Muslim stories

Nahed Mahmoud sat at a desk with a bag on her lap and wearing a pink hijab, looking at camera

November is Islamophobia Awareness Month (IAM), and this year’s national campaign is all about making connections between people from different backgrounds, Muslims and non-Muslims, using the transformative power of storytelling. To honour the month, we spoke to Nahed, Naseeba and Aya, about their experiences of being Muslim women in Islington 

Nahed’s story 

I have lived in Islington for the last 35 years. I volunteer in the local mosques, Finsbury Park on St Thomas’s Road. Due to our close-knit community, I feel safe here in this borough. My volunteering work means that I share the happiness and sadness of people, as I run a circle for my community of sisters, and before that I used to run a circle supporting young girls.   

I’m very proud of my work teaching these young girls in the mosque. Now they are all grown up, married with children and when I meet them in the street, they tell their children about me – they say, this was my teacher! It makes me feel very happy.  

As a Muslim, I celebrate both Eid’s and other days in the Islamic calendar  with family and the community – sometimes we cook, make sweets and everyone brings something, and we share it together. Our Eid preparations begin a couple of days before, some sisters come to put balloons and decorate the mosque. The community in Islington is bigger than before, with people from different countries, different cultures and who speak lots of different languages.  

Unfortunately, I have had a few negative experiences in Islington, usually using public transport. During one incident, I was shouted at by a lady on the bus, but other Islington residents of all from different backgrounds came to my defence. That made me feel happy: people here don’t think about the fact that I am a Muslim, wearing a hijab, they have a respect for others. It makes such a difference when other people stand up for you.  

Naseeba’s story 

I have been coming to the borough of Islington my whole life to attend social events, extra-curricular studies, and getting to know people in the community. I really like the diversity – people from many different cultures coming together and sharing their stories. I think there is great diversity in terms of age as well. We have a young community with us, as well as opportunities to reflect with those who are of an older generation, which I find really fascinating.  

I am proud of my achievements in the local mosque, where I work with a support group for young Muslim girls – a ‘sister’s circle’, as we call it – and how we can help each other to better ourselves.  

During the Islamic year there are many celebrations, but Eid, Ramadan, and the fasting month are the most important. These occasions are really centred on Islington, because we come to the mosque to make food, and when we break our fast. It has been very fulfilling, not just for me, but for people who live in the community. The community is always growing, with people from across London coming to the local mosques to celebrate.  

Fortunately, there seems to be a general feeling of safety and comfort in Islington. People are supportive and accepting of many different cultures. This is something that I think changes your general experience. I don’t feel ‘othered’ in the community. No matter what I’m doing, there is always a community there to support and uplift me. I’ve found that very important throughout the changes in my life.  

Merium’s story

I’ve been a proud Islingtonian for over 30 years and still live in Islington North – the borough is my home. I studied in Islington until my master’s degree. I’m both the director of CakeFace , where I focus on confidence-building through makeup workshops, and an English and Maths college lecturer. My typical day involves teaching, overseeing the operations of the company, organising and delivering workshops and collaborating with industry experts.

Islington is a diverse and inclusive community, which has made my experience being Muslim here very positive. The community’s cultural diversity, respect for various faiths and the opportunities for interfaith conversations have been particularly rewarding. I enjoy visiting my local mosques and feel very fortunate to be able to attend other places of worship in the borough, too. The atmosphere in Islington means that people different backgrounds come together, which creates a sense of unity.

I am also vice chair of Islington Faiths Forum and Trustee of Holloway Educational and Cultural Centre, which allows me to campaign on important issues like hate crime or youth violence. The council has also kindly supported me to run unique Club CakeFace events (which have since gone viral and been featured on BBC radio) where women come together to socialise.

One way that I have celebrated being Muslim in Islington is through engagement with the local community, participating in events that celebrate our shared values. During Ramadan, for instance, I’m involved in organising community iftar gatherings to promote solidarity. The support and collaboration within the community has been instrumental to my success, whether it’s a creative arts project or educational initiatives. The collective effort in Islington is truly uplifting.

Aya’s story  

I’ve been active in Islington since I was a child. I live in Camden, close by, but for all events I come here. I used to attend a supplementary school in Islington as well. Part of my extra-curricular education took place here. I work here now, and I attend the mosque every week too. So, I have a very close relationship with Islington!  

I also co-lead a sister’s group for young girls in their teens. We discuss different topics related to our faith, but we also have social activities and go to places in Islington. We book out spaces to do sport activities and plan different socials, which are low-cost or free. We do activities within the mosque, too – games nights, those kinds of things. It’s really gained traction over the past couple of years, so I think that has really been a success. It has been nice for girls to feel like they have a safe space, where they can speak to other girls about things which are sensitive to them. There are also activities for the boys – my brother comes here to play football. There has been more youth engagement in the past couple of years, particularly at local mosques, so that is something positive.  

We also have a ‘visit your mosque day’, which is a good opportunity for people who are aren’t Muslim to come and share experiences, as well as learn about our history. We have communal Iftars, when we break our fast and people from all faiths and none, come and share a meal together. It’s those experiences that are highlights of Islington, for us to not just be celebrating each other, but to bring other people from the wider Islington community to come and take part with us.  

Everyone just gets along – it has generally been a positive experience, coming to Islington. It’s nice to feel accepted wherever you go.  

Bilal’s story 

I live in Mildmay and the moment and have lived in Islington my whole life.  

My experience of being Muslim in Islington has been normal for the most part. I have not felt out of place, but I have felt a lack of Muslim community in the south of the borough. What I really enjoy about living in Islington is the acceptance of the borough and the fact that we have such a range of different cultures and communities, all living side by side. 

I got married at the iconic Town Hall in Islington, also graduating with a first in my undergraduate degree and crucially, supporting my mother to become a councillor in Islington through door knocking and canvassing.  

Some of the ways that I have celebrated being Muslim in Islington have changed over time. When I was growing up, there weren’t many festivities, but recently, the Eid in the park events that have been held in Highbury Fields have been a wonderful way to celebrate being Muslim and share our culture with others in the Islington community. The Islington community is deeply connected. It uplifts me in times of struggle. 

Join Islington Council’s #MuslimStories event on Wednesday 29 November, 5–7.30pm to hear more stories about the lived experience of Islington’s Muslim community. Book your free spot

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