The original version of this article appeared at “Inside Islam“
They say the onset of authoritarianism happens through a process of incrementalism. If indeed that is the case, I have missed a lot in the 6 years I spent in the United Kingdom away from the United States.
My first few years in the UK were spent wallowing in my new identity as a Paki. In much of the time I spent wallowing, I did a great deal of idealizing my former American Muslim life – one of relative privilege compared to Muslim life in other parts of the world, including Europe.
Muslim life in Britain was different than anything I had experienced prior. American Muslims are more educated and wealthier than average Americans; my friends throughout the years were from diverse backgrounds. In the UK, I went from living in one “Muslim ghetto” in South London to another in the east, where Muslim immigrants made up a large percentage of the working classes and their children, while many became part of the educated classes, often followed closely in their families cultural footsteps.
Over the years, at work and university, I had no luck making the diverse body of friends that accurately reflected the diversity of London. As much as I fell in love with my new friends, they all looked like me. Becoming a Paki was no easy process. Intellectually, I deliberately attributed my experience as uniquely British given England’s colonial history in the Muslim world, particularly of the Indian subcontinent.