Muslims Like Us event at Manchester Central Library, (21 Nov 2023)
As part of Islamophobia Awareness Month, the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre hosted an open mic event on 21st November 2022. Collaborating with Muslim Writer’s North and spoken word-artist/poet, Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, the session followed workshops with young people during South Asian Heritage Month (read blog here) exploring the concept of safety, experiences of Islamophobia and how we can cultivate a new imagined future for ourselves.
The following guest blog was written by Teaching Learning and Students Intern, Iqra Malik. Through this piece, we look back at our Islamophobia Awareness Month open mic event in anticipation of this year’s upcoming events.
During Islamophobia awareness month, Manchester’s Central Library hosted the event ‘Muslims Like Us,’ organised by the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust and in partnership with Muslim Writers North. Speakers from vastly diverse backgrounds with such unique experiences were able to share their understanding of the term ‘Islamophobia.’ As someone who has only recently embraced religion and only just found the beauty and peace of practicing Islam, this event came at the perfect time for me, to connect with the community I had shunted out for such a long time, ‘Surely, Allah is the best of planners’ (Qur’an 08:30.).
I was deeply moved during the open mic, witnessing familiar faces courageously sharing their experiences as young British Muslims. Their openness made me reflect on my own journey. I realised how many times I had brushed off blatant Islamophobia as mere ignorance, not fully comprehending the harm it inflicted. The event brought me to tears. As someone who often struggles with not feeling “Muslim enough” due to not wearing the hijab, despite my strong connection to the religion, I felt a sense of validation. This event encouraged meaningful yet challenging discussions, prompting us to examine the problematic nature of the term “Islamophobia.” The idea that a “phobia” is defined as an “irrational fear” led to thought-provoking discussions, as it is unjustifiable to have an irrational fear of people who choose to practice a way of life.
To see Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan articulate herself in ways many people can only dream of, verbalising the frustration and recognising the pain experienced by Muslims in the face of rising Islamophobia, fundamentally altered my tolerance for the ignorance towards my religion. Since attending the event, I have found a renewed sense of empowerment to advocate for my religious rights, including advocating for more prayer facilities at my university to cater to the diverse Muslim community here. I have come to realise that suffering in silence serves no benefit to any marginalised community.
Reflecting One Year Later
In the year that has passed since the event, my connection to Islam has deepened significantly. I have not only continued to advocate for prayer spaces at my university but have also expanded my efforts to promote these spaces at national conferences. The event’s message about the importance of not suffering in silence resonated with me, and I am committed to making a positive change.
Embracing Islam more openly has come with its own set of challenges, particularly concerning Islamophobia and stereotypes. However, I wear my Muslim identity with pride, and it has become an integral part of who I am. I am determined to stand up against injustice, challenge stereotypes, and contribute to creating a more inclusive society where Muslims are treated with the respect and dignity we deserve.
As I reflect on the past year, I am reminded of the lessons I learned during that powerful event. The journey towards raising awareness about Islamophobia and advocating for the rights of the Muslim community is ongoing. I remain committed to making a positive impact and continue to proudly proclaim my faith as a Muslim.
To read more from Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, click here. Keep an eye out for Suhaiymah’s poem ‘here and here and here’ (alongside collections from the RACE centre) featured in an upcoming exhibition at the John Rylands Library that explores histories within its collections that have been marginalised.
For this year’s Islamophobia Awareness Month programme, the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre will be hosting a series of workshops and events launching in February 2024. Throughout the year, we will be exploring the exhibition at John Rylands with young people as well as hosting Suhaiymah’s ‘Seeing For Ourselves’ new book launch in January 2024. Stay tuned for more information on this and other upcoming events.
- Qur’an. 8:30. Translated by M.A.S Abdel Haleem (2008). Oxford, Oxford University Press.