Islam is a lifestyle

At the core of my faith is the acceptance of God’s existence and His presence in my daily life

In Islam identity is fluid and can be acquired simply by learning the local language. In fact Islam requires of the Muslims that they learn the local language. Once someone asked the blessed Prophet "who is an Arab?" and he replied "anyone who speaks Arabic is an Arab". While Islam transcends ethnic and national barriers no matter what I do, it seems as a Muslim I am never accepted as a local and native.

Islam and Muslims are often portrayed as abnormal and not compatible to the modern Western world. Muslims are shown in a negative way in today’s media; they are labelled as enemies within and out to destroy the West. My fear is that this has created the perfect environment for young people to feel excluded, increase community disarray and it is creating destructive popular cultures. There was a time when Jewish, Irish and Black people were part of the popular culture’s sick jokes, racist caricatures and hostility but now Muslims are on the receiving end of it all. This is a slippery slope and if we are not careful this may wreak havoc in our society.

My faith, Islam, teaches me to be colour and culture blind. I try my best to be a devout Muslim and at the same time to be a loyal citizen. I take my Bangladeshi ethnic background as an enriching feature and very proud of all layers of my identity. My religious duties and social responsibilities are two sides of the same coin. My faith is very important to me but not just as a set of rituals and "do’s and don’ts". It defines me as a person and shapes my worldview; it helps me develop deeper and more meaningful relationships with my surrounding and most importantly enables me to balance between material life and spirituality.

I have always had a very inquisitive mind and never accepted matters of faith without reason. I used to question every aspect of my faith and was never satisfied with emotional links to faith. Islam for me is a lifestyle, one that I have chosen as a result of conscious search, knowledge, faith and conviction. This lifestyle makes me conscious of my relationship with God.

At the core of my faith is the acceptance of God’s existence and His presence in my daily life. My relationship with God is direct and encompasses my private and public life.

My daily prayer is "O God please give me success of this world and the success of the Hereafter, strengthen me in my faith and help me to be content with what I have. Bless me with energy to be active and relieve me from laziness, help me to be generous with the richness that you give and relieve me of miserliness; help me to be just and save me from oppression."

Ajmal Masroor is regularly invited to speak on issues on integration and Islam in the modern world. He leads Friday prayers in several Mosques across London.
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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.