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On Being Not Muslim Enough

Thanks to Boozec for the link.

Reposted from:

I am 32 and, until this year, I never had many Muslim friends. At first I thought it was because I grew up in a small town and my family didn't socialize much with other families. Then I blamed my — predominantly white, predominantly middle-class — education and employment choices.

I thought things would change in 2007, when I became the presenter for the Guardian's Muslim podcast Islamophonic. If anything would bring me closer to the Ummah - it would be this show. True, now most of my Facebook friends are Muslim and my contacts book spilleth over with halal numbers. But, after eight months of networking and bridge building, I remain the outsider and I realize it's because I am Not Muslim Enough.

Being NME is not a wardrobe thing, although wearing hijab is helpful. It's not a political thing either as my social circle is full of liberals. While the Muslims I have met are warm and welcoming - we frequently see each other at functions - I never quite measure up.

I get it that Anjem Choudar doesn't view me as a true Muslim: I don't shroud myself in black and I work in a mixed-sex, mixed-faith environment. But feeling NME also creeps in when I'm in other Muslim-majority circumstances like the Muslim Live8 where there was a full spectrum of British Muslims - from the fully-veiled to the hojabi and everything in between -- or the 44th annual ISNA convention. It's fun to be there but, in my heart, I know I don't belong. It's as if 31 years of absenteeism precludes me from full membership. A suitable, if inappropriate, analogy is rocking up to a party sober when everyone else has been drunk for hours.

I am not, and never have been, affiliated with a religious or political movement. I am socially promiscuous but my spirituality is private. I don't want to talk about foreign policy, radicals or community cohesion all the time. I can't get into Sami Yusuf anymore than I can Hamza Yusuf. I am not a Muslim who has blossomed in front of her peers. I don't like being called sister by people who are not my brothers.

Being in the company of non-Muslims is easier and more fun. It's is not a euphemism for drinking and partying. They respect my boundaries and our bonds are forged faster and stronger because there is less political and religious baggage to deal with. Islam intrigues them but, with them, my religion is only part of who I am. Clearly, this is a mistake because it makes me NME.

At a City Circle event, a young professional Muslim woman told me that discussions on politics and religion went way over her head. All she wanted was to make friends with people she felt she had something in common with. She thought being Muslim would be enough. It's not and neither was she.

Riazat Butt is religious affairs correspondent for The Guardian in London.



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