Experience: Being Muslim in Durham

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My heart shattered when I heard about people dying in such ways in Paris. Just like how my heart is crushed everyday, looking at pictures of babies and kids being murdered in Palestine in ridiculous ways as well as innocent people in Syria being tortured and horribly killed. I am overwhelmed with grief as I realised a beautiful city like Paris was being attacked, just as sorrow cascaded down my heart, watching people aggressively destroying our Holy Al-Aqsa mosque in Palestine. People with humanity can never stand watching others being murdered. The lives of human beings have the same value regardless of their religion, race or nationality. I do believe that no religion promotes killing innocent people and neither does Islam. Allah said in the Quran, “Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved life of all mankind,” 5:32.

It is unfortunate, however, that teachings of Islam are often misunderstood. This then makes it harder, I have to say, to practice Islam here in Europe, especially nowadays as compared to where I came from. I feel that hatred towards Muslims has somehow increased due to incidents that occurred lately; the latest is the attack on Paris and we are currently being labelled as terrorists. As a Muslim student here in Durham University, I am not excluded from the traces of this hatred, as I had some uncomfortable experiences as well. Since before the Paris attack, I had been facing some verbal harassment especially late at night and when I walk alone here in Durham. On one such incident, a gang of teenagers shouted at me “Hey Muslim! Where is your bomb! Did you keep it in your bag?” A few of them were chanting “Allahuakbar” which means Allah is the greatest just to mock me. Others were making the sound of bombs exploding. I was just walking past them indifferently without reacting, even when I actually could, because I remember the sayings of Prophet Muhammad, “Do not cause harm or return harm with harm”. I thought I should not walk alone again next time but it happened again at the same place this week when I walked with my other two Muslim friends. A group of teenagers yelled towards us “Hey! This is England, you do not belong here!” and again others were shouting “Allahuakbar” and again we just ignored them. Deep down in my heart, I fear they might go beyond verbal abuse. The same tragedy happened again to my other friend; she was waiting for a bus beside the Bill Bryson Library and a car passed by and threw an empty glass bottle towards her, specifically targeting her. I thought these kinds of harassments would only occur during the night, but not anymore, till my friends from Warwick came and visited me in Durham earlier this year. There was still the light of day when we were happily walking then suddenly a guy came and gave her head a push and said, “Move away, Taliban!”.

I fear after the Paris attack, we could face something worse here, as it has already occurred, in London mostly. Most Muslim women in Durham now refrain themselves from returning home late at night for the sake of their own safety. I am absolutely saddened, frustrated and hurt, to know that some Muslims in a few European countries have started to take their hijab off to protect themselves and the only thing that motivates me to keep wearing the hijab is, as Allah commanded in the Quran, “Therefore, you shall devote your worship absolutely to GOD ALONE, even if the disbelievers dislike it,” 40:14.

Nevertheless, I believe those kinds of people are really a minority in Durham as these tragedies are few and far between. Besides, this is also proven by the reaction I received after posting a status on Facebook highlighting how I was harassed just because I am a hijabi. Many of my non-Muslim friends offered me company if I walk alone in the night because they are aware that I always stay in the library until midnight. It caused me to be teary-eyed, when I realised that others really do have concerns about me, regardless of what religions they follow. For me, religions should not be a segregation factor because we as Muslims are taught in the Quran that “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion,” 109:6.

My prayers and thoughts will always be with the victims and everyone else that was affected by any attack in any country, involving innocent souls. I am extremely against any form of injustice, terrorism, and anything that disrupts peace in Paris, Palestine, Syria, Beirut and other parts of the world, for that matter.

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