Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Free Mixing.....With Every Five Gallons!

No sooner has the squabbling over the Al Fresco Salah died down, but a new e-argument has errupted here in North East London. I have to admit some responsibility for this one, as one of my posts on another e-group started it all off. In typical style, though, a post on one topic quickly morphed into an argument over something completely different (as another famous Welshman might have said).

My post was about how many Muslims believe they are doing Da'wah (inviting others to Islam) when, in fact, their activities are more likely to promote community cohesion, if they have any positive impact at all. For example, some here have suggested that giving out sweets to passers by outside the mosque is good Da'wah. Well, I'd be the first to agree that this would be a lovely gesture, but I am yet to hear of anyone who embraced Islam because of a Jelly Baby!

But I digress! The ensuing argument was not about Da'wah at all, but rather about that old chestnut, 'free mixing.' Believe it or not, we still have in our midst those who believe that a 'perfect' society is one in which a man has no social interaction whatsoever with any woman other than his wife and immediate family. To these extremists, even a brief 'How are you?' from a man to a woman is forbidden and clearly the gateway to all kinds of unspeakable perversions! Not only do these individuals scatter the H word (Haraaaam!!!) like confetti, but they cut and paste page after page of 'rulings' from their masters in the Middle East to support their case. So overpowering is their zeal in promoting their cause that rarely are their views challenged on our little e-group. Until now, that is!

One particular spleen venter suggested that it is frankly impossible for a Muslim man to socialise with non-Muslim colleagues as the latter cannot survive in a social context without pouring gallons of lager down their collective gullets and ogling every attractive female that passes by! Well, this was clearly a step too far even for the silent moderates on our group. Over the past few days, more and more men and women have been putting their heads above the parapet to say, "Hang on a minute! Not only do I disagree that socialising with non-Muslims is forbidden, I actually believe that it is a very good idea. And moreover, I prefer to socialise in mixed gender groups, thank you very much!"

The more serious-minded members have had a sub-discussion on what actually constitutes 'ogling'. I am just waiting for someone to cut and paste a lengthy article entitled 'The Fiqh of Ogling!'

Well, I think we have won this particular argument! The zealots have been drowned out by the moderates and some of the latter are arranging an afternoon of public free mixing at a local coffee emporium! I am minded to join them, but to avoid the stigma of being labelled a free mixer I am prepared to charge the ladies for my appearance on this occasion!

Friday, 11 September 2009

And The Squabbling Has Begun!

Here we are again in the last ten days of Ramadan and the Muslims of East London are engaged in the traditional practices of fasting, praying and squabbling! Unusually, there was no disagreement this year over the starting date for Ramadan and it seems that all communities began fasting on the same day. This should mean, God willing, that we will all celebrate the festival of Eid ul Fitr on the same day, too, and we might avoid the farcical scenes I witnessed a few years ago in the North of England where members of the same household celebrated Eid on different days!

So what are the Muslims squabbling about this year, then? Well, it all revolves around whether the Eid prayers (Salatul Eid) should be offered in the mosques or out in the open in a public park. One of the Muslim associations in the London Borough of Redbridge is seeking permission for congregational prayers to be offered in Valentine's Park, asserting that this is 'the true Sunnah of the Prophet (Peace be Upon Him)'. This proposal has immediately drawn critical comments from a number of Muslims who believe that such an overt display of Islamic religiosity might simply stir up Islamophobic feelings in the more extreme sections of society. Very quickly the debate has descended into mud-slinging and the trading of insults, with accusations of thoughlessness on the one hand and an inferiority complex on the other being tossed around.

Essentially, both parties in this dispute are wrong, and not because of the opinions they hold but because of the way they arrived at these positions. One of the principle aims of the Shari'ah is 'to maximise benefits and minimise harms' to society. So, before reaching a decision on the issue of Eid prayers the Muslims of Redbridge should have asked themselves, 'What are the likely harms and benefits to come out of such an action?' And in order to answer this question, they should have had some discussion or correspondence with councillors and the residents who would be most affected by this action. It might well be that local non-Muslims have no objection whatsoever to the prayers being held. On the other hand, they may have concerns about parking and traffic congestion. Typically, though, no such discussion has taken place and opinions are held based purely on how people 'feel'. As with most issues, Muslims will have a much stronger argument against the Islamophobes and racists if they can demonstrate that they have consulted widely and considered the opinions of others before taking action.

Most of these squabbles could easily be avoided by some civilised chats over a cup of tea (after sunset, of course!)

Thursday, 10 September 2009

MECCAnopsis Returns!

In true Dr Who (Dr Pwy?) style, MECCAnopsis has transmogrified into another human form! This new blogger is also a West Walian, having been raised in the glorious town of Carmarthen, but who now finds himself lost and bewildered on the mean streets of East London. Ever the extremist, I have moved from one extreme of the M4 to the other! Consequently, future blogs might well reflect the feelings and experiences of a Welsh Muslim abroad!

I was struggling to find something positive for my first blog until yesterday afternoon, when I became embroiled (as you do) in a Facebook conversation with a couple of people I barely knew!The initiator of this correspondence entitled her post "Hapus! Hapus! Hapus!" and her friend replied in the Welsh language. The first poster then wrote, "Roeddwn i'n astudio Cymraeg pan oeddwn i fynd i'r ysgol a Brifysgol hefyd! Ond dydw i ddim yn cael cyfle i siarad Cymraeg bob tro!" ("I was studying Welsh when I was in school and at University, too. But I don't get an opportunity to speak Welsh all the time."

Now, nothing particularly exceptional or unusual about this little chat, except for the fact the first poster is a member of Cardiff's Pakistani community and her friend from Cardiff's Gujerati community! And both comfortable and confident and proud enough to converse with each other in the language of their country - Welsh! Now what were the BNP saying about Muslims not wanting to be become part of our society??

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Hwyl (am y tro)

As of midnight tonight the MECCAnopsis Cambrica blogspot will have a new author behind the postings. I am looking forward to taking a break from blogging until at least the end of September as I will need to adjust to the schedule of new job and new rugrat/blograt, plus I have the remainder of Ramadhan to get the most out of.

I have enjoyed my first forays into the blogosphere and as soon as I have a new blogspot up and running I will let you know (probably through the Welsh Bloggers site). In the meantime I will continue to follow the Welsh blogs and I'm looking forward to reading someone else's words on MECCAnopsis.

So it's bye from me, but only for now.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Britain's 'Exotic Pets' held the line in WWI

Today we remember the anniversary of Britain entering the Second World War. In my 31st July post I tried to highlight, in a very small way, the contribution of Muslims back then in helping the Allies hold back the Nazi menace.

Now for those of you who missed it, a short but excellent BBC documentary on the First World War in which more previously 'hidden' history comes to light.

Watch it on BBC i Player while you can:


Tuesday, 1 September 2009

A Muslim called Jesus

I've just become a dad (again) mash'Allah. The pocket Welshman came out the bloodied and roaring embodiment of pure nationalist fury; imagine William Wallace after Stirling. Well at 8:30am this morning he won his freedom. If he follows his sister the Unionists better watch out; she captured Aberafan beach last week in the name of Owain Glyndwr and she's only just turned eight. I think she mistook the lifeguards' flags in the distance for Baneri Glyndwr. I suppose it's an easy mistake for an 8 year old to make, given the colours. Considering Mrs Meccanopsis has been so involved in the All Wales Convention over the past year we are betting on his first words being 'Government of Wales Act 2006'.

We've chosen the name 'Iesu'. It's not unusual for Muslims to call their sons Jesus (Esa in Arabic) and of course the name is not uncommon amongst Spanish-speaking Christian communities worldwide, but it's not really caught on over here. The only other Welshman that seems to have called his son 'Iesu' was the eccentric Dr William Price, a leader of the Chartist rising 170 years ago. The old Archdruid was a heretic too so I guess I am following a tradition.

The issue of his name came up a couple of months back when we were at an event with an old vicar friend of ours, he missed his footing and instinctively reached out to the nearest person, catching my wife's arm in the process to steady himself. He was ever so apologetic. He needn't have been. He's an old fella and I doubt he would have knocked her off balance if he had run at her full pelt. She took it in good humour and to take the edge off his embarrassment I told him to be thankful there were no press around given her 'condition' (she was already nearly 7 months pregnant at the time). I could see a future headline, I told him:

'Reverend falls on Muslim woman and 10 weeks later she gives birth to Jesus'.