A few days ago, a German school announced that it had banned Muslim students from using prayer mats in order to stop them from displaying their religion “in a provocative manner”. I read this with a sad sense of familiarity; it reminds me of the sense of fear and anxiety that I myself feel as a young British Muslim in 2017.
On a day-to-day basis, I am hyperconscious about where I am sitting in a café or a park, when I do my daily Quran reading — who around me might see the Arabic writing on my laptop screen or mobile phone app and feel threatened or incensed? Might they even call the police or refer me to a prevent channel, as has happened to others? If I was doing my French homework, I know I would hardly be noticed, but I worry terribly about the piercing eyes around me when reading Arabic, especially the Quran.
A few weeks ago, I was even asked to leave a mosque for reading the Quran. Yes, you read it correctly. I was taken into an office where several anxious old men had called an emergency Cobra meeting of sorts, and interrogated me about who I was, what I was doing and why I was there, because they had never seen me before. They were alarmed simply because I was sat on my own, in a corner, looking down at my phone.