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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Why are boundary changes bad for Labour?

New boundaries, a smaller House of Commons and the shift to individual electoral registration all tilt the electoral battlefield further towards the Conservatives. Why?

The government has confirmed it will push ahead with plans to reduce the House of Commons to 600 seats from 650.  Why is that such bad news for the Labour Party? 

The damage is twofold. The switch to individual electoral registration will hurt Labour more than its rivals. . Constituency boundaries in Britain are drawn on registered electors, not by population - the average seat has around 70,000 voters but a population of 90,000, although there are significant variations within that. On the whole, at present, Labour MPs tend to have seats with fewer voters than their Conservative counterparts. These changes were halted by the Liberal Democrats in the coalition years but are now back on course.

The new, 600-member constituencies will all but eliminate those variations on mainland Britain, although the Isle of Wight, and the Scottish island constituencies will remain special cases. The net effect will be to reduce the number of Labour seats - and to make the remaining seats more marginal. (Of the 50 seats that would have been eradicated had the 2013 review taken place, 35 were held by Labour, including deputy leader Tom Watson's seat of West Bromwich East.)

Why will Labour seats become more marginal? For the most part, as seats expand, they will take on increasing numbers of suburban and rural voters, who tend to vote Conservative. The city of Leicester is a good example: currently the city sends three Labour MPs to Westminster, each with large majorities. Under boundary changes, all three could become more marginal as they take on more wards from the surrounding county. Liz Kendall's Leicester West seat is likely to have a particularly large influx of Tory voters, turning the seat - a Labour stronghold since 1945 - into a marginal. 

The pattern is fairly consistent throughout the United Kingdom - Labour safe seats either vanishing or becoming marginal or even Tory seats. On Merseyside, three seats - Frank Field's Birkenhead, a Labour seat since 1950, and two marginal Labour held seats, Wirral South and Wirral West - will become two: a safe Labour seat, and a safe Conservative seat on the Wirral. Lillian Greenwood, the Shadow Transport Secretary, would see her Nottingham seat take more of the Nottinghamshire countryside, becoming a Conservative-held marginal. 

The traffic - at least in the 2013 review - was not entirely one-way. Jane Ellison, the Tory MP for Battersea, would find herself fighting a seat with a notional Labour majority of just under 3,000, as opposed to her current majority of close to 8,000. 

But the net effect of the boundary review and the shrinking of the size of the House of Commons would be to the advantage of the Conservatives. If the 2015 election had been held using the 2013 boundaries, the Tories would have a majority of 22 – and Labour would have just 216 seats against 232 now.

It may be, however, that Labour dodges a bullet – because while the boundary changes would have given the Conservatives a bigger majority, they would have significantly fewer MPs – down to 311 from 330, a loss of 19 members of Parliament. Although the whips are attempting to steady the nerves of backbenchers about the potential loss of their seats, that the number of Conservative MPs who face involuntary retirement due to boundary changes is bigger than the party’s parliamentary majority may force a U-Turn.

That said, Labour’s relatively weak electoral showing may calm jittery Tory MPs. Two months into Ed Miliband’s leadership, Labour averaged 39 per cent in the polls. They got 31 per cent of the vote in 2015. Two months into Tony Blair’s leadership, Labour were on 53 per cent of the vote. They got 43 per cent of the vote. A month and a half into Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour is on 31 per cent of the vote.  A Blair-style drop of ten points would see the Tories net 388 seats under the new boundaries, with Labour on 131. A smaller Miliband-style drop would give the Conservatives 364, and leave Labour with 153 MPs.  

On Labour’s current trajectory, Tory MPs who lose out due to boundary changes may feel comfortable in their chances of picking up a seat elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog. He usually writes about politics.