I am a very unfashionable woman.
I grew up in the only Wahhabi household in North London in the late 1970s. My father had studied in the strict Salafi universities of Saudi Arabia, and our understanding and idea of Islam was therefore very different to the cultural Islam practised by the vast majority of Asian Muslims. Our entire family stood out of the crowd within the small Asian community of Wood Green. My father lectured at universities for his day job, but also helped establish mosques and Islamic Centres with Saudi money wherever possible. My mother had turned our three-bedroom house into an evening school for local kids. She taught the Qur’an and Islamic studies to a community that had no mosque and was unused to such a disciplined and religious family. My siblings and I grew up in a home that had plenty of laughter and silliness, but was also very puritanical and religion-centred. For many years, I was one of those odd-looking women you see walking down the streets of Mile End and Small Heath, wearing a long and flowing black robe, large black scarf and, for a short while, even a veil to cover my face. As I wear glasses, the veil would force my breath up my face and steam up my glasses, which was incredibly uncomfortable. To be perfectly honest, I found the veil oppressive, but loved the scarf and gown. It looked elegant, like the dress of a medieval lady.