Tahira Chaudhry, Croydon
As I walked home today I encountered a ‘gentleman’ who when crossing paths with me decided rather sadly to look at me with disapproval and then spit in my pathway. In my mind, he was no doubt consumed by some form and mingling of both hatred and a lack of knowledge. I even surprised myself because I was not overcome with anger rather I felt a deep sense of sadness for him. What was it that made him react this way? Racism, sexism, the way I was dressed which showed that I was Muslim? In today’s world it could be a plethora of ‘isms’ or ‘phobias.’ It could even have been in actuality a sense of fear of the extremism we are increasingly seeing.
As a mother of four sons the stark reality of extremism is a dim and sad reality. The encounter brought to the surface for me the fear faced by real people in today’s society. No innocent bystander ever wants to have to explain himself but the situation faced by Britain and much of the world today means crucially it is essential to disassociate ourselves with such behaviour and voice the message of the real and true Islam. And so do I begin.
Having been born and brought up in Britain I feel and believe I am very much British. I am a British Ahmadi Muslim woman. It is very much my identity and who I am. So, to even have to discuss with an aim of reassuring others that I am no threat sometimes seems so wrong. My faith also makes me who I am and the fact that loyalty to my homeland is very much a part of my faith makes me even stronger in my vigil. Last month we celebrated International Women’s Day but as I heard so many fellow Ahmadi Muslim women say, ‘In Islam every day is Women’s Day.’ For those that base their thoughts not on hearsay but pursue knowledge they will find the treasures of the great status given to women in Islam. Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community stated: “Let it be crystal clear that in no respect is a woman’s status less than that of a man.”
I am the daughter of an Asian Ahmadi Muslim father who rejoiced at fathering four daughters wishing us to aspire to the highest levels of knowledge and education. There was no suppression and anyone that knows me knows I am anything but suppressed. My parents, my faith and my country give me freedom and liberty and have taught me the values of love and respect for all regardless of creed, colour, religion, race or status. Almost 60 years ago my father as an immigrant brought diversity to British culture and his faith assisted him in integration. He looked up to the values and goodness in British society and then celebrated it his entire life.
Having been born in Britain for me the first glimpse of extremism I had ever witnessed came at 9/11. I was sat at my desk in the centre of London and I remember the shiver of fear that swept down Fleet Street. I remember feeling dumbfounded and questioning how the perpetrators of such an atrocity could call themselves ‘Muslims?’
My four sons are the second generation in our family being raised here in Britain and like me the love of this great country flows through them. But a sad and unfortunate reality is that they face challenges beyond those ever faced by me. Growing up in the 80s and 90s I saw nothing but wonderful British values and an accepting community. In contrast my children face extremism on a daily basis together with a barrage of news and both accurate and inaccurate accounts of it.
In the face of such fear what do we do? Paradoxically a fear of extremism is creating a rush to push through extreme measures and decisions in themselves intended to curb the spread of it but in reality rulings that are themselves extreme and curb the liberty which we so love. It is in these trying times when we are facing such paradoxes and questions of what is ethically right that our children are growing up. No longer just battling teenage hormones our youngsters and tomorrows future are grappling confusion and controversy at a level never witnessed before. History bears testament to the effects of hatred. It is in this fear that I remain content because my faith and my children’s faith teaches us every day to seek knowledge. In the face of adversity to educate, to love and respect is the way forward. It is in adopting these principles that you truly testify to being both truly British and truly a Muslim. To counter extremism and to instil the love I write of, within our children we must lead by example as did our forefathers. Today more than ever before the time has arrived to practice ‘Love for All Hatred for None.’