Life in the Country: Discrimination

Most people associate living in the countryside with living in a huge house from a Jane Austen novel. Or living  in a town/ village with a completely white population. If you belong to an ‘ethnic minority’ and happen to be Muslim, people also think you have to deal with the EDL.

Actually, country folk are very polite. In my experience they are very friendly, and if not, they appear very tolerant to other races.

As a Muslim woman living in the country side and adhering to Islamic dress I can say that I have never been verbally discriminated against or endured any racist comments. Okay maybe the next door neighbours aren’t so friendly, and there was that one time someone shouted something as they drove by- but going about daily business such as going to the local shops or walking the local trails, almost everyone has said hello. The people who live on our road are just as friendly.  In fact some lovely people have even greeted me and my mother with ‘As salaamu alaikum’. Yes, WHITE people.

For a lot of Muslimahs I’m sure they have a desire to go out and explore the British country side but feel they maybe discriminated. Don’t let that stop you. If I have ever feel disrespected it is more from the ignorant secondary school kids who swagger around the streets like they own it. They unabatedly stare and whisper… or perhaps I feel self conscious.

For me personally, due to my ethnic origin, I remind myself that I look just as English as they are, after all no one in this country is purely English… after how many foreign kings and sieges from abroad I don’t think ‘English’ as race even exists. They therefore, have no right to discriminate me.

There is no doubt that wearing hijab will draw stares- of course it will, you have come to a country town where sights like you aren’t common. You would stare too if you saw cloaked, hooded figure in black walking down the street.

If people say hurtful comments, remember they have been fed media lies and clearly their education has left them quite ignorant.  If they engage in conversation, calmly speak to them and refute anything disrespectful they say, you educate them.

I think this is more of a problem in the city and low class estate areas. Tourist destinations in the country side are full of a mixture of people, and most highly respected country towns have a well educated population who will most likely be open minded.

You as a Muslim also have a duty to break down stereotypes, consider it Dawah of a sort.

Me and my family always strive to be friendly and extend greetings with our town folk as we walk past each other on the street. We also engage in conversation- we don’t bite, and no we aren’t ‘terrorists’ as the media would like you to believe. We are friendly and love this country as much as you do- that’s why we live in the beautiful English (if not rainy) country side.

Unfortunately some Muslims do not present themselves with manners and respect to local customs, if you are going to be loud, disrespectful of the area, litter and be rude and inconsiderate, the people will apply that judgment to the other Muslims.

Sisters, don’t sit inside a concrete box and breathe in fumes, even little England has a lot of lovely things to offer. For Londoners, the Chiltern Hills is a 45 minute drive, and Surrey Hills for those down in South London. Go to the woods and enjoy it all.


25 Uses of The Headscarf

25 uses of the headscarf

We’ve all the heard the typical questions of ‘Don’t you get hot in that?’ (the headscarf, shaila, pashmina etc..) and the all important ‘Why do you wear a headscarf?’ Moving on from the perception of the headscarf being a personal oven, over the years I have found that, in fact, it has many other uses.

So aside from the  repeated answers that are given to the enquirers, I have come up with 25 other uses of the headscarf.

1.  Firstly and most importantly it is: A cloth that is part of a Muslim woman’s clothing. Worn as an act of obedience to God and for modesty.

2. In cold bitter winter months the versatile headscarf serves as a two-in-one neck scarf and ear muffler.

3. The seemingly lovely drapes serve as a crumb collector for flaky pastries, cookies, biscuits and other foods that shed their layers. For those who tend to drop food you might get a few grains of rice nestled in nicely.

4. When called for, the headscarf can be used as a handkerchief. It is advised to use discreet areas for wiping the nose. We don’t want unsightly white marks anywhere.

5. Its a super-sized tissue when you are having an emotional moment. Or for when the kids have tripped and are having their dramtic moment of glorious attention.

6. When lifted to the nose it serves as a barrier between you and unpleasant smells. It also helps to know you aren’t breathing the foul air unfiltered through your mouth too.

7. A makeshift neckerchief (think cowboy and the Wild West) when you are caught in a cloud of dust by some inconsiderate vehicle. Also great for sandstorms etc.

8. If you suddenly feel dramatic you could go all ninja and pull it across your face- go stealth mode.

9. It’s great for dress up too, make it a fancy tasseled cloak, a Pirate bandanna, an amazing trailing princess skirt (for the girls), a sash, a turban, a flying carpet…

10. For when no blindfold is not good enough for Blind-man’s Bluff, you pull out the headscarf.

11. An emergency picnic blanket. Grab a few from the cupboard.

12. Room decoration, if you like the tented Moroccan style theme. I’ve also seen a headscarf used as a table cloth too.

13. You can make a tent out of your headscarf. (Be creative!) Just like those little triangular prism ones in the cartoons.

14. Seen someone you really don’t want to talk to? Quick! Cover your face! Or maybe an embarrassing moment- yup, cover your face. Hide the blush.

15. It’s a replacement for the oven gloves you can’t find in a cooking frenzy. Some people use the tea towel, you use the headscarf.

If you tend to watch Bear Grylls and other survival series the headscarf can in fact, be extremely useful! A life saver.

16. A nice clean headscarf can make a useful bandage.

17. A way to filter water to get all the main grit and gunk out (Bear used his socks.)

18. With some clever thinking a headscarf can be transformed into a rope, it might deliver you to salvation, out of the canyons or something. Make a safety line of some sort.

19. A make-shift hammock when you’ve been marooned on a desert island.

20. It can be used to shift unconscious persons to safety when hitched under the arms.

21. When dragged across wet and dewy grass, the headscarf will soak up the water, wring it and voila- you have some water to drink.

22. It can be used to swat mosquitoes, and why not completely cover your face as well to avoid being bitten? I’m not sure if it would work against killer bugs.

23. If your headscarf happens to be a wonderful bright colour you can wave it around hoping the search party will see it.

24. You can use your headscarf to catch fish too. (By now I’m sure the headscarf would be pretty tattered.)

25. Hot and sweaty after all of that? Mop it all up with the edge of your headscarf!

Thank you for reading. If anyone has got any other suggestions or things they use their headscarf for, comment below and I’m sure we would all love to read them!

Also thanks to my sister and mother for throwing in a few ideas.


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An Unexpected Death

It was an unexpected day. The weather was unexpected. The call from an old school friend was unexpected. And the death was unexpected.

I’m trying to imagine Nanaa*, what did he look like? The Angel of Death. Was he terrible and dark, when he took the soul from your body? Was it torn away from you like wool from thorns, snagging and clinging to life?  Or was it gentle like the bite of an ant? A small sting and no more.

Say: “The angel of death, who is set over you, will take your souls. Then you shall be brought to your Lord.”
( Al Quran 32:11)

I remember those phone calls (unexpected), rushed. ‘Where’s your Mama?’ ‘In London’ I said. Uncle put the phone down. Another call from an Uncle in Spain, not as rushed asking where my Mama was ‘She’s in London’ sister said.

I asked my self what was going on as I stared into the laptop screen. ‘Something’s going on’ I said to my siblings as they sat watching the film. And through my overly imaginative mind flashed all the things I could conjure. One of them was right.

Mama phoned.

Nanaa was cold she said, wanted to lie down they said. Uncle found him collapsed she said. Tried to revive him she said. No pulse. No breath. Tell the others she said.  The paramedics are trying she said. Make Dua** she said.

I took it for hope.

So I did. I told them word for word, I told the little ones. We stopped the film. I got out my little book, and read the Dua for worry and grief. I read in Arabic and through it some words reached me… light, soul, Allah, chest.

Mama phoned again. ‘Nanaa’s passed away, they tried to resuscitate him. We will try and do the funeral tomorrow.’

Paramedics, police then the coroner. And like that, after trying and trying to bring him back, after machines that give breath. After the fools hope that I had- that maybe there would be a chance. There was none. There was no lingering for him, no life and death game played over his lap.

It was better that way. Better than lying in a hospital bed, unconscious, unaware, drips and IV feeds tangled over his body. Brain dead.

It’s a mystery- life.  Humans think they can give life to things: babies, animals, plants, but we cannot even put the life back into things that are already dead.

I remember standing at the open coffin, him wrapped in three clean bright cloths, in a shroud of white.  His face uncovered for us visiting grandchildren.

I couldn’t understand how he could be dead when he looked like he was sleeping. Just like the duvet was pulled up to his nose, like how it always was when he napped. I spoke to him then, through the tears. He could hear me I know, the wailing  of crying is disturbing for the parted, it causes them pain, so my tears ran silently.

Then the funeral prayer. At the mosque, row upon row of people, his coffin wheeled through the crowd and arranged at the front. And so we prayed, everybody, the people the that knew him, the people we knew and the people we didn’t. We all prayed.

We went to the graveyard, row upon row of graves, mounds on the ground. The old the young, the children and the babies. Our last destination of this world. His body wasn’t buried in the coffin, he was taken out, and laid in in the ground wrapped in his white shroud. We are all the same, equal in Allah’s eyes, and so we shall all be buried the same.

Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained [his desire]. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion. (Al Quran 3:185)

People surrounded his grave, there was no huge speech, no flowers or formality like Christians, just small words, prayers, comfort for the living and comfort for the dead.  The thick clay soil shoveled into the earthen box, thudding upon the wooden planks over his body. At the end it was a mound like all the others.

It is Allah Who takes away the souls at the time of their death, and those that die not during their sleep. He keeps those (souls) for which He has ordained death and sends the rest for a term appointed. Verily, in this are signs for a people who think deeply.
(  Al Quran 39:42)

Back to the house afterwards. To receive the visitors, the condolences…

*Nanaa is an Urdu/Punjabi word for Grandfather
** Dua literally means invocation, it is an act of supplication. The term is derived from an Arabic word meaning to ‘call out’ or to ‘summon’, Muslims regard this as a profound act of worship.