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'Should I have to pretend?'


By Sarah Joseph, Muslim activist

London, The Times:

Sarah Joseph is 31 with three children and is a writer and Islamic affairs consultant.

“ ‘Two aeroplanes have gone into the World Trade Centre.’ ” It’s my mother’s voice.

‘What?’ She repeats the words. Slowly they sink in. ‘Oh God, I hope it’s not Muslims.’

Me, a Muslim yet this is my first thought. Later, mum calls and she speaks to my husband: ‘Tell Sarah not to wear her scarf tomorrow.’ He relays the message. I sob down the phone. My tears fall on my three-week-old baby as she feeds from me. ‘Should I pretend I am not a Muslim? Should I tell myself I don’t believe in God?

Mum understands, she agrees with me, she just fears for me. She remembers the Gulf war when people spat at me in central London, when they raised their arms in ‘Heil Hitler’ salutes. She’s just a mother and she fears for her daughter.

I’m just a mother and I fear for my daughter. If I am to bring up this baby as a Muslim, then I must make it safe to be one.

I have never felt that there is a conflict with me as a Briton and me as a Muslim. Yet so easily, my loyalty to my country and my fellow countrymen are called into question. Indeed my very ‘right’ to be here is called into question.

Yet this is my home. My family have been here for generations, fought in our wars. England is the only place I can ever imagine calling home.

But my religious faith is Islam, and Islam is perceived as a thing apart. It is only as foreign as Christianity once was — for both faiths emanate from the same part of the world and come from the same God and hold to the same prophets.”

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