Everything happens in cycles. A current cycle is this one: Terrorist attack occurs. Innocent people die. Islamic State Group takes credit. Politicians and current affairs commentators commentate. Katie Hopkins says something vile about people who did nothing wrong. And a bunch of people blame the rest of the Muslim community for the existence of ISIS, terrorism and all the problems in the world.
“Why don’t the Muslims do something?”
“Somebody at these mosques must know who’s up to no good!”
The Muslim community then mostly keeps quiet. And when they do say anything, nobody listens; or at least until recently, the media doesn’t cover it.
I think we need to promote understanding. It’s human nature to fear that which you are unfamiliar with. So let me tell you what really happens in a mosque and in doing so, explain why nobody does anything.
I would head to the mosque at about 1pm on a Friday for what is called Jumma. There’s never any parking at that time because it’s the most important prayer of the week. Kind of like Sunday mornings at a church. So I might end up parking far away and having to walk. I would run to the bottom door (because I’m late!). As my nose fills with the smell of Musk, I take my shoes off upon entry and cram them onto one of the shelves or just leave them on the floor (with at least another 50 pairs of shoes) before heading up the stairs past all the notice boards and into the main prayer room – if there’s space.
I kneel down next to somebody I do not know and have never met before. We will say nothing to each other because it’s frowned upon to talk while the Imam (Islam’s name for a priest) is talking. The Imam is addressing the crowd in another language and there are some kids who are not yet old enough to take anything seriously, laughing and giggling at the back of the room. Every so often one of them will get caned by the hairy bloke whose job it is to keep them in line.
Eventually the Imam will stop talking and we’ll all get ready to pray. Everybody stands up in long rows, murmurs fill the air as people start to recite prayers in whispers. And then the Imam bellows, “Allahu Akbar!” as he begins to lead the first part of the prayer which is performed by everybody present, in unison. The entire prayer takes place in Arabic – so I don’t understand a word, nor, I will extrapolate, do most Indians and Pakistanis in the room.
At no point are terrorism or world domination discussed during the prayer.
Muslim prayers are divided into units called rakkats. One rakkat could be described to those with no knowledge of this type of thing as a sequence of words and actions carried out in a prescribed order. And all Muslim prayers are quantified as a particular number of these units. There are subtle differences to the cycles at different times but as a general rule, this description is correct. So for most of the time when you’re praying, you’re reciting words you learned as a child, doing actions you learned as a child, all in another language that you do not understand. And you’re alone. But just with a couple of hundred other people who are also alone.
After this, the prayer ends and lots of people head for the doors. Naturally people gather in groups outside for a bit of a chat – but it’s mostly about mobile phones, SIM card deals and Game of Thrones.
At some mosques, some particularly dedicated individuals do stay behind after prayers. But they’re mostly old men. Not 22-year-olds.
So when people tell me that Muslims should do something, I genuinely don’t know what it is that they’re expected to do. Muslims are not all members of some huge organisation. We don’t all know each other and we’re not all friends on Facebook. If stopping ISIS was as easy as arresting people who attended the ‘How To Build A Suicide Vest’ class at their local mosque, I think it would have happened by now.
The truth is we’re as clueless as everybody else.
I think this says it all really…
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