I am a muslim not an extremist!
It has almost been a full year since I made the conscious decision to revert to Islam. This decision had not come lightly, I started my journey in May 2014. I had always been somewhat spiritual, not necessarily always living my life in the way that Allah has asked of us, drinking and selling alcohol, taking various narcotics, being lustful and so on and so forth. But I had come to a point where I did not know where my life was going. On my usual evening walk amongst nature, or as close I could get to it in a city like London, I repeatedly asked God (as I referred to our creator at that time) to help me out and guide me. After a few months of repeating this plea, and at a moment when I was ready to give up, Allah brought me a gift. I asked a Muslim brother at work if he had books, which he promptly brought to me.
After reading through these books, well fully read one and half read the other, I had my mind opened up. I started looking for more resources online. I downloaded a Qur’an app onto my phone so I could read it on my commutes to work without anyone noticing. A sister from the same workplace then gave me a modern English translation which was a lot easier to read. After reading the first few verses of Al-Baqarah (The Cow) I became muslim. I referred back to one of the original books and I took my Shahadah.
For the first few months, I struggled a little with my reversion, not fully living the Islamic way of life. Primarily because I still had my pigheadedness of I can do this alone and in my own way, like I had before with Christianity. Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God) Allah brought a beautiful Muslim sister into my life, who herself had gone slightly off the path. I believe we were brought together to help each other to the right path. Allah also took me out of my current work situation which got me to move from a really negative house situation to a new place in possibly the Islam heartland of London. And it is true when they say your Imaan (faith) grows stronger when surrounded by the right brothers and sisters. Currently I have 6 or 7 Masjids/Mosques within walking distance of my house.
On a trip to Wood Green one day to collect something for my workplace I came across a Dawah table where I picked up about 10 or 12 books, including a new Qur’an and a book on how to pray Salah (Muslim prayer). From using this book to teach myself the prayer and reading even more into this beautiful faith, Allah guided me more and brought forth even more knowledgable brothers and sisters (mostly brothers) who have been very welcoming and supportive. At one point it was so frequent, often more than one a day, I felt a bit overwhelmed and quite emotional at the power of prayer and good intention of faith and what it can bring.
So, with all this, those who had been closest to me really started to notice quite a change in how I was. Rejecting the temptations of the west such as alcohol and then growing a beard and being strict on only eating Halal food or veggie, if that was all that was available, as well as fasting during Ramadan, which for me was a beautiful experience and a huge learning curve, as well as rejecting opportunities to go out and instead choosing to stay in and pray or go to the mosque/masjid to pray. It was from these, I guess in their eyes quite dramatic changes, that they started to ask questions.
Some queried my intentions. Some queried who made me change. Some asked if I lost my sanity. Some asked why now considering the political climate. Some worried I was becoming an extremist. And most thought I was brainwashed. Most of this came from my own family, which I fully understand giving the media and even, dare I say it, government propaganda against Islam and muslims in general.
We as muslims aim to spread Islam by giving Dawah in whatever way we can because we get great reward from Allah for doing so and bringing other brothers and sisters to Islam. Each day I try do a simple form of this my posting a Dua (prayer) on twitter and facebook in arabic to try and catch an unbeliever’s interest but also as a way of publicly offering up a genuine prayer that I want to offer to Allah on that day. This action alone has had people “worry” about me, yet no one worries when a Christian posts a prayer or passage from the Bible, and I have even had some reply with expletive language.
Also since coming to Islam, and even before I reverted to be fair, I get quite emotional about the oppression I see going on around the world, particularly in the middle east and Palestine/Israel. But I am often afraid to publicly voice my views with the fear of getting accused of anti-semitism or even being accused of having “extremist” views.
This brings me onto what I really want to talk about. The new anti-extremist laws currently going through parliament aimed at trying to tackle extremist behaviour with particular emphasis on the public sector and online. I am afraid that these laws are going to hinder free speakers like myself from saying what we want to say without wanting to cause violence or harm to anyone. I actually have another blog concept that I have been holding off as some fellow brothers and sisters fear that I could actually get arrested for it, and I do see where they are coming from with that fear, but this is supposed to be a democratic society which promotes freedom of speech. I fear that normal muslims, who follow the Qur’an and the life of the prophet (Peace be upon him) and want to spread the final word of Allah are going to be looking over our shoulders when really we shouldn’t.
The part that causes me most worry is Theresa May’s plan to even silence those who do not necessarily break hate crime laws or incite violence. This has left this new bit of policy/law open and vague for policing, will someone like me who airs their views online against the anti-islam mood that is evident in our country get arrested or banned or put on one of these lists? Will the many brothers and sisters throughout the UK doing the good deed of giving Dawah and bringing people to Islam as per Allah’s will suffer any of these fates? Or will reverts like myself who dramatically change their lives to submit themselves to Allah in search of happiness in this life on earth and in the hereafter in Jannah (Paradise/the Heavens) get touted to the security forces by relatives, friends or neighbours?
Some critics have referred to these new proposals as mccartyism and I would have to agree, I certainly feel it is a way of quietening Muslim dissent of everything else that is going on.
I would encourage Ms May and Mr Cameron and all those in a position of power within government and within the media, to take some time out and find out what Islam really is. Doing some research that is not influenced by others, each one will realise that it is actually the most peaceful way of life and the only way of life that we are supposed to live. I don’t see this happening but if even if they understood a little bit better than they currently do, this what seems like a constant attack on our faith will mellow, if not cease. Or at least the alienation and marginalisation may slow down.
Having grown up a Catholic in Northern Ireland my parents always taught me not to tar everyone with the same brush, such as all Catholics are in the IRA and all protestants are in the UVF/UDA, so one day I hope the rhethoric coming from the government and media will dispel the notion that all muslims who reject the western way of life is an extremist or potential extremist.
I leave it there for now and hope the government has a change of mind. To think I was once a Conservative member makes me feel somewhat ashamed of myself. Maybe that other blog I mentioned about writing just might get published soon, let’s see.