In the course of my day to day life in a town with a significant proportion of Muslims I have the privilege to chat informally, meet formally, work in partnership with them, or spend time with a Muslim friend most days. That does not even take into account for those who serve me at a shop or cafe, nod a greeting to me as I walk down the street, or indirectly help me go about my daily life. Furthermore, aspects of my work means I see all manner of statistics, pieces of information and reports about their lives. And finally I seek to set that information in the context of what I can discover about their co-religionists in other places around the nation and world.
Overall I would say I am pretty well informed. So when I read a lot of the stuff that is out there about these dear people I often cannot believe what I am seeing. I read in the press here, and in the US that my town, my country is taken over by Muslims. That is not what I see. What is the the truth then?
I think its all a matter of the reality one sees. For me the reality is that even in a place where, so the story goes, the Muslim population is full of Jihadis, reality is that the very large majority are ordinary decent people who want to get on with life, as British citizens and practice their faith in good conscience and inofensively. These are the people I meet every day even though I often keep an eye open for the few others. I have the privilege i know of being where they are, so I respond to their voice when I read something like the story we started with.
The web presence however of Islam is much more strident - due to the proselytising commitment of the few, and a good few petrodollars to facilitate it. Bloggers read and blog. And the journalists are often lazy and use it. Trouble is that is the voice so many quote and it has become the reality for so many nowadays as a result.Yes, there is, as a friend said in conversation on line the other day, there are those who make "a real and conscious effort to attempt to expand the jurisdiction of Islamic law" but the magnifying impact of the media and the blogosphere has upped its supposed dominance no end. My Muslim friends do not deny that it is there, and it is active, but it is not the main voice. But they are sick of it getting all the media, and are increasingly standing up and being counted on that.
I walked through Bury Park on election day a couple of weeks ago and the Islamists were out attempting in some numbers attempting to stop people sinning by stopping them voting. Their head honcho, a man villified by the national press this time last year, paid me the honour of wanting to stop me sinning, so I stood and listened to him to him for 40 minutes As I talked i watched his buddies - men and women - as the very large number walked by unimpressed. Later as I stopped to talk to various Muslim friends (committed religious conservative muslims most) they expressed sadness at the fact these guys didn't want to be active citizens.
In so much of what I do I respond to voice of my friends, and what I also believe to be the majority voice. By doing so I empower them and I believe make it more likely that they and those like them will become the dominant voice of British Islam in years to come.
But when you speak about Islam where did you get your facts? If its from any written source - even me - that is not good enough. Find one to talk to. And I dare you to become friends!