Era of Islamism and self-censorship

I wrote the below Ramadan message just over a week ago.  It was before the London attacks, and after the Manchester bombing.  I wrote that Ramadan can actually be a time of heightened violence, and then it happened on my home turf.

I’ve become increasingly aware that as a Muslim-Brit, we are all under microscopes; expected to disavow the ‘extremists’ amongst ‘us’.  The thing is, I feel no ‘us’, with these people who I am being boxed in with.  Who are they? What drives them to kill? I’ve as much perspective as a well-read white male.

The expectation remains however, that I should be raising a voice.  I feel the need to show that I am a positive example of Muslim-ness.  Positive in the sense that I speak the right words, in the right way, and I’m brown female to boot.

Except of course, I do not particularly want to succumb to an imposition of a ‘positive’ Muslim identity that I do not recognise. I want to simply be. Unfortunately, in such histrionic time, such freedoms are luxuries.  I do want to give into self-censorship and keep my head down.

I am scared for my friends and family.  Will the dog poop show up on my mums doorstep again, or stones get thrown at my auntie who doesn’t speak English but can recognise racism and swear words. That coffee that got thrown at a hijab wearing colleague, will it become the new norm, or is it already?

A lot of ‘us’ will be keeping our heads down, and we will be called on it for not saying we are ‘liberal’ and shouting from the tree tops about our democratic, Western values.

I am keeping my head away, not down. I have a busy bee job, jobs even. I am looking though, and I am fearful.  My home is London before its affluence rent it, when the Irish were the terrorists, and when political correctness wasn’t a thing, became a thing and is now way way beyond a thing.



CEO Ramadan Message

I was in Syria in 2009, and celebrated my first Middle Eastern Ramadan there, and my last, most probably, in the Damascus that I knew.  My next Middle Eastern Ramadan was in Palestine, where we were working in refugee camps across the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.  I saw people dressed in their smartest clothes herded together and watched over by soldiers bearing guns.  I then went on to my third Middle East Ramadan, in Jordan, where we were working with Syrian refugees living inside and outside of the refugee Camps.  People hospitable as we entered their Camp with our special security passes; sharing their food, their tea, their water. Whether they were eating or not.


For the refugees we work with Ramadan is many times a time of violence, heightened tensions, increased security measures.  A time of desperate sadness for the brother, father, sister, mother, friend, who has been killed by war.  A time of urgent frustration at the lack of choice, and sense of emasculation at living in a world where one’s status is ‘refugee’.


For this Ramadan it is humanity that I hope for; compassion for all of our fellow souls.


Ramadan Kareem to my brothers and sisters everywhere.


Ummul Choudhury



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