a Christian? A whole lot worse. In fact I’m friends with a family of Christians who took asylum here from Pakistan, because they received death threats and were shot at.

    I was also talking with a Muslim friend who said to me herself that as much as she believes the religion, the culture is oppressive and really frustrates her. She also said to me not to go down in a certain are because they would see my white face and be suspicious…. Muslims complain about people being suspicious of them but white people get the same response Muslim communities.

    I’m slow to trust what the media says, but it’s the stories of real people, that’s different.

    • Yasmin

      That doesn’t justify the treatment of Muslims in Western societies, no one should be made to feel that way including a white Christian in a Muslim society. Islam doesn’t encourage such attitudes, if anything it’s down to the people and their mentality. Every place will be different. As for the culture aspect being oppressive, far too often culture gets in the way of religion. In reality they are two very different things. Many people are forsaking religion for cultural practises sadly.

    • Aya

      Here’s something wrong with what you said: ‘ a Muslim friend who said to me herself that as much as she believes the religion, the culture is oppressive and really frustrates her.’

      Whoever you’re friend is, is sending you false information. Let me break it down, Islam is a religion, NOT a culture. Here, your friend is saying she believes in Islam but the culture is oppressive – that is two different things. Culture is what everyone is born in, it’s a racial societal group. You don’t have to even have a religion to have a culture, i.e. British culture, Indian culture, Japanese culture etc…

      One thing she is right about is culture can be oppressive – That doesn’t make Islam oppressive, why? – because Islam is a religion not a culture, in fact there are many things in Islam and in any religion that goes against different things in different cultures. For example, in Islam women can drive, however Saudi Arabia has a culture in which women aren’t allowed. How is this identified? – simple- because there are many Muslim countries in which women can drive.

      Therefore I ask you to please not tie in culture and religion together, they are NOT the same thing.

    • Aaishah Ahmed

      I agree with you- everyone should be open and tolerant of different religions and lifestyles. It’s hypocritical for anyone, not just a Muslim, to treat a person differently or harshly because of their colour, beliefs, gender or sexuality. The problem you highlight here however isn’t the blame of Islam or the religion, but the people that follow it. I’m not pointing at people from Pakistani origin, I’ saying people in general everywhere, can be harsher to people that they don’t really know or understand. This isn’t the fault of the religion, but the people who interpret it wrongly or aren’t aware of the acceptance Islam teaches. The fault lies with the people not the religion.

      Also, what should be taken into consideration is the way Muslims are being made to feel by society today. Many of us, where we go we are bombarded with glares and remarks and sometimes physical assault. We know not everyone is like this, but it becomes harder day by day to show my face in a public place out of fear of what will happen. Many don’t understand the fear and hatred the media has placed upon the people around us so that if I were to wear my scarf, I would be treated in such a way by strangers that I would feel completely rejected. Many Muslims feel trapped by the stereotypes the media portrays of us.

      Unfortunately, the media doesn’t cover reality- there are real heroes out there that are saving and helping the world and we don’t hear about them. We are constantly bombarded by something called a ‘moral panic’ where there’s a focus on all the horrible negative stuff going on in the world, and a lot of it is exaggerated or a manipulation of the truth. Often moral panics are a way of the media distracting everyone from something else. Regularly,the media has focused on groups of people, whether they be Muslims, Jews, Irish, Black etc. and at the same time we’ve suffered some form of a financial crisis because of the government or the wealthy in society being too greedy. Don’t believe me? Look it up. The real question here is what is the media trying to cover up. Yes, all these extremist attacks are absolutely horrid, but there’s been so much coverage on it that surely your bound to think-what else is going on in the world? This can’t be the only problem? Is the world really this bad.

      Let me assure you, there’s a reason Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the world. There are over 1.8 billion people in a 7 billion people world that identify themselves as Muslim. With so many people willing to call themselves Muslim, then there must be something peaceful and accepting about the religion that appeals to so many people around the world. You can’t judge people by the events around the world or the bad experiences you’ve had. You can’t judge based on a small pockets of extremist groups that don’t understand the religion and it’s teachings at all. You can’t judge a whole race or religious community because of that. If you don’t want to be willingly discriminated against or be prone to prejudice, it’s unfair of you to think that way of a whole culture and way of life. Not everyone is like that. We understand that, so should you.

    • karim

      what are you talking about dude !! Let’s assume that what you’re saying is true , does it justify what is happening to this young lady !! that’s not an excuse. plus, it’s not because there is some crazy Muslims out there that islam is bad , ( islam is not Muslims) . I just wanted to tell you as an Egyptian , ( 80% of egyptians are muslims) we live our every day life with a lot of Egyptians who are Christians just normally. my best friend is Christian. ( they are the minority of the population , so its not like we are obligated or something ,, we actually love them). there some Jewish also , and rarely some atheist , but in the we treat everyone as a human being,

    • Abdul Moiz Javed

      Brother, If you ever really visit Pakistan or Arabia you will not find any more hospitable place, the rights of minorities are truly reserved. Some people though take foreigners as a threat to their culture. Just like Jews in Jerusalem