Reading 2

'First and Foremost I’m a Human Being’


There are many communities in Britain which are Muslim. The first generation see themselves in ethnic terms. However, young people, through being at school together, at university, or working, don't necessarily see their ethnic identity as central. What you find emerging is a group of young people who are British; who have, on the whole, an ethnic heritage; and who, through their religion, have a stronger identity than their ethnic one.

 

As Muslims we have our own individuality, our own requirements, but every individual has that, regardless of whether they're Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, or not religious at all. We carry multiple identities: being Muslim shapes you, but first and foremost I'm a human being. I lived 16 years of my life without being Muslim, so being human, a woman, a mother, an editor, a Londoner - all of these things shape me. But my role as a mother is shaped by being a Muslim; my role as an editor, my concept of being part of a community, is very much shaped by my philosophy.

 

I'm British and I think like a Westerner. When I go to a Muslim country I understand aspects of people as Muslims, but I don't understand their culture. I'm a Westerner, so although through Islam I do feel a connection, a shared faith, I don't impose my rationale and my culture on them, nor would I want their culture imposed on me.

 

I think British Muslims, and Muslims in the West, have to find answers. I also feel we have a responsibility to act as a bridge between two worlds. Those of us who were born here, or raised in British society, have a responsibility to explain Islam to the West and the West to the Muslim world.

 

I'm a person of faith and I believe a person of faith must be optimistic. I see young people who are involved at every level of British society - articulate, clever, inspirational individuals who feel strongly that they have to benefit this society and be part of Muslim society. I think that Muslims have the capacity to give a lot. As long as people start seeing Islam as part of the solution and not part of the problem they will go a long way.

 

 

 

Interviewed by Gabrielle Procter, The Guardian, 30 November 2004. Sarah Joseph is the mother of three children and editor of Emel, a Muslim lifestyle magazine. She converted to Islam at rhe age of 16.


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