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A New Expression

A New Expression

Issue 2 Nov / Dec 2003

Welcome to the second issue of emel. Issue one has been so well received, as our letters page will show you, yet we have been asked where we fit in? What is emel’s identity? Which shelf should it go on in the newsagents? It is hard to confine yourself to a narrow identity, especially when the community we are commenting on is in the midst of creating a fresh identity and culture. Of course, Ramadan is the  best time to be most reflective and creative. Ramadan: the month of revelation; the month of inspiration; the month of remembrance. Yes, that is what we think Ramadan is mainly about: remembering the plight of the less fortunate; the struggle of the courageous; the sacrifices of the selfless. And ultimately to fulfill one’s own responsibilities in this sometimes crazy world.

Within these pages you will read the moving story of Mesar Hamed, who fled Saddam Hussain’s persecution only to be blinded whilst living in a refugee camp in the Saudi Arabian desert. After a momentous effort to make his way here, he has learnt English, scored all As in his ‘A’ levels and written an original computer program for British Telecom. There is no doubt that his has already been a distinct contribution to Britain and may he continue to add colour, commitment and creativity to this society.
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However, individuals like Mesar continue to have their identity and sense of belonging seasonally called into question. Doubting Muslim loyalty is the new pastime of many in high positions. The new citizenship classes underline the tension within the debate. But we can see from Zaki Badawi’s encounter with Britain that questions of identity and loyalty are never simple. Notwithstanding his long and colourful presence in Britain, his enduring marriage to an English woman and his interaction with the highest echelons of British society, Dr Badawi still does not consider himself British!

One of the reasons, if not the main reason, we feel that emel has been so well received is because Muslim communities throughout the world, but particularly in the West, are demanding a means of expression which reflects their reality in a positive but honest way; a means of expression which promotes a strong sense of values and has a moral purpose, but which does not preach; a means of expression which allows Muslims who are ostensibly westerners to see their lives here as an intrinsic part of their Muslim life, not as a thing apart.

Muslims need to be an integral part of the society we live in. We have to participate fully in the communities we inhabit. It may be difficult - some feel a sense of conflict, and carry two distinct identities, changing them as appropriate. This is unfortunate. We have to realise that we are all, to varying degrees, products of the West. And the West has a firm basis on past civilisations, including Muslim culture and civilisation. This inter-connectedness and inter-dependence is the theme of this year’s Islam Awareness Week, featured inside this issue.

An honest understanding of Muslim history is vital. It will offer guidance to today’s fragmented world. Identities and cultures are constantly changing. The change needs to be managed and based on strong foundations. We need to acknowledge the contribution of Islam to the best of western civilisation, and at the same time understand that the best of western civilisation will provide the opportunity for a new Islamic civilisation. This is the inspiration we want our readers to go away with.

The emel team

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