Faith, Social

My experiences of racism have put me off the Middle East

As a Muslim growing up in the West, it’s fair to see that my experience of Islam and Muslims has always been multicultural. Having been born and raised in the UK, and Asian culture not having a strong influence in my life, I was brought up to never even notice a person’s colour, educated about Muslims in Africa and China alongside Arab and Asian Islamic history, and met people from numerous backgrounds in my daily life.

As a Muslim millennial, I was also always conscious of those around me who went abroad to study Arabic and aspired to do likewise. Being a Muslim populated region and one that is more connected to Islam than others via the Arabic language, the Middle East seemed to have an appeal to me that was more than just tourism, it was about Islamic heritage.

My experiences there changed everything.

It wasn’t sudden. Since my young teens, I had journeyed to various countries in the region on holiday. But on each trip, and on occasion when I met with people from there in London, something hurtful would occur. Such as when a woman in Egypt forced my mum to recite Quran to prove that she was Muslim, or when a Moroccan sister mimed Hindu worship at me because I was Asian, or when my Syrian teacher told a class full of Arabs to improve their Quran because “the Asians are getting ahead of us.”

Of course, as every non-Arab has experienced, and myself repeatedly, another example is when you are pushed to the back of the queue to enter the Rawdah (the area close to the Prophet Muhammad’s (saws) grave in Madinah) because you are brown, and “Maghrebis” get preference over you (let alone the way in which the Saudi stewards laugh at the old Asian aunties who cry while making dua). For me, it culminated in a trip to Palestine, when I almost broke down in tears after a man questioned me repeatedly and disbelievingly about where I come from, insisting I look Egyptian, forcing me to explain again and again in my hesitant Arabic that I was Asian.

For me, this all culminated in a trip to Palestine, when I almost broke down in tears after a man questioned me repeatedly and disbelievingly about where I come from, insisting I look Egyptian, forcing me to explain again and again in my hesitant Arabic that I was Asian.

There’s a lot of denial that goes on when I tell people this. But for anyone wondering, these are not my only experiences of racism. Living in the West, I’m fairly used to people giving hateful looks or making rude comments. It rarely bothers me, if anything there’s a certain pride that whatever discrimination I am facing is not just because I am a person of colour, but also because I am Muslim. As Muslims, we know that whatever discrimination we face because of our faith is a test for us, and is something that all the prophets faced. What could be more honourable as a trial?

However, when racism comes at you from people who you consider your own brothers and sisters in faith; who make you feel like a lesser Muslim or out of place, when you are trying to bond on common ground between you, it is different. Having never experienced this before, I grew tired of the endless comments and explanations, even if it was just cultural ignorance and not rudely meant. I realised that I started to dread talking to people in Arab countries, even shopkeepers in case they started debating my ethnicity. I started to re-evaluate why I had looked up to a region so much that seemed determined not to have me, instead to box me into their limited understanding of what being non-Arab meant. Despite having not visited every country in the region, I resolved that it was no longer high on my list of priorities.

Mine is not an isolated experience. I have heard stories from numerous brothers and sisters of similar encounters, and of course, general racism is prevalent in many cultures, especially in South Asia. I don’t believe my experiences were always maliciously meant, but the enduring ignorance and stereotypes of Muslims from other backgrounds need to stop, back home, and in the West. Unfortunately, this just the tip of the iceberg for our Black brothers and sisters, many of whom are indigenous to these regions but face much worse discrimination from other Muslims.

Islam outlawed all forms of racism and nationalism from its very outset, and in the strongest terms.

Muhammad (saws) said:

“O people, your Lord is one and your father Adam is one. There is no virtue of an Arab over a foreigner nor a foreigner over an Arab, and neither white skin over black skin nor black skin over white skin, except by righteousness. Have I not delivered the message?” (Musnad Ahmad 22978)

Similarly, in regards to nationalism, he (saws) said:

“He is not one of us who calls to asabiyyah (nationalism/tribalism). He is not one of us who fights for the sake of asabiyyah (nationalism/tribalism). He is not one of us who dies for asabiyyah (nationalism/tribalism).”

It is only since colonialism and the division of Muslim lands into modern nation states that this ugly form of nationalism and assumptions of religious superiority have become prevalent. In the absence of Islam as a unifying factor, societies have looked to these modern identities to bind them together, at the exclusion of others. This is when nationalism becomes poisonous, and goes beyond a mere love of the familiarity of one’s homeland – similar to the way that Muhammad (saws) loved Makkah – and instead becomes something paramount in one’s identity. This then clouds the Islamic understanding of the issue, that being Muslim is what binds us first and foremost, and Islam is not owned by any particular race or country.

As Muslims, we will never progress until we understand the real unity is not just in making dua for the Ummah, or marvelling at people from different races making pilgrimage to the Kaaba. Rather it’s about uniting upon the Deen of Islam spiritually, politically and socially.

The Muslimah Diaries

What Muslim women are really thinking.


  1. I think this is well judged. Other commentators have taken verses from the quran out of context but every religious book has verses, that on the face of it, look heinous. In context they are very different, and yes I’ve read the Qur’an. Colonialism has played it’s part in the racism but I feel racism is everywhere. Even in areas where colonialism never reached. It is wider than colonialism. Black non Arabs have an awful time in the middle east. They go for jobs but the system deems their employer must take their passport in many areas. This was bound to be abused. Once the boss has their passport they(workers) can be treated however the boss wants because they can’t get up and leave. Not forgetting they are sending money home to families so feel bound to accept the mistreatment. When a society see certain types of people only in menial roles, they will eventually see those people as below them. It takes new generations and a concerted effort to change that opinion. Unless the middle eastern Arabs accept racism happens, it will continue. If they do accept it happens then laws need bringing in to strictly prevent it. It’s a serious issue and needs a big serious, grown up discussion. Everywhere. By all governments. How can we tackle this.

  2. Having ranted, I’d just like to say how greatful I am that here in the Americas, 99.99% of muslims appreciate & accept & participate in our civilized, modern, tolerant, accepting Judaea/Christian based society.
    I welcome them of any race, and in any number, if they come to contribute, and if they’ve come to escape the human rights abuse of the isLIEmic fiefdoms.
    If however, they come here and seek to promote & establish the bigotry, oppression, and human rights abuse of “shariaDiahrea”, then they should be arrested as enemies of civilization, then deported back to that they love so much, or executed for treason if they have engaged in subversion.
    Thankfully the overwhelming majority of immigrants from isLIEmic nations are greatful for how good they have it here!
    I’m glad to have them!
    I’m also very impressed that you people at muslimvibe have embraced the FREEDOM of SPEECH that is the hallmark of our Decent, Western Society.
    You are wise to allow all comments, good, bad, and otherwise.
    My Uncle gave his life fighting nazi zealots so we all can have FREEDOM of SPEECH….
    Thank You.
    I read your articles and do find a lot of wisdom & truth on here, overall a very positive message, and good that you accept posts (polite and not so polite) that take issue with any given article.

  3. Colonialism????
    You are actually so brainwashed by deluded, deceitful, pc fiberal, leftwing supremacist nonsense propaganda & rhetoric that you blame “colonialism” for the classic bigotry of hard line musLIEims in their intolerant isLIEmic fiefdoms???
    You think the intolerance, oppression, bigotry, (and much worse! Lucky for you you weren’t beaten & burned by a zealot mob, roof tossed, or, wait for it…..Stoned to death in the public square for some “insult to moohuMAD”)…you think these bigot’s savage behaviour is because of “colonialism”???
    You are a classic blind hypocrite.
    Face the FACTS!
    You have been enjoying the boundless Kindness, Charity, Tolerance, Acceptance, and Civilized Manners of a WESTERN JUDEAO/CHRISTIAN MODERN SOCIETY.
    Gee, funny that you didn’t like your reception in a typical isLIEmic fiefdom.
    Oh, but the hadith, the abrogations in the kuran, the life example of moohuMAD himself, oh gee that’s got nothing to do with how musLIEims treated you, Of Course Not!!!
    It’s all because of “colonialism”….
    The zealots you met must have been affected by Christian Charity, Tolerance & Kindness!!!
    It made them bitter & evil & rude!!!
    That’s it!!!
    If we just kill all other non-believers, if we just force isLIEam on the entire world, if we remove every last vestige of evil “colonialism” then the world will be paradise!!!
    Smash all the toilets!!!
    Destroy all Phones, Radios, TVs!!!
    Burn all books, especially English books!!
    That’s why every isLIEmic fiefdom is a miserable, dysfunctional, intolerant cesspool of human rights abuse!!!
    Who Knew???!

  4. As a kufar living in the UK, I hope you realise that it is not your skin colour that we dislike, but your Muslim religion. Who would like a religion whose primary purpose is to replace our British laws based on the Enlightenment and over 800 years of British common law with the Quran/Hadith based Islamic laws, which to us are far, far inferior. Who in their right mind would want to live as a second class citizen in their own country, subjected to dhimmitude and having to pay the jizzya tax in a submissive manner, and feel humbled (i.e. Quran 9:29).

    My advice for s to shave off your Muslim beard, ask your wife to throw away her hijab, dump your Islam religion, and enjoy the United Kingdom. Kufars have great respect for ex-muslims who have had the ntellegence and ‘cojones’ to dump their Islam religion. Become an atheist, a Christian, a Hindu, a Jew, a Siek, a Buddhist, or anything else. Anything is better than being a Muslim.

  5. Assalaamu alaykum sister. As an Arab myself but Alhamudillah growing up in a non-Arab environment, I agree with your assessment of racism by the Arabs. This is nothing new. It goes back all the way during the jahiliyah time. Trust me, it has not gone away even after the advent of Islam. Thats why Allah mentions in the Quran specifically that the worst of kufr comes from Arabs. More so, you will find the worst of hypocrites also comes from the Arabs. So do not expect much to change with the Arabs. Thats why today you see the worst of Muslims come from that part of the world. Lets call spade a spade.

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