What part did I play in manufacturing public consensus about Islam and Muslims? Are my opinions and judgements based exclusively on what I have been taught by my teachers, told by commentators, read on online blogs, and what I have garnered from the media? These questions had been troubling me for some time. And, in these times of wide access to information, what some have termed infoglut, I think it is important for us to continually trace back our own belief systems, to self-reflect upon what motivates our opinions and lifestyles.
I was born in Birmingham, a multi-cultural hotbed, neighboured by many rich cultures of the world; and grew up in a Catholic household. Religion is important to me. But it seems that religion has captivated the media’s attention for the theatrical more than ever before. I was born nearly a decade later than the Salman Rushdie affair of 1989, and too young to remember the events of 9/11. But I have known nothing other than the aftermath, the ensuing demonisation of Islam and Othering of Muslims, and polarisation and reactionary patriotism. I noticed a parallel: how we the Irish were treated and subjected to in the twentieth century. If these sentiments about the Irish existed as staunchly today, it would be my family that faces that misrepresentation, and the social consequences that follow. That realisation may have only been drawn from the self-preservation reserved for children, but it did give me a pivotal conclusion early on. The conclusion that discrimination was cyclical and fed on fear, the seeds planted in history but the growing roots hard to cut down. Under these circumstances, the contextual knowledge of reoccurring social debates becomes an asset to possess. I witnessed the controversy surrounding the Charlie Hebdo affair in 2015, and wondered how it was and was not related to the Rushdie affair. I found myself drawn towards studying literature and politics of the twentieth century.
After obtaining a master’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of Salford, I continued my exploration of twentieth century culture and history, researching and planning my first novel. It will explore the rise of working-class participation in football hooliganism during the 1970s and 1980s, in direct proportion to declining opportunities and stability for men in traditional industries. The treatment of the working class in the media during this time was devastating, and I believe it has left a long-lasting social impact on England that has still not been recognised or debated for what it was. Once again, I saw parallels with the media’s treatment of Islam and Muslims.