So begins Sarfraz (or should we say Seth?) Manzoor in an article published in the Guardian a month or so ago-- My month of being Jewish. I missed it, due to the early election fever I guess, but saw it when I was looking at a piece Manzoor wrote on Sunday on Esther Rantzen and the Battle for Luton South.
Its great, and marks what must be another fascinating stage in Manzoor's journey growing up as a Muslim in Britain (and more specifically Luton) that he has described so well in his journalism, (principally in the Guardian but also see his website), his 2007 book, Greetings from Bury Park, (available from Amazon), and Radio and TV (you can see his moving documentary Luton Actually on the web).
That journey confronted him with the dilemma, as he recalls in his book and an article, "You're Muslim -- You'll never be English", written post 9-11, in what must have been chilling days for Muslims in Britain. He tells his own story of reconciling what it means to be British and to be Muslim. For me his journalism come to life most when he is confronting aspects of that dilemma, British and Muslim -- as he did in a piece exploring aspects of Britishness in The Last Night of the Proms.
Whether he has resolved the challenge or not I cannot be sure, but he has obviously decided its time for a new challenge, to step into another pair of shoes. You need to read the article for the meaty reality (halal and/or kosher?) but his conclusion is heartwarming:
After a month of living Jewish, I came away wishing more people – both Muslims and Jews – would step outside of their social bubbles and spend time in the other community. That way they too would be reminded of that banal but powerful truth, that underneath the skull caps and the headscarves, whether we eat chicken soup or chicken jalfrezi, we really are more similar than we are different.We are more similar than we are different!!