As a Muslim woman I was never fearful in Britain. But today I’m afraid Masuma Rahim


Source: The Guardian

BY Masuma Rahim

I have despaired at much of what I have seen and heard over the past 15 years. There was a time when people asked me quite frequently whether I was pro al-Qaida; whether I thought the 9/11 attacks and the 7/7 bombings were a good thing. I thought it was a bit offensive to ask that, but I was only in my early 20s and I reasoned that at least they were asking rather than assuming I was sympathetic to hateful ideology.

Time moves on, however, and no one ever asked me if I thought the butchering of Lee Rigby was good or what I thought of Charlie Hebdo, or Boko Haram or the atrocities of Islamic State across the world. I suppose that’s progress, but it doesn’t feel like progress in the grand scheme of things.

The fact is that over the past few years, I have felt increasingly ill at ease. This is what it’s like each time I hear of yet another atrocity. First, there is always horror, and a hope – a fervent hope – that the perpetrators do not consider themselves Muslim. Then I detest myself for hoping that, but I know if they do claim to be Muslim, the backlash will be terrible. It frightens me.

Next, I feel I have a duty to distance Islam from the acts of supposed Muslims. I resent feeling I have to do so; to “out” my faith as non-violent. I am tired of defending my belief system and myself. I have committed no crimes.

And though I am awed at the outpouring of grief – at the solidarity with those whose safety and way of life has been so cruelly violated – I wonder why we rarely see similar outpourings when atrocities are conducted in non-western countries. I become angry, but then I worry that this anger, while understandable and valid, is dangerous and divisive. I worry about the impact on me.

Since the Paris attacks I have been more frightened than ever. There has been a300% increase in reported Islamophobic attacks. A number of Islamic centres, including the Finsbury Park mosque, have been targeted in arson attacks. This is against a backdrop of videos of verbal and physical Islamophobic attacks on public transport – and it is notable that, while people are happy to film these incidents, few appear keen to step in and assist.

And last week’s headline in the Sun, that one in five British Muslims have “sympathy for jihadis” – a fearmongering distortion based on questionable research – has done nothing to make Muslims feel safe or supported. It is certainly not the case that everyone is out to attack us, but we cannot be blamed for feeling frightened.

I’m a Muslim female of small stature. I use public transport to get everywhere. I often come home late. I wear the hijab. I am an easy target. But I have never, aside from one incident where a man called me “fucking scum” and then left me alone, had any trouble. I mean, I think a boy on the bus called me “clothhead” circa 1999, but we can hardly count that.

In fact, sometimes I am amazed that I have never had a torrent of abuse thrown at me or been beaten up – yet.

Because this run of good luck can’t last for ever, can it? One day it simply has to run out. People who look like me and speak like me are being given hell every day and I am not. And what if, one day, it is me? I doubt a full and frank theological discussion will dissuade my abuser. What am I going to say – “Actually, I’m a liberal, secular Shia, and Isis hate me probably more than they hate you, so let’s be friends”? Hardly. And I’m not the sort to inflame a situation by hurling insults back, so I’d have to sit there and take it.

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5 replies

  1. Why are they always the only ones complaining about hate and exclusion which are the things they practise? There are Hindus, Buddhists and people of other faiths all over Britain. Why do they not remain professional complainers? Residing in Britain is not compulsory. Those who cannot fit in should leave.

  2. With regard to your thoughts on “thoughts and prayers” not being enough with regard to NZ terror attacks. Your article is lazy, parroting the rejection of “thoughts and prayers “from the Parkland School shooting victims. This rejection in the US is about gun control.. with a bit of research you will find that Australia and New Zealand have the strictest gun control laws in the world. I agree that fascism that promotes violence should be condemned where ever it exists. I notice that you big your self up by saying ISIS is not a fan of yours , let’s face it why would they be you are an educated woman with a voice. What you fail to acknowledge in your article is any condemnation of Islamic fascism in the Islamic world. The images of slaughter, mass murder, fatwas and calls for jihad against apostates and the west has been saturating the news for decades
    So when you say something needs to be done beyond “thoughts and prayers” start with more reflective writing and avoid irrelevats “cliches ” from unrelated issues in the US.

    • Carmen: I have been living in ‘the Muslim world’ for most of my life. Fatwas and call for jihad? Besides crazy splinter groups like ISIS / Daesh I never heard of any such calls. No proper government anywhere has called for it. Slaughter and mass murder, yes, mostly with weapons supplied by the ‘oh so democratic world’. Yes, some Muslim groups are crazy, after all just because America floods Libya and Syria with arms they are not really forced to kill each other. Ah well, what a world. Thanks God we have voices that cal for peace, as you will notice if you read other pages of or go to

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