‘Me’ Versus ‘Muslim Me’: An Irish Festival Reveals My Inner Cultural Jihad

Finding Peace

Being a convert to Islam, from a Western culture, the past times available can start off small, then tip easily into excess.

Gambling no longer has to be done in a poker club, for example, it is now state-sponsored and called the ‘Lottery.’ When I lived in Australia working in pubs, the other staff would joke about paying me in dollar coins as I used to put so much of my income into the slot machines. Pubs where I had spent childhood afternoons with my parents, morphed into 18-hour booze binges in my adult life. Marijuana, become cocaine and so on and so on.

When I woke up to my new reality back in 2010, alcohol, flirting with men, recreational drugs, smoking, not necessarily in that order, were prime past times.

Wanting to break the habits that were now utterly clear to me as harmful to myself and to those I loved, I took the nuclear option.

I stopped needless ‘socializing’ instead my fun was family led.

I avoided old friends who still drank and distanced male ‘friends’ (most of whom wanted to be ‘more than’ anyway).

If This is Islam, I Want to Be Muslim!

Lectures by Sh Hamza Yusuf, Mufti Menk, and Sh Yasir Qadhi replaced hip-hop and disco when I cooked.

I mixed with Muslims practicing their faith to a level which I aspired to reach.

I felt my strategy to stay in the green pastures of safety in religion was directed by the teachings of our blessed Prophet Muhammed SAWS.

Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace, and blessings be upon him, said, “A man is upon the religion of his best friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends.”

The thing is, mixing only with a small minority within a minority who hinge our days around prayer and on avoidance of what’s warned against by Prophet Muhammed PBUH, seems to lead to self-ghettoization.

It means, by extension, that our communities good deeds go unknown by the mainstream. How can we visit a colleague’s home and risk them opening a bottle of wine and putting us into sin? How can we attend ‘interfaith’ gatherings when these often feature alcohol?

To avoid these situations brands us as ‘hardliners’ in religion.

Meanwhile, those in our community who hang out in bars, don’t wear, or take off their hijab, are painted as ‘moderates’ and the way forward for a peaceful society.

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About Lauren Booth
Lauren Booth is a TV and radio presenter dedicated to creating narrative spaces for Muslims in the arts and online. She presents talks and lectures on the media, faith and politics at institutions around the world. Buy tickets HERE to watch Lauren perform her solo play ‘Accidentally Muslim’ at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe every day August 2019