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The benefits of being a British Muslim

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  • The benefits of being a British Muslim

    The benefits of being a British Muslim

    Sarfraz Manzoor
    Wednesday April 21, 2004
    The Guardian

    There is a depressing familiarity to the news arc that followed the arrest of 10 people in Manchester this week on suspicion of planning a terror attack. First there is the breaking news of the arrests, followed by the revelation that they are Muslims who were seemingly ordinary young men but planning carnage on their neighbours. The people held on Monday are apparently of North African and Iraqi Kurdish origin but when those in custody are British Pakistanis - like the eight arrested last month - an anguished media debate on the angry Muslims in our midst usually develops. For anyone who is a British Muslim such times are particularly frustrating, because however much we might want to ignore the news it becomes almost impossible not to get sucked into the swirl of frenzied paranoia. As Michael Corleone said in the third Godfather film: "Just when I thought I was out they pull me back in."
    What is most striking about the coverage of such stories - the inevitable images of fiery, bearded men screaming outside mosques - is that any neutral viewer would conclude that it must be just terrible being a British Muslim at the present time. Think about it: if it is not the increased likelihood of being stopped by the police on the streets it is the added attention at airports; if it is not the education tables that reveal Pakistani boys are faring poorly at school it is unemployment statistics which show that Pakistanis are more likely to be unemployed than any other ethnic group.

    It is all so unrelentingly grim you would be forgiven for thinking that British Muslim men, in the few minutes when they are not busy feeling alienated, are at home with their heads buried in their hands sobbing at the sheer misery of their lives. But this is not the case at all. So I thought that as a public service I would use this space today to concentrate on the many very real benefits of being a British Muslim male - advantages that are so often overlooked amidst the fear and loathing.

    Let's start with air travel. It is true that flying is a different experience if you are a Muslim male; you can expect to be detained, questioned and searched more thoroughly than any of the other passengers. It might add hours to your journey time and ruin your plans to visit the relatives. But if flying has become a nightmare, it is more than compensated by our experience on other modes of transport. Ben Elton had a routine in the 80s about the British obsession with getting a double seat on the train; it never rang any bells of recognition with me because I have never had a problem getting a double seat. Whether on the bus into Luton town centre, the train to Manchester or the Hammersmith and City line you can bet your last bag of fertiliser that the seat next to me will either remain unused or be the last one taken. I have been on tube carriages that have been packed with passengers but the seat next to me has been left vacant. It used to freak me out when I was younger, I was paranoid that I was giving off some scary vibe to everyone around me. But when I discussed it with other Muslim friends it turned out that they too had had the same experience. These days, now I know it is not personal, I am more relaxed about it. Sometimes on the bus I deliberately put my rucksack on the seat next to me and when the bus begins to fill up I make a great play of moving it to see if anyone feels persuaded to sit down. Occasionally they do, but if you look like a Muslim you can be pretty confident of getting a double seat on most forms of public transport.

    And there's more good news when trying to get a black cab. It is true that it is harder to get them to stop for me but again that is not the full story. In all my experience of riding in cabs I have never had a racist driver. White friends have often told me about uncomfortable journeys with bigoted cabbies spouting rubbish, but all the taxi drivers I have met have been either polite or silent. As for the private minicab firms, pretty much all of those use Pakistani drivers and all it takes is a few words of Urdu and that's a few quid knocked off the fare right there and then.

    There are numerous other benefits. At school I was able to get out of swimming, assembly, RE and a trip to a local farm by telling the teacher they were all against my religion. At home, being a Muslim male means you can live with your parents into your late 20s and not be dismissed as a maladjusted loser. If, as a Muslim, you get more attention from the police on the streets, that is offset by the lack of interest that others pay. Those charity muggers who stand in the middle of city high streets for example. You see them everywhere accosting uninterested folk on their way to work or shopping. But all I have to do is walk towards them and look vaguely alienated and they pick on the kind-looking white woman on her way to Boots instead.

    If that wasn't enough, while we might be under-represented in the mainstream media and in parliament, the great thing about being a British Muslim is that you can call yourself a "community leader" without the inconvenience of being elected or having any sort of legitimate mandate. The rest of British society remains so ignorant of the Muslim "community" that they think there is one, and anybody willing to shout into a microphone will instantly be dubbed a "community leader". And having a metal hook for an arm and only one eye is not seen as the drawback for career advancement that it might be in elections for the parish council.

    So there you have it: conclusive evidence that being a British Muslim is not just about feeling marginalised, mistreated and misrepresented. You will, I hope, be feeling suitably reassured
    Please Re-update your Signature

  • #2
    sounds like america

    boy, these humanist secular democratic free societies are just the bestest places on earth
    .لا نريد زعيما يخاف البيت الإبيض
    نريد زعيما يخاف الواحد الأحد
    دولة الإسلامية باقية



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