By Areeb Siddiqui
03 April 2017
From the actions of a madman on the streets
of London last week to the 200 civilians killed in airstrikes targeting IS in
Mosul, we live in a time where it’s considered a slow news day if Islam doesn’t
make the headlines in some form. More often than not, this is unfortunately for
all the wrong reasons.
On a macro scale, this negative attention
has helped fuel the anti-immigrant ‘Islamophobic’ rhetoric that has dominated
nationalist campaigns ranging from Europe all the way to the seat of the White
House itself. However, an often-overlooked casualty of this fear mongering is
the roughly 47 million Muslims living and working peacefully in Western
countries. Many Muslims feel increasingly pressured to differentiate themselves
from those individuals seen committing the atrocities we’ve sadly become
accustomed to, even going so far as to hide the extent to which they practice
Islam, or the fact that they’re Muslim at all from their co-workers.
This trend was made obvious to me a couple
of years ago, when a former colleague of mine at Deloitte was genuinely shocked
to find out that I prayed five times a day. After ruling out that this wasn’t
some kind of special day in the Islamic calendar, and that I did in fact (like
many other Muslims) perform obligatory prayers, eat halal, fast in Ramadan,
they stated “well as long as your imam doesn’t have a hook for a hand I won’t
The reference to the infamous Finsbury Park
Imam and fundamentalist preacher was obviously a joke and I didn’t take it in
any other way. However, it struck me as odd that someone who worked for a
company that boasts London’s largest and most active Muslim network was so
painfully unaware of common place practices of so many of their colleagues
(Deloitte even has an amazing multi-faith room on campus that can be used at
After asking around, I found that many of
my Muslim co-workers felt embarrassed drawing attention to this side of their
lives, even if it meant missing a prayer rather than excusing themselves for
5-10 minutes, or becoming perpetual vegetarians rather than asking for a halal
option (not that there’s anything wrong with vegetarianism; it’s just a life
style choice I’d rather not be forced into).
The danger here is that by covering up aspects
of our lives that hold huge importance to us, we risk making the divide between
‘us and them’ seem larger than it really is. Attempts to normalise ourselves to
seemingly fit in with society, could mean that we end up relegating some of the
most basic tenets of our faith to being viewed as ‘too extreme’, whether it’s
attending the mosque on a Friday or wearing a headscarf in public.
I am truly proud to have lived and worked
in a city as diverse and culturally rich as London. Deloitte provided me with
the freedom to practice my religion openly, and with my recent move to a much
smaller firm where I was the only Muslim requiring a prayer room, I felt
completely at ease to ask if a prayer space could be made available ( a request
they didn’t hesitate to accommodate). Unfortunately, I’m not sure I could say
the same if I lived and worked in some of our neighbouring European countries.
The European Court of Justice’s recent
decision to allow firms to ban all ‘visible religious symbols’, a ruling
spurred by the dismissal of two women by their employers for refusing to remove
their headscarves, is thankfully an unimaginable and highly disturbing scenario
here in the UK–despite those who would undoubtedly welcome it.
We cannot let the actions of a few be
representative of the 22% of the human race that identify as Muslim, and
neither can we let them dictate the way in which we live our lives. By hiding
the aspects of our faith that we hold most dear, we miss the opportunity to
show those of other faiths and cultures the other side of the coin through our
daily interactions with people at work and at school.
I for one will not be hiding.
Areeb is a Management Consultant specialising in the asset management
industry, living and working in London. Topics and interests range from matters
of faith, finance, science and wildlife.
(2:239) If ye fear (an enemy), pray on foot, or riding, (as may be most convenient), but when ye are in security, celebrate Allah´s praises in the manner He has taught you, which ye knew not (before).
When you (O Messenger) are with them, and stand to lead them in prayer, Let
one party of them stand up (in prayer) with you, Taking their arms with them:
When they finish their prostrations, let them Take their position in the rear.
And let the other party come up which has not yet prayed - and let them pray
with you, Taking all precaution, and bearing arms: the kafaru wish, if you were negligent of your arms and your baggage, to assault you in a single rush.
But there is no blame on you if you put away your arms because of the
inconvenience of rain or because you are ill; but take (every) precaution for
yourselves. For the kafirin Allah has prepared a humiliating punishment.
When you pass (Congregational) prayers, celebrate Allah´s praises, standing,
sitting down, or lying down on your sides; but when you are free from danger,
set up Regular Prayers: For such prayers are enjoined on the Mominin at stated