In 2001, a close friend of mine from university days invited me to go with him to Brixton for another friend’s wedding. A convert of West African descent, he was always much more rigorous in his approach to faith than I ever was, converting five years before me, in his mid-teens. Despite trying his best to steer me in one direction, he knew I was a lost cause, too laidback for my own good. But still he was going to try.
Sitting on the train as we approached our destination, he turned and looked at me sternly. “When we get there,” he said, “don’t introduce yourself as Tim. Use your Muslim name.” He said nothing more, but I took this to mean that the folk at the mosque we were going to meant serious business, and wouldn’t take kindly to a backslider like me. “Fine,” I shrugged, “whatever.”
So it was that we disembarked at Loughborough Junction and walked the short distance to Brixton Mosque. And then pure comedy gold. As soon as I walked in the front door, a Jamaican brother I knew from West Ealing beamed at me, embraced me with open arms, and exclaimed at the top of his voice, “Tiiiiiimmmm! What are yooou doing here?”
Hilarious. I felt sorry for the friend who’d brought me, who skulked away embarrassed. Sure enough, the folk at the mosque weren’t impressed. But it didn’t matter, for I had bumped into a good friend who lived just around the corner from me off Drayton Green park. It had been a while since we’d met for our regular Sunday cuppa opposite Dean Gardens, so we just spent our time catching up.
Suffice to day, my other friend didn’t invite me to his mosque again, but that was fine. It wasn’t really my cup of tea. I preferred my local, with its multiethnic community, which never took itself too seriously. In my book, you should never take yourself too seriously. Just go with the flow.