I have noticed something very important and I suspect, often overlooked whilst watching Extremely British Muslims, that the only real enemy to a peaceful society, is ignorance.
By Andy Simon @AndySimon55
Muslims. We know so little about them.
Well; apart from the many media reports which typically are not all that favourable given recent jihadist attacks in Europe, France in particular, as well as Germany, and further afield in Africa, and not forgetting here in the UK, the 7/7 bombings, the death of Lee Rigby, and in the USA, the twin towers on 9/11, 2001.
Some have even argued that this rather negative and some would say sinister opinion towards Muslims is justified.
And if you also listen to the likes of say, Anne Marie Waters, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchins or even Pat Condell for that matter, these people and indeed many others could I suspect rattle off a list as long as your arm of all the alleged atrocities, human rights abuses and a whole variety of other offences, the religion of Islam has committed since the first Islamic prophet began practicing it, in 610AD, I think.
Based on the stories published via the media machine alone; Islam; such as it is, does not look all that good these days.
So I was rather intrigued when Channel 4 aired the first episode of a three part documentary about Muslims living in Britain.
The focused area was Birmingham, and in episode one, it was all about marriage which was . . . intriguing.
In episode two, the lead individuals, Nav and Waz, two seemingly ordinary Muslim men doing their best to not only live their lives in Britain against what seems to be a continuous tidal wave of suspicion and mistrust toward them, but also adhering as best they can, to the teachings, practices, and their own personal perception of their religion.
The third part focused on the rules of Islam which for me, for the most part, I found at times difficult to get my head around.
But without doubt this three part documentary showed me a very different sort of Muslim from what I was originally expecting.
Trouble is, I wasn't all that sure of what
I was expecting in the first place.
Like I suspect, some of us, primarily due to the media machines questionable at best, and sensationalized reporting, I had a pre-conceived notion of what Muslims were like.
I half expected to see them as sex mad, bad, rampaging and angry, Quran waving, Kalashnikov shooting, crazy people, like some on social media, have often perceived them to be.
Like I said at the beginning of this review, we know so little about them.
Suffice to say I sat down and watched this documentary with as much of an open mind as I could have, and I must admit, I was intrigued. Now at this point, I'm going to go a little "Star Trekkie" here, mainly because this might be the only way I can (hopefully) explain my next point.
Imagine if you will, that you're a passenger on a starship that's on a mission to seek out new life, and new civilizations. But in this case; you're not actually "boldly going where no one has gone before", but heading somewhere you personally, have never been to.
And in my case, this was Birmingham, via the good ship USS Channel 4.
Are you with me so far?
Having arrived in this (at least for me) new and unexplored land, you have if you like, "First Contact" with a community of indigenous people, who call themselves Muslims. Thing is; you have already been pre-conditioned about muslims from your news and social media machine database, prior to your journey.
However; you are not really sure about all that stuff in your database. You want to see for yourself, see if indeed the stories are true, that Muslims are portrayed by some, as savage, barbaric, backward thinking, uneducated, war mongering, homosexual hating, women suppressing, female genital mutilating morons, with absolutely no time for an agenda that would encourage democracy, community bonding, mutual respect and trust, friendship, cooperation, tolerance of other cultures and religions, peaceful integration, or in any way whatsoever, having any desire at all, to work peacefully and closely with other people, in neighbouring communities.
Surely all that cannot be true?
But as your starship steers you through 3 episodes of this documentary, it dawns upon you that the picture to which some within the news media and indeed on social media, have painted regarding Muslims living alongside us here in Britain right now quite frankly, is a very distorted and negative one.
After all; if your mission is hopefully like mine, as an open-minded, inquisitive individual, to explore things that are new and different, and to not be afraid of those who are indeed, different from you, but to instead, actively seek out and embrace this, even take a delight when finding this, whenever difference from you is encountered.
Unfortunately however; there is good and bad in all cultures, and in all religions. None of us, no matter how we try, is perfect.
But as this documentary continues, you quickly see that not all Muslims are bad Muslims, and indeed, many Muslims in fact, just simply want to get along with the rest of us, and live out their lives with us, in peace.
Now some I suspect will argue, that this entire documentary was deliberately structured and orchestrated, to put Muslims in a good light, and the rest of us, in a bad one.
Personally? I would not concur with this assumption.
I am not generally speaking, a strong proponent of any religion, as I often find many of the religions that we have nowadays, to be possessing their own fair share of what I would call, a "Religious Quirkiness", about them.
I simply cannot work out where some of them are coming from.
However; I will give any religion a chance to explain itself, and to justify its values, rules and practices, whatever my own personal preconceived notion or opinion of that religion, happens to be, at that time.
I am always willing to enhance, or indeed change my opinion completely of any religion, providing the pitch is presented and augmented in a way, that I can clearly and fully understand.
I will always be open to honest debate, and to finding reasonable answers with others, but most importantly, to have the opportunity to open up my mind a little more in order to reach perhaps a higher understanding of what is perceived by many people, as a complicated and sensitive subject.
Looking at the Twitter feeds as I continued watching, I did notice a great deal of resentment, Islamaphobic and predictable prejudicial comments about this documentary being posted. It saddened me to see so many negative comments and unhelpful suggestions.
It would seem; that some of us, clearly, still have a long way to go.
Personally? I found this documentary interesting, informative and above all, educational. Listening to Nav for example, I was intrigued by his views of other Britons opinions of Muslims, and what he believed to be "Good British Values".
"Having Good British values, for me (he said) is about caring for people who are NOT related to you.", as he boarded a plane bound for the Greek Island of Kos, to go to help the many desperate refugees, still fleeing war-torn Syria.
Hardly the attitude and actions of a hardline radical. Wouldn't you say?
Nav also spoke at length about ISIS, and how terrible they are, how a feeling of belonging and of devine purpose to this gang (as he called them) was the driving force behind the many unemployed and disillusioned or easily led young Muslims, who unfortunately, took off for Syria.
It has often been said that those who fight for ISIS, are not true Muslims anyway. After all; there are approximately almost 2 billion Muslims worldwide. And only a small percentage of them are hardline radicals. If this were not the case, you would not be sitting there reading this review, because I would not have been here to write it.
Extremely British Muslims, went all over Birmingham, especially to the Birmingham Central Mosque, affectionately known as the 'Wembly Stadium' of mosques, where many Muslims both male and female, gather together every Friday, for prayers.
Inside the mosque, it is beautifully decorated. And I have to say, having never visited one, I was impressed with the decor.
I also liked Mr Niaz, the teacher who taught the youngsters under his charge, the ways of Islam. And the message I kept hearing, time and time again, was that the primary goal of both young and old Muslims, was to live here in Britain, in peace.
Sounds like a noble and honourable intention to me.
I have noticed (at the time of writing this review) nobody on this site has as yet, written a review about this documentary.
And rather sadly I confess; I was not surprised by this.
It's a very controversial subject and quite understandably nobody wants to religiously speaking; put their foot in it, and go and write something that would be perceived as libellous, insulting or derogatory, and to cause offence.
Channel 4 however, have for decades been doing documentaries other channels simply don't do. They go and tackle issues other channels would think twice before taking on.
And this is why I have great respect for Channel 4
I will admit; this review has not been an easy one to write, primarily because of the sensitivity and indeed, the controversy surrounding the subject matter. But I felt I had to write something.
At the very least, I wanted my Muslim neighbours out there to know that in spite of all the anti-religious rhetoric and in some cases, hostility projected towards Muslims in general . . .
There are still those who want to listen to you, to learn from you, and to understand.
I like to be open minded, I want to be open minded, particularly with regard to subjects like this.
At the end of the day, nobody really knows what's out there, and nobody really knows if there truly is a God.
And should anyone claim they have conclusive evidence or undeniable proof of God's existence, then in my opinion, I would suspect, that they would be mistaken.
For they have no more proof of God's existence, than you or I.
All they really do have is their faith. And perhaps for some; that, in itself, is enough.
Channel 4's documentary, "Extremely British Muslims", was not just about Muslims and their religion, it was primarily about the stigmatism, suspicion, mistrust and general negative stereotyping, most Muslims get from all around them, living here in Britain.
It was about not being understood, and not being recognised as truly British. It was about being unfairly labelled, being treated with contempt and mistrust, and a feeling of being alienated in their towns, cities, and country.
If documentaries like this can bring about a better understanding of those who are different, and open a window to their way of life, and over time, show those who for the moment, do not understand, that being different, is really not so frightening, or so threatening after all, then perhaps we will finally have the kind of community all of us I'm certain, would want to enjoy living in.
At the end of the day; the Muslims are here, and the Muslims are here to stay.
And personally; I welcome their presence.
For indeed, they are for me very much so, part of our culture, part of our community, and in my opinion, a valued part of what 21st Century Britain is, right now, today.
They are now very much indeed; the New Britons.
I have also noticed something very important and I suspect, often overlooked whilst watching Extremely British Muslims, that the only real enemy to a peaceful society, is ignorance.
Ignorance; if left unchecked, will bring about uncertainty, doubt, suspicion, mistrust, alienation, resentment, and finally, hatred. Not the sort of things a community wishing to be peaceful, would want to encourage.
There is however, a way to avoid it.Simply stretch out your hand, and communicate.
If those who doubt and mistrust, would only reach out just like the passenger on that starship and try to get to know other people, who from the passengers point of view, are new, and different from themselves, then perhaps they may be pleasantly surprised by what both sides of that void of ignorance, which strives to keep them apart, can learn from each other.
And with that knowledge and mutual understanding, together, surely, they could remove ignorance, once and for all.
Channel 4's documentary, "Extremely British Muslims', is still available to watch on the channel's On-Demand service.
Thanks for reading.