As a young Muslim man living in the UK, I have noticed that Muslims around the country, as well as myself, have accepted the normalisation of extreme situations. For example, at the beginning of last year there was a rise in London with acid attacks, especially towards Muslim individuals. I found myself travelling up to London Google-ing “what to do in the event of acid being chucked in my or someone else’s face”. It didn’t shock or worry me to an extent, but allowed me to be prepared if said situation was to happen. It is absurd to think this is normal or to be expected, but unfortunately it is a reality to many.
Growing up there were many other extreme situations that became normal. Post 9/11 being called a terrorist was about as normal as being called ‘mate’. Earphones allowed the abusive words to be drowned out, but it didn’t hide the fact that it was happening.
A frequent worry for female members in my family is worrying whether the hijab or the appearance of brown skin can make you more of a target. With women being attacked in public, on train platforms, and events, I thoroughly pressed on members of my family to take up martial arts, such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, boxing and judo. It’s normal for me to expect an attack on loved ones, but it’s preparing them for when it happens that is my main concern.
These words may seem extreme and exaggerated, but with the rise in far-right groups and false media, people are easily influenced and manipulated by incorrect information. Fear is something I feel most Muslims live with day to day, but our fear has a higher threshold due to this normalisation. It doesn’t mean we are constantly scared, it just means we risk-assess certain situations with a higher tolerance than other communities or groups of people.
Over time we’re forced to grow thick skin and not become offended by name calling or unfair treatment. Although it is an injustice and can’t be looked at as normal, no one should stand to be abused and targeted because of their beliefs or faith.
It’s not easy, it’s draining. The literal feeling of ‘me against the world’ is an accurate feeling when Muslims are consistently being scrutinised in the media and public. Normalisation victimises us in our own homes with the conflict between cultural norms against faith. Many Muslims experience cultural expectations which clash with religious rulings. Often these can come in the form of finding a spouse, finding a field of work, and even implementing religious practices.
These may come across as confusing topics for individuals and naturally, we as a community follow our elders and rarely challenge and question certain teachings and practices. However, we as individuals have a duty to question what we don’t understand and challenge where we feel necessary.
Abu Huraira stated the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as saying: “Islam began as a something strange and it will return to being strange, so blessed are the strangers” (Sahih Muslim).
I’ve often heard people in society state this Abrahamic religion is a strange following. I relate back to the above hadith and remember what the Prophet (PBUH) is quoted to have said. As the world changes and expands into different directions, the religion of Islam remains the same, deeming it to be strange to the outside community.
The beauty of the mind is knowing that we have no limitations to learning, learning about ourselves, our faith and others. We don’t have an excuse to fall to ignorance because there is so much abundance of knowledge and information accessible.
In regards to being normalised to extreme situations, it may be something where we can never bring the intolerance down, but it is something we can tackle in the forms of being prepared and vigilante. With every negative, there is a lining of a potential positive outcome. Rather than standing to be oppressed or remaining silent in said situations, it is important to raise our voices and bring awareness.