Curly's Corner Shop, the blog!

South Shields premier political blog

So, your neighbour is a Muslim?

with 24 comments

Ever thought of getting to know them a little better?

Regular readers here will know that for some time I have been very concerned at how “The War Against Terror”, and the attendant changes in anti terror legislation introduced during the Blair/Brown era, affected the way we viewed ourselves, our civil liberties, and the way in which we approached others within our communities. I have to report that in South Shields, at least, the more general fears and stereotypical views about the followers of Islam have not been realised, although there have been a very few isolated incidents reported in the local press.

I have often criticised in this blog, the apparent failure of government to adhere to its own principles that terrorism would not alter the way of British life, government itself has managed to achieve that by regulating, legislating, monitoring, spying, and gradually eroding many of our centuries old civil liberties that we often take for granted. Following on from the major outrages of 9/11 and 7/7 government has managed to introduce an illogical sense of fear about Muslims in our communities and allowed sections of the press and media to highlight the most extreme extreme examples of expression from teachings and preachings to public demonstrations, yet in the majority of British communities, and most certainly here in South Shields, there is very little evidence at all to support these fears.

We have lived side by side with Muslims in our locality for over two hundred years here, with descendants of Yemenis and more recently Bangladeshis, educated in our schools, working in our community, and generally being normal “Geordies” enriching our lives with an infusion of diversity and culture. I stated in a previous post that I will be writing a little more about our Muslim neighbours during June and July to try and bridge that gap of understanding which still exists, and I am meeting some people who are keen on reaching out into the wider community to help us gain that understanding about their cultural and religious beliefs.

We all need to appreciate, accept and respect each other’s beliefs and be able to come together in those areas where we all share a common path, it strengthens us as human beings, engages us, and challenges us to move forward with greater social integration. We have been blessed in South Tyneside with many years of social, cultural, and religious harmony, but the history of recent more international events risks alienating a section of our community which has done little to deserve suspicion on any level.

The video above is taken from an American website which has broadly the same aims, My Fellow American is also reaching out to bridge that divide, caused by ignorance, and build stronger local communities with greater social cohesion. Just because your neighbour may have a different coloured skin, or may occasionally dress differently, or wear a beard, or eat different meals to you is no reason to view him with a wary eye. We didn’t necessarily do this with those speaking in an Irish brogue in the 1970s did we?

As we approach Ramadam I will be introducing some members of the Muslim community here in South Shields who will talk about their experiences and share them with us, I hope you will find their stories fascinating, interesting, entertaining, and engaging.

I hope that it may encourage you to reach out and get to know your neighbour a little better.

It’s part of what being a Sanddancer is all about.

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Written by curly

June 8, 2011 at 10:05 am

24 Responses

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  1. We need to ‘respect each other’s beliefs?  Why?  I don’t respect a belief that gay people should be executed, adulterers stoned or women forced to submit to men because they think a god says so.  Neither do I respect the belief that say women should be expected to wear ridiculous clothing or abandon their rights over their own body.

    I don’t think that the genital mutilation of baby boys and pubescent girls is right, so I won’t respect religiously motivated and sanctioned child abuse either.

    This is a small sample of religious beliefs which contradict my own ethical position.  You are free to respect them.  I won’t.

    brianpaget

    June 10, 2011 at 7:51 am

  2. Brian, you are entitled to your own opinion, but unfortunately you have directed false outdated stereotypes of Islam, without researching your facts.

    Firstly genital mutilation of young girls is NOT Islamic teachings, but rather African cultural ritual which has unfortunately being practiced by African Muslims. Many Islamic scholars have said that this practice is not Islamic teachings- unless you care to come up with evidence yourself. In regards to males, yes we Muslims do practice circumcision, and this practice has been proven to be hygienic for the individual. I must emphasise that this practice is promoted but not compulsory.

    I will come back again on above issues, but right now I have to go and stone to death an adulterer! Lol

    Lalon Amin

    June 10, 2011 at 3:27 pm

  3. Lalon, I didn’t mention Islam specifically, my point was about belief, and Curly’s assertion that we should respect beliefs. Should we blindly respect the beliefs of others if they don’t fit our own ethical model?

    brian

    June 10, 2011 at 4:57 pm

  4. Brian, in terms of Women in Islam. We hold Women in high regard. Islam introduced measures to give women freedoms which many didn’t have pre Islam, examples are the right for women to gain inheritance from their own families, the right to be educated, the right for divorce and many more examples.
    It is taught that “paradise lies under the feet of your mother” this at a time when many girls were buried alive just for being girls.

    Unfortunatley some Muslim men do treat their wives badly, and this is often highlighted, but yet so do alot of other men who are not Muslim, religion is not to blame, but rather the individual. Women forced to submit to Men? I think you have completely misconstrued the religion of Islam. A marriage is classed as void if it is without consent in Islam.

    Brian, now that I have given you facts about your misconception, let me say that Islam is a religion of tolerance, harmony and love. I can give you countless examples of teachings, where we Muslims are ordered to create harmony and peace with our nieghbors regardless of religion. We are instructed to not criticise other religions, and are told ” you worship your religion, and we worship our religion”. We have been taught, that if your next door neighbour is hungry, You can’t eat yourself until you provide food for your neighbour.

    We fast every year for a whole month, this is so we can be grateful for what God has given us, and we are instructed to give a percentage of our income to the poor( muslim or non Muslim).

    Lalon Amin

    June 10, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    • Perhaps Curly worded his Blog wrongly. I’m sure we all do not have to simply accept others ‘beliefs’ (I do not accept Satanism, for example, a recognised religion) but should aim to understand others creeds and seek to find common ground in the messages that they contain.
      There is also a huge difference between culture and theology.
      There is a problem with the stereo type being bandied about about Islam surrounding the use of Sharia Law. I can’t accept that law. It is in my opinion wrong to execute homosexuals or denegrate them by use of religion. Further, when other religions see women fully covered (again a cultural issue) it is hard to understand . Equally the use of corporal punishment for women wearing trousers or the chopping of of limbs for crimes or the stoning of men women. I also stuggle to find the find the true freeedom of women in some aspects of Islam.
      I studied Islamic ethics at University and realise that many of these issues are cultural and do not represent the mass of Islamic teaching based upon tollerance and living ones life to a set of rules that are accepting of social intergration.
      However, Lalon, in the current climate I feel that there needs to be a stronger Islamic voice in the west to counteract the evil of extremism as well as the evil of Islamaphobia. Often I feel that the general public see only what is displayed in the Media, Muslims have, in my opinion, a duty to fight and extinguish those who cause extremist views to be used in the name of Islam, and to fully reassure that the true writings of the Koran are what Muslims seek to deliver.
      That said, I do feel that sometimes many ‘English’ traditionalists are hypocritical in that they do not practice their own religion in their daily lives, in fact often doing the opposite of what they espouse to teach. There is much for use to learn from the ethics and practices of other religious groups who ‘practice’ their religion and I look forward to seeing the messages of the text being relayed to us in this blog.

      Kevin

      June 11, 2011 at 9:02 am

      • Yes, Kevin perhaps you are correct on my wording, the theme I will be trying to promote is greater understanding.

        Curly

        June 11, 2011 at 10:16 am

  5. Lalon, could you do me the courtesy of actually reading what I’ve written before you respond?

    brian

    June 10, 2011 at 7:02 pm

  6. Curly, how can it be that you get 60+ comments regarding the vile Mr Monkey Blog and almost thirty comments on a bleeding dog walk and only seven responses to something as fundamentally important to our planet as coexistence with those whose opinions are different from one’s own!! As someone who consistently champions the fact that we have had the pleasure of living and working with the Yemeni and Bangladeshi people for many, many years I look forward to hearing more from them regarding their sanddancer experiences. Incidentally I wold love to know what it is that convinces each of us that we are committed sanddancers. Me? It’s that I am no longer surprised when people marvel over the majesty of our Town Hall! How about you?

    Mrsdoasyouwouldbedoneby

    June 14, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    • Me?
      It’s all about the genuine warmth and hospitality of South Shields’ people (and those in the surrounding locality). I speak of the vast majority who will have a kindly disposition and a chat with any stranger of any creed, it’s an “open door” policy infused in our make up which takes me back to my roots in long streets of terraced housing down by the riverside. It’s our outgoing nature, our defining character, our indefatigable nature, our innate ability to struggle on against the odds, an indomitable spirit of community, a willingness to look after each other, and a respect for differing opinions.

      Perhaps the design and creation of our “new” town hall encapsulates all of this.

      Curly

      June 14, 2011 at 8:52 pm

      • A bit OTT. Indefatigable! Innate! Indomitable! Not sure about all of that hyperbole. History tells us that the community spirit in South Shields is an interesting subject to study, have a look at ‘Tyneside in the Second World War’ by Craig Armstrong. Community was in fact localised to the surrounding families and maybe the street, if it was a short one. I feel that the binding influence of the area among the working classes was the high unemployment, poor housing, and lack of opportunity. Now it probably is Minchellas ice cream and Dicksons savaloys. The town with its links via metro and the high levels of mobility has a far greater transcient population than the past. No Curly lets be real Shields is an OK town, and one of its redeeming features is its ability via the large former sea going community to acknowledge and accept those from elsewhere.

        Kevin

        June 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm

  7. I know I’m a sanddancer when I can bemuse my Grandchildren by talking about The Hill Top, The Dragon and Ghandi’s Temple-not to mention the fact that we have the best ice cream in the world!!!

    Mrsdoasyouwouldbedoneby

    June 14, 2011 at 10:07 pm

  8. “I hope that it may encourage you to reach out and get to know your neighbour a little better”.
    What makes you think the majority of residents haven’t already been doing just that? And for years and years, generation after generation!

    Neil Newton

    June 15, 2011 at 5:23 pm

  9. Brian, i did you the courtesy of reading your email. That is why i responded to the misinformed and outdated statements that you made. You just chose not to respond.

    Ignorance creates all your above statements Brian, it is not knowing, or not trying to get to know your nieghbour is what drives these stereotypes. Yes we live side by side, but how many of us can say that we are truly integrated as a society? there are still aot of barriers we all need to break before we can say that we are an intergrated society.

    One of the remedies is that we respect each others opinions and religious belief. We may not share each others belief, but ceratinly we can be tolerant and respectful. As curly suggested, the media played a massive role in creating a fear about Muslims.

    Having been born and bred in Shields, i see myself as a geordie, supporting Newcastle United, gota geordie accent, hate it when England loses a game, heartbroken when we keep losing out on penalties, but yet, i will still be called a terrorist (as i have been done), and those that know most South Shields Muslims, they will tell you that we are actually no different to any other people in South Shields, we work hard, have the same dreams and aspirations for our children, have the same worries about the current ecenomic crisis, yet we are still called foriegners(like i have been countless times).

    When we go to our motherland, niether can we adjust to their way of life nor can we speak fluent Bengali, and they call us foriegners. So what becomes of us? before 911 we were just plain pakis, now we are pakis who make bombs, but excuse me, we are British and proud, and equally we are Muslim and proud, we are still the same opeople, who are just a wee bit scared everytime theres a terrorist attack, as we ordinary people get the blame. Whats changed is peoples perception of a Muslim, the same friendly Muslim is no longer a Friend post 911, but rather in some cases the enemy, this is no fault of the Muslim, but the gullible person who happens to believe the devious media…so coming to the point of curlys article, all you need to do is getting to know your nieghbour a little better…and that applies to both sides

    SORRY IN ADVANCE FOR SPELLING OR GRAMMAR, I DIDNT REALLY CHECK IT OVER,

    Lalon Amin

    June 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    • To be fair Lalon,.I think Brian’s comments are directed more at Curly’s condescending tone. it looks to me like Brian’s used extreme examples to make the point that we shouldn’t blindly respect everyone’s beliefs. I certainly don’t respect Jewish extremists that advocate the killing of Palestinians, nor do I respect the beliefs of white neo nazis that the white man is the superior race but I don’t believe that every Jew and/or white man/woman shares the beliefs of those extremists and I certainly don’t believe that every muslim I see has a bomb under their clothes ready to blow my infidel western arse to smithereens. I think the majority of people realise this, particularly in the North East region and we don’t need a preachy, patronising article to tell us that, which is what I believe Brian was driving at.

      Neil Newton

      June 18, 2011 at 4:10 pm

      • Neil, I take exception to your use of the word “condescending”, who is it that you believe I am talking down to or at?

        curly

        June 19, 2011 at 12:09 am

      • Condescending to the The reader Curly. It comes across as though we are narrow minded trolls in need of instruction on how to interact with the rest of the human race, whilst you are in the pulpit giving the exhortations. There’s the preachy, patronising tone of this – “We all need to appreciate, accept and respect each other’s beliefs and be able to come together in those areas where we all share a common path, it strengthens us as human beings, engages us, and challenges us to move forward with greater social integration”. – Do we? Oh right, thanks for the lecture, until I read that I hadn’t realised the value/benefit of getting on with my fellow man/woman!

        Your assumption that – “I hope that it may encourage you to reach out and get to know your neighbour a little better”. – Why should we need encouraging, what makes you think we haven’t already been doing that for years and years?

        “It’s part of what being a Sanddancer is all about”. I thought acceptance of others was part of being a decent human being and not just restricted to South Shields.

        I’d suggest that the majority of folk already realise how to gan on with their ‘neighbours’ and don’t need any encouraging to do so.

        Neil Newton

        June 19, 2011 at 9:17 am

  10. Just to add a positive point. My uncle recalled that when he first came to England in the early 60’s, he arrived in London, he recalls the people were very cold towards foriegners, they got abused regularly.
    He then came to South Shields for a visit to see a relative. My uncle couldnt speak English, all he had with him was a piece of paper which had the address of his relative, it was written in English by a friend. He showed this paper to a stranger, and to my uncles surpise the stranger took him to that place. It was because of this kindness by this stranger that he decided to migrate to South Shields, and to this day he calls South Shields home

    Lalon Amin

    June 18, 2011 at 3:40 pm

  11. In regards to extremism, they is and always will be extremists in all religions, Islam without a doubt completely rejects the notion of extremism and terrorism. There is a verse in the Quran which tells us, if you kill one innocent person, it is as if you have killed the whole of mankind, and if you save one person, it’s as if you’ve saved the whole of mankind. This verse for many Muslims is fundamental in the way we oppose terrorism.

    Unfortunately I do concede they are extremists and terrorists who happen to share the same religion as 1 billion other peace abiding Muslims.

    Lalon Amin

    June 18, 2011 at 5:34 pm

  12. […] ago I made a comment on Curly’s blog, where I made a somewhat clumsy yet robust case against Curly’s call for blind respect for religion in the interest of social cohesion, where I argued that there are many features of religions that […]

  13. Firstly, I’d like to commend Curly for what I thought was a thoughtful, insightful appeal for tolerance and respect. Sorry Brian. but if different aspects of a community are going to work together then his tac will be decidedly more fruitful than your own, which, much as I love debating with you, is so bile-filled at times it saddens me. Lalon is right; Islam is misunderstood. As converts to Islam ourselves quite recently, my wife and I can vouch for the fact that Islam is a religion that truly treats women with respect. In fact, it DEMANDS it.

    The negative stereotypes of wife-beating, etc. foisted upon Islam are of cultural origin, not spiritual. Let me give you just two examples of how women are treated in Islam – our own experiences.

    Not long after we embraced our new way of life we were invited to a gathering at the home of a Muslim friend. Muslims don’t drink, but boy they know how to enjoy themselves. I was sitting in one room with several men and the women were in another room, from which echoed continual peals of laughter. I looked at my friend and said, “That must be all those repressed, Muslim women I was told about, eh? They don’t sound very repressed to me.” My friend laughed and said, “If only people knew…!”

    My wife confessed later that she’d never enjoyed herself so much. And it’s been the same ever since. She’s made more new friends than she can count, and I really wouldn’t advise anyone to call her “repressed” or “downtrodden” within striking distance. I used to be sceptical when I heard new Muslims – women – say that wearing the hijab and the experience of living as a Muslim in general was a liberating experience. Now I’m not sceptical, for I have seen it to be true with my own eyes. Respect for the elderly, honesty in business dealings, love of family, looking after one’s neighbours…all these things used to be standard practice in our country, but we’ve lost them now. But although Muslims aren’t perfect and not all practice Islam as conscientiously as they should, those good standards that we used to enjoy in our country are still prevalent in this most misunderstood of faiths. It’s ironic that Islam is so criticised when it vigorously espouses the very values that we used to enjoy and now simply yearn after.

    Last Sunday, we travelled to Dewsbury with some friends and visited a local mosque. There was no women’s section there (don’t read anything into that – it has nothing to do with treating women as second-class citizens) and my wife needed somewhere to perform her Asr prayers. As we deliberated on the problem, a family walked up the street towards the mosque. I approached the elderly gentleman amongst them and explained our dilemma. To my astonishment, he simply pointed to his front door and invited my wife to use his family’s home as a place to pray. We were complete strangers, and yet the man trusted my wife to use his home without the slightest hesitancy.

    My friends and I said our prayers in the mosque and then went back to the house where my wife was. A young lad opened the door and I explained that I was looking for my wife. We watched as she came down the stairs and was embraced tightly by an elderly Asian woman – she couldn’t speak a word of English – who had looked after her. I turned to my friends and admitted that the scene had brought a lump to my throat. There was an English woman – white and Geordie to the core – warmly hugging an elderly Asian woman – Pakistani, perhaps, I can’t be sure – as if they’d been life-long friends. And yet they’d been complete strangers only half an hour previously. This is something I’ve seen repeatedly in the Muslim community and its full impact has to be experienced to be appreciated. It is a warmth which transcends barriers of age, race, colour and language.

    To date I’ve never heard a Muslim espouse terrorism or the degradation of women. What I have seen is a community, much maligned by those who do not know any better, in which the values and virtues we once enjoyed are still viewed as normal behaviour. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I’ve been a non-Muslim and a Muslim. Believe me, the kindness and friendship we’ve been shown since we took Shahadah has left us in no doubt that we made the right decision. If you think that Islam as its truly practiced is a harsh, cruel religion that espouses bombings and cruelty to women then you’re looking at a counterfeit version of a faith that truly does believe in peace and the intrinsic value of human life.

    Drain off some of your cynicism and bile, Brian, and take another look. You say you weren’t pointing specifically at Islam, but its hard to see, taking into account the stereotypes you mention, what other religion you could have been referring to ;”stoning”…”ridiculous clothing”…”women forced to submit to men because a god says so…”

    BTW, since when did you become a fashion guru and the arbiter of what clothing looks “ridiculous”? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I’m not sure its wise for a Geordie bloke to be pontificating on women’s fashion and telling them that what they’re wearing looks ridiculous. I seem to remember that a former director of a certain local football club made some disparaging remarks about the appearance of our local women and lived to bitterly regret it. (I don’t know if you have a “significant other”, but if you have, next time she purchases a new dress try telling her she looks ridiculous in it. I promise I’ll come and visit you in Intensive Care with a bunch of flowers, and a box of Gulab Jamun; trust me, you’ll love it.)

    Joking aside, those who can find the courage to take a truly objective view of Islam will see that it isn’t a “dark ages culture” to be shunned, but a civilising, liberating way of life that should be seen as a jewel in the crown of our borough. If anyone watched Inside Out the other night on the BBC they’d have seen how its the fastest growing religion in the area and the majority of converts are not only born and bred Geordies – they’re women! (The programme is still up there on BBC i-player if you missed it). Could it be that they’ve spotted something you’ve missed? It seems a bit weird that all these women would be joining a religion that supposedly treated them so badly.

    Lalon sees Islam as it really is, and I do now. From the inside.

    Well said, Curly, and eloquently.

    Mike

    November 5, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    • I know plenty of Muslim lads who drink Mike.

      chris

      January 2, 2012 at 9:41 pm

      • I know plenty of Muslim lads who drink Mike.
        Saying that South Shields is unique as the Muslim population are no different from Newcastle’s Chinese population and seem to mix or live together nicely but I can not say that with some area’s in West Yorkshire like Keighley where Muslims youths are no different from the white Chav scum you get all over Britain or the gun trotting Afro-Caribbean/Mixed youth’s like Peckham etc.
        I take my hat of to Islam in South Shields.

        chris

        January 2, 2012 at 9:48 pm

      • I know Christians who celebrate Halloween and Jews who eat pork. I’m not sure what your point is, Chris. In every religion or spiritual path you’ll find those who live it all and those who live some of it. I’m not their judge. At the end of the day we just have to accept people as they are, I reckon.

        Mike

        January 2, 2012 at 9:48 pm

  14. Sorry Chris – only the first half of your comment showed up at first, which had me puzzled. Now I see what you’re getting at. I think the negative influences we see in our society affect all cultures. We need to protect against them, but people have freedom of choice and we can’t hold a gun to their heads…

    Mike

    January 2, 2012 at 9:52 pm


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