by Asmaa Soliman
Today the team decides to explore London’s main Shia mosque The Islamic Centre of England. We find the mosque very quickly. So we enter the mosque and approach the reception. We introduce ourselves and feel that we are welcomed. Another man is standing next to the reception and listens to what we are saying. He joins the conversation and is very interested in the research project as he himself is conducting a research about Shia Muslims in the UK. We both continue talking to each other while the rest of the team are told by the receptionist that he will call the mosque’s Imam for us. While I am still talking to the young men the Imam comes down and approaches the otehrs. I still do not see him as they are all standing behind me and I am still talking to the other men. Then, after they call me I turn back and I am actually very surprised by the Imam’s appearance. He does not really look or speak like a typical Imam. He uses very much the language of young cool Americans and one does not feel any sense of strictness or barrier. It is a moment where one is confronted with one’s own particular images and expectations in mind. He invites us to his office upstairs and prepares tea for us. So in less than 15 minutes we are suddenly sitting with the mosque’s Imam without any prior appointment or arrangement. It is amazing to see how open and flexible the Imam is. He dedicates more than one hour to talk to us. We have a long conversation with him, which is about our research questions and other issues.
by Alaya Forte
A homogenous Muslim community is a myth, an unreal city shattered daily by the kaleidoscopic reality that is London’s geography and demography.
Our journey into London, the first leg of “Journey into the UK” Project, begins at Finsbury Park Mosque and its neighbouring Community Centre. Here the British and foreign media had a veritable field day in the persona of the hook-handed Muslim cleric Abu Hamza. Had we been journalists searching for the next catchy headline, we would have had to swallow our disappointment as this Barriesque figure never materialized.
Scottish Muslim Female Converts
by Asmaa Soliman
As soon as we arrive to Edinburgh we decide to go to the Central Mosque to make the best use of our time. It is very close to where we are staying. Edinburgh is just beautiful. We all fall in love with the city and there is something magical about it. The mosque has a simple, yet nice architecture. It is interesting to see that it is in a very buy cheapest viagra central area and just opposite the university. So we enter the mosque’s prayer room but it is rather empty. We decide to go to the Mosque Café, which is next to the main building. For some reason I assume that it is closed and I feel that we won’t find anyone. Surprisingly, I realise that the doors are open. So I go inside the café and the first thing I see is a group of 4 women sitting on a table, drinking tea and talking to each other. I approach them and feel welcomed. I ask whether Alaya and I can join them and they happily agree. So we sit down and introduce ourselves followed by the women’s introductions.
by Asmaa Soliman
Alaya and I set off to explore Edgware Road, the main Arabic street in London. It is full of restaurants, cafes and shisha bars. It is a very lively street that is always busy and full of noise. You can hear Arabic music almost out of every cafe you pass by and you feel a bit like being in a Middle Eastern country. As soon as we get off the bus I realise that many gazes are directed towards us. They are mainly men who are sitting outside the cafes and restaurants talking to one another and watching people, especially women passing by. So, how will we do this I thought? Having an Egyptian background and being familiar with the culture I know that generally in Arabic culture once a girl approaches a man it often means that she is interested in him. This is especially the case when they see that the girl is herself Arab. As I wear the headscarf and look Middle Eastern I know that I can be misunderstood as an Arab girl who starts a conversation with an Arab man.
By Alaya Forte
My experience of Scotland is limited to a weekend in Glasgow a few years back where I attended some of the events scheduled for Refugee Week 2011. The Scottish Refugee Council promotes some truly fantastic work and every year in June a multitude of supporters, volunteers and ordinary citizens surpass themselves in hosting a wide range of activities and events all celebrating the contribution of refugees to the Scottish community. Little else do I know though, especially of Edinburgh and Muslim/non-Muslim relations in the Scottish region. Of one thing I am sure, this is a historic moment for Scotland, as it finally seizes the opportunity to vote for independence in just a few months’ time, though the Yes/No campaign is not as visible as I initially thought it might be. It is only when I spot a window cleaner wearing a “Vote Yes” t-shirt or chat to a group of bus drivers while sheltering from the rain that I get a sense feelings are stirring. “Who cares!” shouts one of the drivers, laughing at my question about Scottish identity. “In Britain and out of Europe,…vote UKIP” are his parting words while he boards the bus. In, out, together, separate…it is hard to keep up with all these different and emerging shades of belonging. But what does this spell out for the ethnic minorities and Muslim communities living in Scotland?