Thursday, 12 June 2008

I am the West, The West is Me

I was saddened to receive this response to my blog piece on the 'Interfaith Hats',

"Oh yeah, welcome the muslims and the next thing you know they are suing you over some imagined offense. Welcome a muslim and "creeping sharia" is the serpent you let in. Stay in your damn desert lands and leave the west alone. You don't deserve our bounty and we certainly don't deserve your cancerous, parasitic presence."

Here is my response:

Dear Commentator,

Thank you for your comments. I have a few comments to raise too. These are exactly the sentiments that my blog aims to discuss. I cannot make it any more explicit that I am a product of the west, born and raised in Scotland. I take ownership of the society, culture, politics and anything that we have in our thistle nation and I hope that there is no need for me to 'prove' that I am an outsider. I believe that my faith is perfectly complimented in Scottish society and the infusion of my faith, Scotland and my south asian roots has given me an approach to life that I am so proud of. I'm also not going to defend ill informed Muslims who have a narrow interpretation of scripture and tradition that they seem to arm the sentiments of folk like you.

I will be the first to criticise Muslims and non-Muslims or anyone for that matter who does not uphold out shared values of peace, justice and co-existence. I will be the first to dismiss generalisations of any sorts or boxing whole communities into one box. This blog aims to unwrap the many layers of the Muslim communities and their very complex identities. I hope that you would read up a little about what the Sharia is and what its function, without understanding it through the extreme views of the 'chopping of hands' that some elements in the media like to present.

And finally, although I am tanned I would hate to live forever in the desert because I get headaches in too much sun! Maybe that's why God made me a Scot and a proud one at that! The fresh air of Scotland, the water that is renowned worldwide, ah - pure dead brilliant! I wonder how many of my fellow Scots would want to ship you off to the desert sands for a little while to cool yourself down in hope that you would look at me, and Muslims, like any other human beings on God's earth.

Och well, I wish you peace, success and prosperity.


Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Wimbledon: The First Scottish Muslim Official from Townhead Brags

As some of you may know I have been selected to umpire at this years Wimbledon Championships at the All England Tennis Club. I have tried to continue working on my doctoral thesis but I have to confess that I have been rather distracted. With Nadal winning the French Open for a splendid fourth time and the constant coverage of the Artois Championships on the television, it has been difficult to evade tennis these last few days. Last year I didn’t quite make the mark for being selected for the grand slam but was selected to umpire at the Wimbledon Qualifying Tournament at the LTA Tennis Centre in Roehampton. This year I will be umpiring at the same qualifying tournament but also doing ten days at the Championships. I’ve been thinking about writing my blog whilst I am down there but then wondered what would be the main reason for doing this? What do you think? I’m trying to think if I could bring an element of ‘Islamic’ reflection into it or will it just become one big gloat, starting with me being the first ‘Scottish Muslim’ to be selected to stand wearing the Polo Ralph Lauren uniform with an eye on the lines. Oh, what a show off, I hear you say! :-)

On a serious note it is such types of activities and sports that have made me aware of the finer things in life. That God has gifted us this body and we need to look after it as best as we can. Everyone needs an escape from their day to day program and even though I believe that the tennis court/world is not very real, those ready to shoot me down should know that the recently retired Justine Henin also said this, there is something rather ‘dashing’ about the game. I’m still trying to make my mind up if British tennis has brushed aside its upper-middle class, white man appeal. A few years back I raised this question at the Glasgow University Student’s Tennis Club and it didn’t go down too well. I was at the Artois Final last year and looked around to see just a couple of non-white faces jotted around centre court. This didn’t bother me as much as the need for Pims and Champagne by those sitting near me. Has British tennis lost its real thirst for the game of tennis to those who attend the Artois and Wimbledon because it is the place to be and be seen in the summer? I see some excellent examples of the sport moving forward in the form of the Williams sisters from the USA and the way in which they were not weaned in the most advanced and up to date tennis centres but still there are times when I am unsure. I cannot complain though, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has supported my work and it has paid off with my selection. Nothing is ever totally ‘bad’, there are always glimmers of hope lurking in between somewhere.

Maybe I will shed my rebel Townhead (I read once it was where the first Glasgow gang came from!) council estate image when I reside at a "substantial Georgian Grade II listed mansion set in ornate grounds near Roehampton on the edge of Richmond Park, set within beautiful grounds, with acres of lawn, yew hedges, mature trees, rose gardens and a pond and fountain" for three weeks in London. Hmm, I doubt it. How can I forget my roots and my beloved Glasgow. And let it be known that Townhead is where Charles Rennie Macintosh and the Martyrs School in Parson Street that he is associated with still stands. We have a beautiful leaf shaped monument with a bright red light shining inside it to commemorate Macintosh's Townhead, right across from the Buchanan Bus Station, a must see! Whoever said something good cannae come fae a council estate!

Finally, my poor hamster, Ghalib, will be abandoned for three weeks and left with my nephew so please do pray for him! I’m sure he is quite excited about it though!