"The river is crystal clear. Its water remains pure, sweet and unpolluted. It reflects the colour of the riverbed. Thus it is that Islam in China is Chinese, just as in Africa it is African, and in Britain it is British." - Shaikh Ba.
On Monday last week, 24th January, UK television broadcasted a half hour segment 'Inside Out', which is a series similar to BBC's Panorama, but based in north England, Yorkshire.
Inside Out focused on three issues, the recent assaults on young white girls and by extension - racialism, and the rise and reasons of British men converting to Islam. This caught my eye as usually Islam's mention in the media here in the UK involves a hijab-row, two Muslims verbally bashing one another or some alien "expert" explaining how we're all potentially radicalised Muslims with -isms and schisms and Allah knows what else exploding out of every orafice.
And so, I was intrigued that the introductory newscast portrayed both sides of Islamophobia - those who are victims of it, and those who perpetrate it. We learn that Islam comes to those people who seek it.
Ask any UK layman what he thinks of when he hears 'Islam' and within the first sentence he/she will mention terrorism, or, if he/she happens to be academically inclined, the words 'Islamophobia', 'media potrayal' and 'moderate beliefs' will make a guest appearance. Islam is in the spotlight. But not for the right reasons. Yet while our American cousins' pro-active and media-savvy skills are showing the ordinary lives of extraordinary Muslims, we British are still depending on so-and-so MP and so-and-so imam who tend to have a love-hate relationship with their community. I'm still adamant that our role in politics, media and mosques would help new Muslims and those without faith see the real Islam, and not some regurgitated history failure.
The most important and saddening information in the episode itself came from, a convert of over twenty years who said he received prejudice not from outsiders but from fellow Muslims.
"I've been accused od betraying my race, my culture, y'know, being called a terrorist and all that type of stuff, even to the point of being called a white-paki.
In my experiences I've had more prejudice from Muslims than non-Muslims, I hate to say it - because of my colour, ethnicity, because I'm looked upon as a .. second-class Muslim..."On a more harmonious note, Paul Martin became Muslim four years and despite struggling with family questions, finds peace with a multi-cultural mosque in Leeds, UK, where (thankfully) nobody is pulled into one ethnic or religious group.
Jeremy Rowland was attracted to how the Qur'an explained the social condition of people, and personally spoke to help him. Watch the short programme:
Feel free to share your thoughts. Are you a convert? What was the greatest struggle? What would you tell 'born Muslims' who haven't gone through conversion?