Sometimes you have to pause for thought and take stock: to remind yourself where you have come from and where you are going. To recall promises you made along the way. To remind yourself that the process of reform is ongoing and continuous: that it doesn’t stop just because you stop. That a vow you made still stands, even if you have slipped or fallen; that the door remains open, that change is still possible, that you still have work to do.
We all feel legitimately aggrieved when newspapers lend disproportionate coverage to fringe provocateurs in the Muslim community, magnifying the significance of their actions far beyond realities on the ground. We frequently beg for reprieve in the face of negative reporting concerning Muslims and their faith, demanding fairness in its place. Whatever happened to balance, we demand, petitioning anyone who will listen to give us the benefit of the doubt.
Encountering swathes of the volunteer Muslim media — websites, blogs and free newspapers amongst them — generates a not dissimilar ambivalence. My irritation with the perpetual obsession with documenting every instance of alleged Islamophobia whenever it occurs anywhere in the world, even if it means trawling the online press twenty-four hours a day, has already been forcefully noted. It is tiring having to sift through reports of every misdemeanor of The Other, presented as they are to induce instant gloom. But of greater concern is the habit of some websites insisting on giving such prominence to an insignificant extremist fringe, amplifying their importance out of all proportion: Pamela Geller is the Muslim media’s equivalent of the tabloids’ hook handed mullah.
The picture foisted upon us is, they’re all out to get us — which is presumably the same picture that a regular reader of the Daily Express or Daily Mail forms of Muslims. We are suddenly living in a very polarised world, split succinctly into us and them. Given a bit of push and shove, the wrong economic conditions and the collapse of the Police force, and we will all be at each other’s throats in no time.
Absent amidst all the dreary pessimism is a record of the positive contributions of human-beings to one another, of Muslim and non-Muslim alike. Just as the press cannot find anything to say about the role of Muslim doctors in sustaining the health of our nation, we can only dwell on the light lacking in The Other. We heard there was a bitter pill and we swallowed it.
Yet here I have a flier that was thrust into my hands as I left the mosque last Friday. The (non-Muslim) Mayor of our little market town is organising a sponsored walk to raise funds to assist in the relief efforts for victims of Pakistan’s massive floods this year. It is supported by the town’s Churches Together group as well as Muslim-run businesses. A positive story at last, of communities working together with care and foresight. But of course it’s not the only case: we just need to accentuate the positive.
Surely then this is a sign for you: one of the most melancholic individuals you know is demanding a fundamental attitude shift that requires us to constantly seek out the good. For I am told that if you seek out goodness, this is exactly what you will find.