Freedom of Religion or Belief Conference
19 / 12 / 22
31 / 03 / 21
I was the Programmes Officer for Education & Learning, and then Programmes Officer for the West Midlands… and now a volunteer for F&BF!
I am a Sunni Muslim and my heritage straddles three countries in the Middle Eastern – Egyptian, Syrian and Palestinian. I am based in East London but I grew up in the West Midlands, Yorkshire and mostly Lancashire. I studied Anthropology and Middle East Studies at undergraduate level (Manchester University), and then went straight to do a Masters in Religious Studies at Lancaster University, then after several years working in research, charities and as a teacher, I ended up doing a PhD on Islamic education.
As a “third culture kid” I’ve never felt I belonged anywhere nor really understood by those around me. At school my friends were always different backgrounds to me and I was always interested in religious and cultural differences in order to understand myself and others.
What started my interfaith “career” if you like, was studying as an undergraduate at Manchester University. There were tensions building on campus around the Israel/Palestine issue which lead to demonstrations, some of which I was involved with. At the time I was enrolled to study both Arabic and Hebrew languages and my interactions with fellow students from a Jewish background made me realise that our narrative on the same issue were vastly different. A Jewish course mate initiated a Muslim-Jewish Dialogue Group to discuss some the political and personal issues that people were clashing on. It was mind-opening and the journey has continued over 15 years on!
I have since designed and delivered interfaith training with different groups and when you hear the kind of questions people ask and the depth of inquiry it can motivate, it really inspire me. I have since trained during my PhD as an anthropologist – whose specialism is to understand human society through culture.
Interfaith work is still very much required but I do worry that as a participatory practice, it doesn’t reach the people who most need it. This is why we need to go online!
When I first moved to London over a decade ago, I saw an advert requesting volunteers from faith backgrounds to speak at schools, for what was then called Three Faiths Forum. I had recently left working as an RE teacher, and missed the interaction of the classroom, so I applied and volunteered. 10 years later I came to work at F&BF in it’s current incarnation and it’s changed in many ways.
I love delivering programs and working with people at the grassroots, and I love designing things like resources and workshops.
When I started out interfaith work many years ago, there was a conception that interfaith work is dominated by Christian and Jewish groups, who may have the upper hand in the matter and more able to set the agenda for the interaction. This resulted in many Muslims I knew being hesitant to join such initiatives, because of a perceived imbalance. I think this has been the case in some rare contexts, so it is not entirely a complete misconception. However over the 15 years I have been working in this field, there has been so much more effort to engage interfaith partners in a collaborative and egalitarian way, and much more awareness about power dynamics between communities.
I am a lifelong nerd, so I have way too many books. I have a burgeoning houseplant nursery, I love cooking exciting new dishes, 1980s toy nostalgia collecting, classic films from the 1950s & 60s, especially musicals!