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Ten questions with Zohra Khaku from the BBC’s Muslims Like Us

zohra-khaku

What is it really like be a modern-day British Muslim? The BBC’s Muslims Like Us, broadcast at the end of 2016, sought to find an answer to this question, by making ten Muslims of different backgrounds share a house with each other. There was conflict, there was controversy, but there was also connection.

We caught up with Zohra Khaku, one of the housemates to find out more about the programme and her experience of sharing a house with ten complete strangers.

1. What made you want to appear on a programme like Muslims Like Us?

When talking to the producers of the show, I had been emphasising how strongly I feel about standing up and taking responsibility for our narrative as Muslims in the UK. When she asked if I’d come on the show, I couldn’t really say no!

2. What was it like staying in a house with ten random people?

At times it was brilliant – meeting new people, getting to know them better and experiencing the beginning of new relationships. We had some really fun moments including playing charades and staying up late talking through the night. Some bits were difficult – sharing a room with someone I didn’t know was hard, and the mess in the kitchen really bothered me!

3. Was there anyone you particularly got along with?

Mehreen! We got on really well, and are still in touch almost every day.

4. Was there anyone in particular you clashed with?

I found Abdul Haq’s views really hard to deal with. As you saw on episode two, it was particularly difficult for me when talking about coming from a Shia background. His views on it being okay to harm people who he deems to be ‘outside the fold of Islam’ really disturbed me, and I decided to challenge him. For the rest of my time in the house, every time Abdul talked about prejudice, I pointed out his cognitive dissonance and just couldn’t bear to listen to him any more.

5. Did you find there were a lot of differing views?

So many differing views! People came from such different backgrounds and life experiences, so as expected there were lots of opinions. Eventually we found a way to be functional, although many discussions were difficult and make for difficult viewing.

6. What would you say were the main points of discussion that you all agreed upon?

Nabil’s ‘Feed the Homeless’ activity was such a uniting time for the housemates. We all loved the values that the afternoon represented, and worked together as a team without any issues at all.

7. What were your main concerns going into the house, and how did the reality of the experience match with your initial expectations?

I decided to go in with a really open mind, so I didn’t really have many concerns. I told myself I’d be myself and go with the flow, and that’s what I did. The experience was intense, with some fantastic and some horrible moments.

8. What were your main takeaways from this experience, or what did you learn?

I learned a few things about myself. It seems that I cry when I’m angry and upset! And I learned that there are circumstances under which I would call the anti-terrorism police.

9. Do you feel the programme will help to change the image of British Muslims (either in a positive or negative way)?

I hope so! From some of the posts I’ve seen online and messages I’ve received already, a lots of people seem to have learned some things about Muslims, even if it’s just realising that Muslims are not a monolithic community.
Within the Muslim community I hope it causes some debate, but most of all, I hope that the idea that we need to stop judging each other spreads a bit more widely. I’ve seen comments already calling the group horrible names. At the end of the day, we’re taught to have good akhlaq (manners) and I think some of the comments online could do with a bit of that.

10. Did the experience change your perceptions of what it means to be a British Muslim?

I think I learned some things from the other housemates. Hearing their experiences around issues they deal with in their daily lives was as fascinating as ever. Peoples lives are interesting, and the housemates were no different. My own perception of what it’s like to be a British Muslim hasn’t changed.


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What are British Values?

By Anjum Peerbacos

@mamaanji

David Cameron visits the Harris Academy in Bermondsey

David Cameron visits the Harris Academy Bermondsey where he meets with students and teachers.

 

“Eating Fish n Chips Miss” was the response when I asked my Year 9 class. I posed this question as David Cameron has asked teachers up and down the country to teach our young people “British Values”, but as a person born and bred in Great Britain, I’m not entirely sure what he means.

Do I agree with the Year 9 students? Is being British eating fish and chips on a Friday? Well then in that case I’m very British, the school canteen serves fins and chips every Friday and the alternative can be limited. Or is it going to a sporting event and standing and swearing your allegiance and loyalty to the Queen as the national anthem was blasted out of the speakers in the stadium. I did this yesterday at the Olympic Park whilst watching a basketball game with my family. Is this being British or instilling British Values?

Or is it supporting team GB regardless of the catastrophic defeat which they claimed! Every basket, foul, challenge roared through the supporters in the crowd. Is this being inherently British? If so then that’s a big yes for me.

Or is it supporting Andy Murray at Wimbledon, or Mo Farah at the Olympics? Tick

Or is it merely putting the kettle on in a crisis? Or when celebrating? Or having a chat with friends? Or having tea and cake in the afternoon? If that’s the case then I’m definitely British. The afternoon tea and cake is a staple in our household, so that must put us high up in the Britishness stakes.

Or is it the painful politeness of being trodden on and then apologising to the person who has done the treading?

Or being so extremely excruciatingly close to someone and still not uttering a word, in other words, on the crowded underground train during rush hour. Sounds extremely British. Then again, by that measure, I am definitely British.

Or is being British never crying in public, “I don’t cry, I’m British” taken from the children’s movie “Planes”. Yup not me, cry like a baby behind closed doors but never, ever in public.

The list could go on and on, of course, but what does Cameron actually mean? I actually believe that the tolerance and acceptance and the humanity in Great Britain makes it Great. Charity events, humanitarian aid, people feeling persecution from all over the world being able to seek refuge here; that’s what makes us Great Britain. Having an understanding of the value of human life, all human life makes us Great Britain.

 

Anjum Perrbacos is a mother writer living, teaching and learning, in 21st century London. Of Asian origin (beige- ish), wearing a hijab – not a terrorist! A Londoner through and through and proud to be so. Currently Vice Chair of local Constituency Labour Party. Promoting Political engagement within diverse communities. You can follow her on Twitter @Mammaanji or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IAmLondonToo/
Image credits: Number 10 on Flickr
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.