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‘Me’ Versus ‘Muslim Me’: An Irish Festival Reveals My Inner Cultural Jihad

The non-Zabiha Turkey fell easily onto my plate. Not just one slice either, several.

It was to be the first, in a series of challenging incidents which took place over Thanksgiving weekend in Ireland.

I was invited to attend a dinner at a Christian outreach center called An Cuan (The Harbor), in the town of Rostrevor, Northern Ireland.

Having shared a moment of reflective prayer with around one hundred others, I joined the community in polite sequence at the buffet tables in the entrance hall.

Being the only Muslim present, I tried not to visibly wince at the roasted pig being served on one side. I turned my head away, helping myself to the home-made vegetarian option: sweet potato roast and mash, which of course needs gravy.

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Despite, my internal pledge to ensure everyone was comfortable with me around and that I would represent my faith in the most gentle way possible, I was acutely aware of sounding faintly preposterous as I asked fellow diners,

“Do you know if this gravy has meat juices in it?” Who worries not just about the type of meat they eat but the risk of a little bit of meat juice falling on their plate? Was I being ‘extreme’?

Ireland is full of Christians, the meat was from Ireland and slaughtered there – ergo – it was slaughtered by ‘people of the book’. I quit my usual Zabiha stance and tucked into the tray of Turkey.

And so began a weekend of negotiations with my naffs [internal soul], and a big reminder of what our youngsters must go through every day in North America and Europe; the pressure not to make a fuss and not to be seen as ‘extreme’ in religion.

I was quite literally, the only hijabi in the village.

Looking around at the Irish families and international guests, enjoying the festivities, I realized that I was also the only woman with covered hair.

Sitting down to eat my food, I then realized I was also the only person over 18 not drinking alcohol. Wine was everywhere. For modern Christians not to serve alcohol would be seen as a cultural heresy.

Internally making istighfar, I noted what no one else seemed to have clocked.

The bottles of red wine were called Casillero Del Diablo, Castle of the Devil.

‘Me’ Versus ‘Muslim Me’: An Irish Festival Reveals My Inner Cultural Jihad - About Islam

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About Lauren Booth
Lauren Booth is an actor and author dedicated to creating space for authentic Muslim narratives. She is an influencer who presents talks and lectures on Islam and personal change at institutions around the world. Watch her Youtube channel here. Connect with Lauren for events here.