Radical leftie anti-racist groups were formed up and down the country. In Bradford there was the Asian Youth Movement, set up a year after a violent confrontation between Asian lads and the NF* in Manningham*. The AYM's slogan was `Here to Stay. Here to Fight.' And there was also the United Black Youth League, an organisation that saw twelve of its members put on trial in 1982 when police discovered their stash* of petrol bombs. In court, the Bradford Twelve argued that they were acting in self-defence; that they had to protect their own communities against a proposed skinhead march because nobody else would. `Self-defence is no offence.' They won their case.

This period in the late 1970s and early 1980s was all about politics. About being black. No matter if you were Muslim, Hindu or Sikh. Brothers and sisters. We were all black. Religion and culture didn't come into it, they were irrelevant. If you look at photos of the Free the Bradford Twelve demos, you'll see men in turbans, men with Afros, women in saris. In defence of the mosque, the temple and the gurdwara.

But then it changed again. Bradford Council set up race relations units and equal opportunities policies that gave its citizens the right to be different, for communities to have their own identity and values. It also funded the new Council of Mosques, a vocal* and organised group of men who were there to speak and act on behalf of the city's Muslims. And only the Muslims. And so it became all about Islam. Muslims wanted halal meat* served in schools, to withdraw their children from religious assemblies, to allow them to wear more modest uniforms and to have segregated physical education and swimming lessons for girls. These were precisely the things I'd already been doing for years. I didn't get it at the time, but Dad was a pioneer of multiculturalism, meaning the right of every community to 'maintain its own identity, culture, language, religion and customs', as defined in the city's race relations plan.

And so by the mid 1980s, 'the community' that had previously described itself as 'black' or 'Pakistani' or 'Asian' now described itself as 'Muslim'. Religion took precedence over colour and nationality.

And it was at this very time when `the community' grasped more tightly than ever before on to Islam that my practice of religion fell away.
I didn't read the Koran or fast during Ramadan ,as often as I used to. I didn't pray for a solid twelve hours throughout the Night of Power*. I didn't want to stay at home during Eid*. I certainly stopped going to the mosque. And I only occasionally watched those Islamic videos that Dad rented. It was still there, my faith, I could still hear it around me and in my head, but I had placed a gag over it so it now sounded muffled*, less clear. It was the only way I could do the other things that I wanted to do.

Like read `bad' books, trash novels like 'The Thornbirds'* and 'Flowers in the Attic*' and Vogue magazine. Every month I saved up my spending money so I could pore over every single model in there, staring at each one for hours. I was dumbstruck, fascinated and completely in awe of their astounding beauty, the level of beauty you know you will never ever see in the flesh. Not even Julia Reynolds came close. There were the dimensions of their limbs, long and slender, their flawless complexions, their chic flamboyant clothes, their erotic poses. I knew it was immoral what they were doing — displaying so much flesh, flaunting themselves so — but I couldn't help myself. It was romantic, elegant, civilised and mature. This was the adult life I desired. Stepping out of a New York cab in a cream wool coat, at a dinner party in an off-the-shoulder taffeta gown*, walking my Dalmatian in knee-high black leather boots, on a yacht in a Pucci sarong.

But I knew I could never square* that with God or Dad or Umejee. Never mind that I had neither the face nor the figure for such aspiration. So I did the next best thing — I copied the pictures of the striking Vogue models and put them on my bedroom wall. They were up there for a few weeks before Dad told me to take them down.

`It's against our religion to do a thing like this. You can only worship Allah.' La illaha ill Allah*. There is no God but Allah. Idolatry* is a major evil. Allah forgiveth not that partners should be set up with Him; ... to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin most heinous* indeed. (Surah 4:48)
792 words

Source: WE ARE a MUSLIM, PLEASE by Zaiba Malik, Windmill Books (paperback) 2011, pp. 144-147

* NF - National Front, a rightist grouping
* Manningham - borough of Bradford
* stash - Versteck
* vocal - lautstark
* halal meat - Fleisch von einem nach muslimischem Ritus geschlachteten Tier
* Night of Power - the most important night in Ramadan, power refers to Allah's powerdfulness, allmightyness and high esteem. The whole Night of Power, from sunset to dawn, is the holiest night of the year. It is believed that there are groups of special angels who are only seen on the Night of Power. These angels perform special purposes. Some come down for worship, others for granting the request of the believing Muslim.
* Eid - The 'Eid Ul Fitr' is celebrated on the first day of the Shawwal, the month that comes after the month of Ramadan (a popular festival of the Muslims) in the Islamic calendar.
* muffled - gedämpft, dumpf
* The Thorn Birds - The Thorn Birds is a 1977 best-selling novel by Colleen McCullough, an Australian author. Set primarily on Drogheda, a fictional sheep station in the Australian outback, the story focuses on the Cleary family and spans the years 1915 to 1969.
* Flowers in the Attic - is a 1979 novel by Virginia Andrews. The four Dollanganger children had such perfect lives -- a beautiful mother, a doting father, a lovely home. Then Daddy was killed in a car accident, and Momma could no longer support the family.
* taffeta gown - Taftkleid
* to square with - in Einklang bringen
* La illaha ill Allah - ~ 'Allah ist der einzige Gott'
* idolatry - Vergötterung, Bilderverehrung
* heinous - abscheulich

1. After the early 1980s, the Bradford Council tried to improve race relations. How did they hope to accomplish their goal and what was its outcome?
2. When Islam took precedence over colour and nationality, Zaiba Malik, teh narrator, refrained from her community. What do you think were her reasons to do so?
3. Instead of her quiet protest against her own religion, Miss Malik complied with her parents' attitude. Why?
4. Multiculturalism, as understood by the Bradford authorities in the 1980s, obviously failed. Why did it fail concerning integration and how could it succeed in your opinion?

Zaiba Malik

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