Okay, I admit that the title is a bit overgeneralizing but I just want to share my experience so far, living here as a Muslim in Birmingham. Having had the experience of living in Hull where I must say that I even went to the mosque during Ramadhan far more frequently than when I was back home, I start to compare my life here and there.
It was quite a small community we had in Hull and I felt like I had a family there – people with the same religion and living the same way of life. The mosque was very comfortable, there were lots of activities, and it was full during the Ramadhan. Obviously I haven’t experienced Ramadhan in Birmingham but I hope it is better!
Now in Birmingham, there are many Muslims. Based on the Census on 2011, the Muslims were 21.8% of the total population in Birmingham (http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/cs/Satellite?c=Page&childpagename=Planning-and-Regeneration%2FPageLayout&cid=1223096353923&pagename=BCC%2FCommon%2FWrapper%2FWrapper). Therefore, it is not unusual to find many women with hijab around the city. There are immigrants, Muslims from all around the world, and also local people. In regard to the usualness (I’m not even sure that’s a word) of people wearing hijab, I don’t think it’s far different with Indonesia, honestly and in my opinion, it is quite easy and comfortable living as a Muslim in Birmingham.
As a Muslim, I have to pray five times a day. The time of the prayer depends on the position of the sun. It is quite easy to do it during the fall season but in my experience, finding time and place to pray during the winter was kind of a challenge. Sometimes, I had to pray twice throughout a lecture and with the condition; I had to pray in empty rooms around my class. That also happens here in Birmingham. As the prayer room in the university is placed in the Guild of Student – which is quite far from certain points in the university, my husband sometimes has to pray in empty rooms. The good thing is, in several restrooms in the university, there are places to do ablution or mostly known as wudhu. Well, not only in the university, even in the airport the restrooms are integrated with wudhu place. It’s comfortable, right? In the city center, there was limited space to pray. Yes, we can pray in the park or other open public spaces or sometimes we pray sitting on benches. Now, there was this multi-faith prayer room in Birmingham New Street Station. Yeay! The place is right in the middle of the city center and very easy to reach. There shouldn’t be any more problem trying to find places to pray. The place is not big but it is enough.
Another thing that people usually feel kind of difficult is halal food. As you can guess, there are many Muslims here so halal food shouldn’t be a problem. Yes! It isn’t a problem at all. We can find halal food almost everywhere, such as restaurants, takeaways, and food courts. The halal meat is also easily available. There are special butchers selling halal meat and even Tesco has its own butcher serving halal meat. It is nice because in Hull, there is only frozen halal meat.
During my time living in the UK, I haven’t got any different treatment because of my religion. I think it is a quite friendly country to live in. It is even friendlier here in Birmingham. The city is quite tolerant when you show your religious attributes, even there are people persuading others to know more about Islam and playing Quranic recitals in the city center. So don’t be afraid to come and live here because the negative rumors you hear, maybe they are just rumors.
Oct 05, 2015