Friday, July 08, 2005

The saving grace of Muslim women

Went home in a foul, scared, and shamefully racist mood.

Years of Islamophilia went down the drain - all those hours spent learning Turkish, travelling to weird, hot places, eating the food (and then shitting it out half an hour later), not buying carpets, being tailed by fat secret policemen, and, even, yes, the three baffling times I've tried to read the Koran. Frankly, didn't care any more.

Bless 5Live, though. Bless 'em. Today, they ventured back into the radio phone-in, with the slight sigh of resignation that comes from people who knew that they'd done something really special yesterday, and were hoping that the magic dust would hang around a bit.

And it did, slightly. There was a man who'd seen the bus explode. And then there was Abdul from Wembley. He didn't help, to be frank. An angry young Muslim, his valid point about inter-community trust was lost under a "well what did you expect?" tone that made me grip my bicycle handlebars grimly as a pedalled past the flapping cordon around Edgeware Road.

But then, bless 'em, the Ladies of Islam phone in. First lovely Rashida who, having squashed Abdul like a cross mother, explained that harming innocents is just not what the Prophet would have wanted ("Not even trees," she emphasised, sternly).

And then a lovely lady rang in. "Ooh," she said, "I wear a hajib, and I didn't even dare nip out to buy bread, I felt so ashamed, you know. We're a peaceful people, but you just know that when stuff like this happens, people are looking at you."

Maybe it was the broad Birmingham accent, or the common sense, or the woman's obvious niceness, but I relaxed and felt 27 per cent less of an arsehole.

Of course, this Saturday, our street at the end of Tavistock Square has its annual festival of cultures, the rare time when the Catholic nuns set up their jam store outside the Islamic Bookshop. I wonder how that'll be...

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