What’s left?

Years ago, when I first came here, I knew not to take my in-laws seriously when they insisted on perpetually mocking our faith. They described themselves as socialists, but I could already see they were hyper-capitalists.

One of their friends once sneered at me when he learned of my profession of faith: “And are you a practising Muslim?”

I just shrugged. “Are you a practising socialist?” I replied, though I already knew the answer to that. All they have is protest, but their actual actions over the years have betrayed them.

If socialism advocates community ownership and regulation of production, distribution and exchange, I don’t know what we would call their actual practice. Theft probably best encapsulates it.

Far from seeking the collective good for the community as a whole, not even the rights of family are sacrosanct. The properties of other family members are consumed by the eldest. Their sole-surviving parent is exploited and abused, her pension seized. Inheritance allocations are wrangled over in court, the daughters deprived their share entirely.

I laugh at a nephew’s social media page, still presenting himself as a radical leftist while he sits in a property paid for by assets stolen from his uncle. All of their talk is worthless, for in their midst stand relatives who freely gave when times were hard, but who stand scorned now that the tables have turned.

I laugh too at the proselytisers on social media who speak of the wonderful religious societies over here. Come, see for yourself. The widowers left living solitary lives. The consumption of others’ properties. The businessmen who run off with their clients’ money without delivering the goods. Just the other day, in the town down there, four drunk youths got into a fight, leaving one of them dead.

Faith is a commitment. To believe: it’s a decision you have to make. It’s not something you happen to be because you move amongst such people. All of my male in-laws proclaim themselves to be Atheists, but their ID Card still states Sunni Muslim. Collectively, they are Muslim, but individually they do not believe at all.

For look: for twenty years, they have derided me and my wife, and mock all believers daily. Shortly before she met me, my beloved took to wearing the hijab. This was a big step in a family like hers. Her late-father may have approved had he been alive, but her brothers: no, they took every opportunity to attack her for years.

Note the irony. My beloved left Turkey a secular atheist like her family, only to embrace the faith in London at around the same time as me. Ironic all the more, that in practice, in her devotion to communal wellbeing, she has revealed herself to be more left-leaning than any of them. Sadly, the self-proclaimed Leftists of the family don’t recall a single act of kindness.

Some locals are surprised that an English Muslim walks amongst them, but I am not surprised at all. Familiarity breeds contempt. It could be hard to find faith in a Muslim society, for everything is in decay. I think you have to remove yourself from an environment of outward belonging to really see its value. You have to give yourself room to breathe.

Faith starts from within. By necessity, it has to start here. You have to take your own self to task first, and to reform your own soul. That is the starting point; the foundation upon which better lives, families and communities are constructed. In the end, what’s left? Your heart and your deeds.

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