It’s Valentine’s day 1989. Margaret Thatcher is prime minister and Kylie, Yazz and Bros are making noise. Far away, Iran’s supreme leader issues a fatwa demanding the death of British author Salman Rushdie – and the effect on young Muslims in the UK is huge.
Alyas Karmani was soaking up everything student life had to offer. He’d grown up in Tooting, south London, in a traditional Pakistani household, his father a bus driver and trade unionist. Religion was an important part of Alyas’s upbringing but not something he was particularly interested in.
“We were obedient to our parents. We’d go to the mosque when it was required but we had a clandestine double-life existence,” he says. “We were partying, smoking weed, going out with girls and doing everything we could possibly do.”
So when it was time to choose a university, Alyas ran away from his Pakistani Muslim identity and headed 400 miles north to Glasgow. “I was running as fast as possible. I was a ‘self-hating Paki’. I didn’t want brown friends. All my friends were white liberal mainstream types. That was my crowd.”
In Glasgow, Alyas would become an important fixture on the student scene. He ran club nights and loved music and dancing. “I had a wonderful time and then something really inconvenient happened in 1989.”