Abdul Malik responds to Farooq Siddique's columns about the direction of Bristol's Muslim community

I’M always fascinated at the contribution made by Farooq Saddique in The Post, and indeed the response it generates. A majority of the time my feelings endorse his eloquent style of addressing pressing issues especially with regards to religion and our communities.


His recent contribution is another brilliant example of where we find ourselves as a second or third generation Bristolian Muslim community.


But there is one thing that brings me to make this small response and in doing so I’m not really representing any individual or organisation, nor am I sure that it will be appreciated.


Every Friday I choose to be part of the congregation in my local mosque, I sit towards the back end of the prayer hall where I find a perfect view of the Imam and attendees. Every week I am fascinated by the efforts made by individuals on a voluntary basis to provide me with this spiritual experience, it’s the usual people I have been seeing for years who are moving things around, laying prayer mats, settling people into positions and providing the Imam with a podium and microphone.


My point is, these people are dedicated in providing this service to people like me and Farooq for free and have done so for many years. The mosque was established in the early Eighties and all the money that helped set it up was contributed by the local Muslim community, this community continue to fund its operations day-in, day-out 365 days a year. Not only do they provide the facility of daily prayers but there is a funeral facility, education system and various other small core activities that are hosted at this site. These services are vital for the local Muslim community; I don’t think there is a single penny that comes from any outside sources such as the council or government. A true example of a good self-funded organisation that is self-sustainable in every way, and never a burden to taxpayers.


The active volunteers are known to most attendees by first name, they are popular individuals that are highly respected and seen as the “elders” of the Mosque and are also respected and trusted outside of the mosque in their neighbourhoods.


For years the mosque has had a management committee that rotate their posts by means of an election, but most positions are taken by the same few individuals due to very few people interested in coming forward to share the burden of work. And for years they have pleaded for people like me and Farooq to get involved and help them sustain the facility and help them evolve to meet the needs of our children.


Most of the Friday sermon is taken up by the imam convincing people to stay engaged with the mosque and attend regular prayers rather than just the one on Friday.


So this then begs the question that when people like me or Farooq are so concerned that there is no strategic vision or future ambition to address today’s burning issues, why we don’t get involved and provide the necessary input that is needed to provide adequate provision for coming generations?


If we as “forward thinking” and “competent” visionaries don’t take on these roles then the risk is that our criticism falls on the ears of individuals who feel that they do not need to dignify our views, with their response as they are doing a job we are not prepared to do.


And I feel that’s the bottom line, as my father often says, “when one points a single finger, one should realise that three are pointing back, at one’s self”.


Much of what Farooq highlights in all his articles is correct and I totally agree, as do many others, but those individuals that do their bit to the best of their ability do feel let down if there exists a suitable platform to have such a debate that could encourage a positive move to help things change for the better, but we choose not to use it, so in some way, I ask, are we not also responsible for the position we find ourselves in?


I would like to see Farooq involved in my local Mosque and I do feel that he would be welcomed with open arms if the intention was to empower the local Bristolian Muslim community.


Surely this would be a more positive way of channelling his frustrations and creating positive outcomes.


Let’s face it, a majority of those we seek to change do not read The Post and in fact they will just hear criticism angled at them, interpreted by someone who probably threw the breeze block in the back of Farooq’s car!


I’m one that doesn’t believe in sitting back and criticising all that is wrong, I feel that, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi “we must be the change we want to see” and the opportunity exists in this country, to do just that.


Link to article