Huff Post: Dear Friend,
I write this article with a hint of melancholy, for looking outwards at the world the disharmony and disunity that surrounds us is vast, and threatens to engulf us all. Human beings are inherently good, however when faced with threats or terror or fears, it brings out the worst in many of us. One of the major threats today comes from fanatical Muslims, and in response to this we have allowed our own extremists to come to the forefront of our political landscape, demonising and victimising minority groups, spreading messages of discord, even blowing the trump-ets of war.
Most of us fortunately still remain tolerant, and kind, and compassionate, though in the recesses of many hearts there perhaps exists a flicker of doubt nonetheless. It is a doubt about the religion of Islam, a faith which echoes throughout the front pages of newspapers regularly, yet still ironically remains a mystery to us, a deep and profound unknown which we have never really understood. What is Islam truly about? Is it a backward, barbaric religion at its core, as some suggest, or is it a faith of beneficence, of tolerance, of beauty? One way to find the truth is through academia – to discover Islam theologically and perhaps spiritually. But, my friend, if you perceive that you have not the time for such study, then I invite you to a different, more direct route to put your heart and mind at ease.
For most of the year, Oakland Farm in Alton, Hampshire lies silent, the grass untainted, the landscape rarely noticed. It sits at the top of the South Downs, and between the time that the sun rises and sets each day, a human voice is rarely heard. For three days each year however, the dormancy transforms into life. The farm converts into a city, as over 30,000 Muslims from across the world trek to this distant, unlikely location for a long weekend like no other.