Sunday, 17 July 2005

A Week In The Life of a Muslim Woman in London

The article below was published in the Sunday Mail today:

The no: 9 bus from Trafalgar Square was really packed and I had to shove and push to get in. Usually, I am not even aware that I am different from the rest of the crowd, be it in the train or the bus or walking along the streets of London. But the tragedy two Thursdays ago has changed all that somewhat. Instinctively, I looked for another hijabed lady, a Muslim face or anyone I can feel connected to, but in that crowded bus, I found none and I felt the gaze, or perhaps I thought, I felt the gaze was on me.

But one gaze from one particular person, sitting by the window, made me feel very comfortable. So comfortable that I introduced myself to him and started pouring out everything in that No: 9 bus full of strangers.

Terry Waite Posted by Picasa

I told him about the can of beer that was flung at our car, splashing the liquid all over the windscreen, about the verbal abuse from a passer by and even about the lady who moved to sit somewhere else when I sat next to her.

The look of horror and sympathy registered on this very famous face.

“I am so sorry,” he apologised. And this comes from a person who suffered four years in solitary confinement as hostage of Islamic Jihad, an extremist group in Beirut, when as the envoy of the church, he went to negotiate the release of some hostages there in the late 80’s.

Why should I expect sympathy from someone who had suffered so much at the hands of Islamic extremists? But this was Terry Waite, who still tirelessly works with the Muslim world.

“I am so sorry that it happened and I sincerely hope that there will not be any backlash on the Muslim community,” he continued over the head of a very small old lady sitting next to him. He was on his way to catch a flight to Jordan and there was a massive traffic jam.

“I believe that the attack on Iraq has a lot to do with this. A lot of innocent people died there but I am not saying that it justifies the killing here. Nothing can justify the killing of innocent lives, “ he said.

We parted at Hyde Park Corner and he wished me well, assuring me that the Metropolitan Police are doing all they can to prevent any form of backlashes. And God knows how much I need it as the last few days have done much to change my feelings as a Muslim, a hijabed Muslim woman, living and working in this country.

I have donned the hijab for about three years and had never once received as much as a dirty look from non Muslims here. London is indeed a tolerant city, and I hope it will continue to be so, although the past week’s experience has left me somewhat scared.
Kak Teh as of three years ago.. Posted by Picasa

Last week’s tragedy took me to all the places where the bombing took place, King’s Cross, Aldgate East, Edgware Road and Russel Square and I must have been the only female hijabed journalist around, which of course drew a lot of other foreign media to me to ask me about my feelings and opinion as a Muslim. Walking back to the car with my cameraman, we were hassled by a man in his 30’s. We got in the car in time, escaping the missile of beer can, which hit the window, spilling its contents all over. I was shaken, but my Italian cameraman kindly assured that the can was aimed at him. He was also his protective self when someone hurled a verbal insult while we drove back from north London, saying that the insult was for him. Yeah, right!

Interviewed by German TV in front of the Central Mosque Posted by Picasa

I didn't have him to protect me when I took the bus two days ago. Although, nothing was hurled my way, a dagger look was enough to make me feel uncomfortable. The owner of the icy pair of eyes soon moved to sit elsewhere. Among those three acts I described above, perhaps the last one has the most lasting impression on me, making me feel like I have never felt before in all my 25 years in London.

The mood changed quite slowly. The first two days, people were too stunned to react, and sure enough as Reverand Robert Wickham, standing vigil daily at King’s Cross Station told me, the out pouring of emotions will come later. And now with the suspects, all Muslims, being detained, fingers pointing to Muslims, reports of mosques being smeared and attacked, as a Muslim, one can’t help but feel vulnerable and defensive.

A friend up north in Aberdeen confirmed the feeling. Sometimes, it is also a feeling of self doubt and oevrly sensitive. When someone moves seat, was it me, or did she do that to everyone? When my bag was searched at the entrance to the office, was I being paranoid and too quick to play the religious card? And on the other hand, when someone was overly nice, you think, is he trying too hard?

But speaking to friends, you get the general picture. Someone got stoned, a few got verbal abuse and one or two had their hijabs pulled - very much like the backlash in the aftermath of 911.

Looking at the suspects being rounded up, the one that died on the no: 30, my heart went out to their parents, to the families of the victims. "We are all victims," said Terry Waite. I couldn't really bear to look at the pictures. My own son is around that age, and I worry about him being stopped and subjected to searches and interrogations. During my drive around London, I have seen too many young boys being stopped and searched. This is after all a very difficult and dangerous time.

A week after the bombing, a remembrance ceremony for the victims of the blasts was held at Trafalgar Square. I felt I had to go and indeed, there were many other Muslims who made the effort, to show that we are not part of the barbaric act and we do not condone terrorism. We wanted to show this other face of Islam that the world is fast forgetting.

Young British Muslims against Terrorism Posted by Picasa

London is very much my home where my neighbours holler out ‘Mind how you go,” and “Take care,” as I leave for work in the morning, where the news vendors chatted and exchange banters with me as I make my way to work, where my children have sleep overs at their friends’ place during weekends.

Balloons of Peace In The London Sky Posted by Picasa

When I came back from a two week visit to Paris last year, I breathed a sigh of relief as I stepped on to the British soil. I felt so free and secure and so very much at home. Now, I am not sure anymore.


4 TR4P PR1NC3SS said...

My you have my tears flow freely reading that blog. You are one brave lady cause I've got to say that I won't know what to do if I were ever in your shoes. Please take care!

anedra said...

You've always been the strong one, you know that!! SO hang in there...this too shall pass. And continue to walk freely on the London streets, proud to be A Muslim. And if they still continue hurling stuff and all, mark them out. Lemme go sort em ok??

take care!

Lollies said...

I'll pray for you

Anonymous said...

kak teh,
terry waite was right about the innocent people died in iraq but nothing could justifies the killing of innocent people.

when are these thing going to stop I wonder. Hope you and family and other muslims there are brave enough to face the current situations...susah sangat ke nak hidup aman damai?

Anonymous said...

"For this flight, we have to take your photograph. Please look at the camera" Where was I flying to? Gatwick to Aberdeen!!Without fail, this I have to do since 911. Why? No idea at all .. Is it because of my tudung? Overly sensitive jadinya ....

Nazrah Leopolis said...

These are trying times. But Allah is Kind.

Anonymous said...

i couldn't agree more.

remuk redam hati bila kena curah air kat muka + ditarik tudung...huhu..

police pun tak buat apa2...janji palsu..

ntah la..

moga kita semua diberi kesabaran.. i/a

Kak Teh said...

4tr4p pr1nc3ss - thanks for kinds words.
andrea: at first i thought u said i was the strange one - but u cld be right!
lollies: thanks - sama-sama kita doa.
ondeonde: nampaknya tak kesudahan kan..and as i write this - banyak lagi kejadian sebegini serata dunia.
anon: really? I have not heard of this one before!
nazrah: amin!

Kak Teh said...

anon: thanks - nampaknya kita berserah dan Tuhan Maha Kuasa melindungi kita.

Atok said...

jjalang mmolek...

lilac said...

This is so sad.. must be an emotional roller coaster ride for you. Be brave. Keep your chin up and smile always eventhough they smirk or stare daggers at you. May Allah protect you and your family thru this trying times.

Kak Teh said...

atok: mmolek doh tu...nak buat guano lagi?
lilac: Insyaallah - these are trying times.

narfnarf said...

i can only offer doas for you and your family's safety, kak teh. but like kak intan, Allah is kind. ameeeeeeeen. *hug*

Anonymous said...

Kak Teh, Tuhan menguji iman dengan pelbagai cara dan bentuk.

Sabar Kak Teh.

Like I said before; Buckle up Kak's gonna be quite a bumpy ride now on....

AuntyN said...

Kak Teh, I told this story to my hubby after reading this last nite (tapi tak komen). Both of us feel so sad that this is happening to you and other Muslims in London or UK even. Itulah yang mati (the suicide bombers) la ni face Allah's judement. Tapi yang hidup ni dokkena face human judgement pulak kan?
Whatever Kak Teh,you are Strong, Keep on being strong if we stick to our peaceful way, people around you will notice that the Muslim lady is so sweet and not violent.
Insyaallah everything will be fine.

zaireen said...

Take care Kak Teh..

Yes, it's gonna be tough but I am sure you can overcome this..

OOD said...

I hangat hati, risau hati..

kak teh, hati hati!

mokciknab said...

Kak Teh,
With Muslims like you in London, they're not likely to forget the peaceful face of Islam. Take care, Kak Teh. Insya Allah, we would soon see the reason in this chaos.

shidah said...

Kak teh, I have the same feeling of awkwardness during my recent visit to Philipinnes. You buat i nangis lah. I pray that you'll get all the courage u need and Allah will be with you all the time. amin.

Anonymous said...


I've read ur article in Sunday
Mail yesterday and now reread it on ur blog. U've posted up nice pix there as the article only have ur pix at the bottom. My prayers are with u and hope that u would always be strong. Do take care.


Blabarella said...

Ever since the start of the new milennium, Islam has been under much threat, both internally and externally. The ones that suffer are the ones who are trying to carry on day to day, living and practising the faith. I feel really, really saddened to see that the "virus" has finally invaded London - for whatever reason, I've always felt that London was more objective, more unbiased and more understanding in the ways of the world than America could ever be. And I think I was proven right up until 7/7/2005.

And who can blame them when bombs go off on their doorstep? Now on the one hand we have 24-7 coverage on TV about the alleged terrorists - no different than it was during 9/11. Then we have lots of conspiracy theories cropping up as well - doubting the so-called "terrorist act" in the first place. But who knows? Only Allah.

And in the meantime, us mortals on this earth will just have to continue trying to lead normal lives in a world which is no longer normal.

With the way in which Islam is now being perceived and the way some extremist Muslims are behaving, the Prophet (pbuh)'s hadith is beginning to really run true. If I'm not mistaken, he said something along the lines of:-

"There will come a time for my ummah when practising the religion will be like holding a burning piece of coal in one's hand". Na'udzubillah.

Is it really happening?

Mutiara said...

Dugaan KT. I assure you Allah will look after you and your family, InsyaAllah

Arena said...

reading this, meletakkan banyak keinsafan di hati saya Kak Teh. Makes me appreciate hari-hari aman di bumi Malaysia ini, dan insyallah, I will not take for granted what Allah has bestowed upon me anymore.
I pray for you and your family's safety. Moga Allah permudahkan urusan serta perjalanan Kak Teh. Insyallah.

AuntieYan said...

Hati-hati Kak Teh...insyaallah sentiasa dalam lindunganNya.

Atok said...

kene bawok tongkat semambu; sughoh Sir AG gi caghi se.

Anonymous said...

Kak Teh

It's sad to read abt such things. Pls take care and "kuatkan semangat".


MassyLassy said...

Kak Teh! Inilah dikatakan cobaan yang harus kita hadapi sebagai seorang Muslim kan? Kita hanya dapat serahkan segalanya kepada Allah s.w.t. Apa yang berlaku senantiasa ada hikmah disebaliknya! Hanya dengan doa dan keimanan yang dapat melindungi diri kita dari segala bencana! Take good care of yourself Kak Teh and the rest of the Muslims in London. So far Alhamdulillah, kita kat Halifax & Bradford tak rasa the awkwardness but kekadang tu bila naik bas rasa takut jugak! I'm try to be more aware of my surrounding now, just in case kan?

Anonymous said...

assalamualaikum kak za

InsaAllah nothing will happen. Semoga you and your family and the rest sentiasa dilindungi.


Ely said...

kak teh, this is a sad story. some people can be ignorant about muslims and tend to take us as a whole.

please do take care, huggs

Kak Teh said...

ayu - insyaallaha nd thanks.
Po _ am belting up. thanks - memang ujian.
auntyN-berbuih baca masa jalan.
zaireen - hopefully with Allah's help - we will.
OOD - tok sah hangat hati..nanti terbakark.
mokcik - thanks for the visit - u must be busy and I am honoured that u took time off. Insyaallah.

Kak Teh said...

AnonN - yes - didnt know which pix they used - an ddidnt use - but decided to add them here - thanks
shidah - kita sama2 berdoa dan berjaga2.
Blabs - yes finally its on our doorstep and we have to deal with it.

Mutiara - memang dugaan.
Arena: amin..kak teh pun gitu jugak.
auntyYan - Insyaallah Yan - kak teh pun turut doa.
atok - tongkat semambu tak jadi punya ni.
Lydia: wahhh impressed lah - Pasti sekali saya kuatkan semangat!!
Massy - i pray for u too.
muzzie and ely - ya...what can we do. Insyaallah Allah saja akan melindungi kita.

Anonymous said...

be strong and Allah is always with us

Anonymous said...

Kakteh, dalam tangis ada senyum. Despite all the negative news yg ke udara the past week, a local brother here took shahadaah. Alhamdullillah.. Allah is so great.

aberdeen mari :)

Nadia said...

kak sorry you had to undergo this. hang in there. But it is true, Islam is still the fastest growing religion despite all this, or maybe BECAUSE of this. SUbhanallah. Take care kak teh. As usual, enjoying your writing. :)

MassyLassy said...

Kak Teh! Terlupa nak taruk jugak - you look gorgeous!

Ewok said...

just managed to get back home and read this.

i hope u be extra careful. my prayers to you. hugs.

Unknown said...

Jaga diri baik-baik Kak Teh.

atiza said...

take care..
Allah sentiasa berada dengan orang2 yang sabar, kan?

Anonymous said...

Sabar Kak Teh. Insyaallah Allah will give you strength. I pray for your well-being.

Sunfloraa said...

Sabar Kakteh. Take care and be strong.

Adib Noh said...

Kak Teh,
I am sad to read your blog.Take care and my du'a for you and your family.
My wife also read your blog now.

Hajar said...

dearest kak teh,
be strong. i pray for you, your family and every muslim over there. may Allah grant you strength. i pray for the others too, may Allah give them patience and ability to recognise what's right and not.


Anonymous said...

Dear KakTeh,

Reading your entry this time around really makes me wonder and worried as I will be flying off to Sydney for my major surgery in 2weeks time. My inlaws and my dad will accompany me for the next 3 months till my radiation ends GOD knows when. Then again, my husband shared with me how my mom inlaw was worried about being in Sydney wearing hijab. She was considering taking it off. Both my mom and mom inlaw wear tudungs.
I know the doctors there are very professional when it comes to dealing with work. Somehow, I am quite worried after all that chaotic London Bombing. I was in Sydney at that time when the bombing happened. Now I'm going back there again for the Big surgery. Honestly, I can't get rid the feeling or the fear of surgery and thinking of what my mom inlaw would do. She is going there to help me take care of my kids and now I feel so guilty!!

Well, be strong and have faith!! Insya'ALLAH. As'kum....

Idlan said...

We had our first taste of racial abuse two weeks before the bombing - this after 5 years here in Lancaster. My housemates shuddered at the thought of what would have been said had the incident occured in its aftermath.

So far though, alhamdulillah, our landlord checks up on us to make sure there has been no abuse, and we've been lying low.. no more late night movies! I have a lot of respect for the restraint you showed ; I know under similar circumstances I would not have been equally composed. God be with you.

Ruby M. said...

Take care kak teh. my prayers are with you and all of us who are facing this religious discrimation right now.

kak cik said...

what would it take to make you come back? trying hard not to worry much about you n all. . . but it ain't easy. . . cos you're my flesh n blood .. . take care . . i can only pray and pray for your safety. . . luv u all.

iJun said...

kak teh jom balik!!

Kak Teh said...

atn - Insyaallah
klmuk - that's wonderful news. Alhamdulillah
Nadia, thanks for visiting again. will pop over soon.
massy - woi janganlah!
anasalwa & ewok, insyaallah - and with ewok as my bodyguard - insyaallah - semua orang lari!
atiza, jm and sunflora - ya, kak teh selalu sabar dan berhati2. kita berserah dan berdoa.

Kak Teh said...

Pak Adib, terima kasih and salam too to your wife. terima kasih kerana sudi membaca.
LadyJade - Insyaallah we will be stronger after this.we have to be.
MM: I feel so much for you and what you are going through. You have a more difficult battle. we will all pray for you. and as for the hijab..Insyaallah we will wear it still for we wear it for Allah and we fear Allah.
Idlan, you too? what happened? thanks for kind thoughts..
maknenek - yes t is everywhere but we have to be strong.
kakcik..laaaaa tok sah dok susah hati. habark kat mak tak dak apa-apa - orang main bunga api saja!

Ijun - okay iJun book tiket -(bayark sekalilah!)

Halim Hashim said...

Teh oiii..bawak bersabag la...tapi kan dengag kata depa paling anti ngan parky..of course malaysian takpa kot..tak macam kat Perth dulu..asai pakai tudung ja..depa pi rabut semua...for u...kami sini mendoakan semoga semua warga islam kita dilindungi Allah...sabag

Anonymous said...

Salaam Kak Teh, so sedih to read this entry of yours...I can really feel what you're going time things will change as it did in NYC at least. I got dirty remarks thousands of miles away from my colleagues friend in the states then, and I was already trembling. But to be there and to get dagger look like that...well may Allah continue to give you strength...Ameen.

Skater Girl said...

Kak Teh,
After 9/11, I had the same experience, my husband rushed me out from school to avoid any backlash.. and he's been accompanying me to and from school for a week back then.. Alhamdulillah.. after a few months.. it kind of slowed down... so Insha Allah things will get better for you and prayed that Allah will keep you safe.. Insha Allah.. Do take care of yourself.. :)

Kak Teh said...

en halim, i think they meant semua orang Islam..tak kira dari mana.
mycottonbed & suriyati : I honestly hope so - tapi, thinks are certainly getting worse. am replying this on23/07

Unknown said...

Kak Teh, A wise person once told me 'we are all as one in God's eyes', my prayers are with you. Stay safe and keep up the good work, you brave woman. said...

I feel a cold chill in my heart reading what Kak Teh went through. Hugs.

Honeytar said...

Kak Teh.... please take care. My prayers are with you and your family....

Kak Teh said...

carol, thanks for the wise words.
5xmom, you feel the chill - an di shivered, still am shivering!
honetar, thanks..Insyaallah