Sarfraz Manzoor: You're Muslim - you'll never be English (2002)
Surrounded by white friends, listening to pop music and watching British television, my parents must have feared that their values were continually being threatened. They had Jeft the motherland laden with the moralities and prejudices of the old country. "Never forget that you are different," I would be told. "Whites will work with you, but they will
never play with you." What the first generation wanted was to progress economically but
remain rooted culturally: they feared freedom. But once unleashed, progress, like free-dom, is frustratingly difficult to restrain.
Islam was part of the backdrop against which our lives were played out; it affected
everything we did and it defined what we could not do. My parents did not insist that I go
to mosque after school - I learned the Koran at home - and, unlike other Muslim children, I was not packed off to Pakistan each year during the summer holidays. Religion was applied to support the arguments of my parents. If I was spending too much time with English fiiends, or watching too much television, my father could say, "You're Muslim, remember; you'll never be English."
But even as a teenager, I was troubled by the moral certainties that religion demanded, and sceptical of the monochrome world-view that my parents tried to paint. Once in a while, my father's friends would pay us a visit. Mum would make Asian-style tea, letting the teabags stew in the boiling water, and the men would sip the tea and chew on egg biscuits. The conversation would turn to worries about their children. There would be
much shaking of heads. Everyone would agree that this was not a good country in which to raise children: too much temptation and not enough respect.
What were the children doing that was so bad? I used to wonder. In truth. I think we were doing nothing more than slowly and akwardly learning to be British.
I had already been corrupted. The books I read and the songs I heard had released my
imagination and conjured worlds grander than anything I had known. They revealed other ways of seeing and other things to see. To my parents, every time I chose listening to Bruce Springsteen over reading about Islam, it amounted to a defeat in the cultural war. I, self-assured as only a teenager who knows nothing can be, was convinced that there was little value in clinging to the rituals of a past that I had left behind. The past was, literally,
And so I chose personal freedom over family obligations, rationality over religion. I did not fast during Ramadan, or have an arranged marriage, or become a doctor. I chose rny university, the degree l wanted to take and the career I wished to pursue. lt appeared a convincing transformation -or was it an evolution? I believed that I was unravelling myself
free. But the ties that bind are not so easy to shake off.
Today, I am a 31-year-old journalist who lives the liberal metropolitan life in Ladbroke Grove, and who only rarely thinks about his religion. And yet the old values still exert their pull. If, for example. I don't visit my family in Luton at least once every three weeks, I am overcome by guilt and convinced that I am a terrible son. My white friends think nothing
of seeing their parents half a dozen times a year, but Islam teaches that "heaven lies under the feet of one's mother" and, while my faith has been eroded, some of the old values remain. […]
3 laden - beladen sein
16 monochrome - of only one colour
9 akward - here: with some difficulties
25 to conjure - zaubern
34 to unravel oneself - sich entwirren, sich lösen
36 Ladbroke Grove - a road in West London
37 to exert their pull - a political movement within the Republican Party
41 to erode - here: schwächer werden
Aus: Sarfraz Manzoor, "You're Muslim - You'll never be English", The Guardian, June 19, 2002.