Friday, 13 December 2019

Dear Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook Is an Engine of Anti-Muslim Hate the World Over. Don’t You Care?

DEAR MARK Zuckerberg,

What happened to you?

Back in December 2015, you spoke out loudly and proudly against anti-Muslim hatred. “I want to add my voice in support of Muslims in our community and around the world,” you wrote in a post on Facebook, two days after then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced his plan for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the country. “After the Paris attacks and hate this week,” you added, “I can only imagine the fear Muslims feel that they will be persecuted for the actions of others.”

The headline in the New York Times? “Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook Reassures Muslim Users.”

Yet here we are in December 2019. Four years later, you and Facebook have gone from reassuring Muslims to amplifying hate and bigotry against us. You have allowed what the actor Sacha Baron Cohen recently described as “the greatest propaganda machine in history” to be used to target and persecute some of the most vulnerable Muslim communities on Earth.

I’m talking of course about the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. In March 2018, the chairman of the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, Marzuki Darusman, told reporters that social media companies like yours had played a “determining role” in the violence, having “substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict.”

“Everything is done through Facebook in Myanmar,” added Yanghee Lee, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Myanmar. “I’m afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended.

You know all this, Mark. Your company has, basically, admitted to it. In November 2018, your own product policy manager, Alex Warofka, acknowledged that you and your colleagues at Facebook had not done enough “to help prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence” in Myanmar.

And what have you done since? Warokfa claims Facebook has “improved proactive detection of hate speech in Myanmar.” Yet Matthew Smith, the founder of Fortify Rights, a human rights nonprofit focused on Myanmar, disagrees: “Facebook has a lot of work to do,” he told me. Yes, your company has appointed more than 100 new content reviewers for Myanmar, but there are more than 20 million Facebook accounts in the country and, as Smith argued, “efforts to date are not enough to tackle the misuse of the platform.”

“It’s not clear that the senior leadership fully understands the gravity of the situation,” he said. “The company should be thinking about reparations for Rohingya and other initiatives to end and remedy the harms.”

How about India’s Muslim minority communities? Does their fate keep you up at night, Mark? If not, why not? In October, a report by the nonprofit activist network Avaaz accused Facebook of having become a “megaphone for hate” against Muslims in the northeastern Indian state of Assam — where nearly two million people, many of them Muslims, have just been stripped of citizenship by the far-right Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Another report, by the South Asian human rights group Equality Labs, found “Islamophobic content was the biggest source of hate speech on Facebook in India, accounting for 37 percent of the content,” as Vice News noted in June.

You haven’t said or done anything about any of this. You have, though, repeatedly met with Modi — the world leader, incidentally, who has the highest number of Facebook followers! You even introduced your parents to him. I wonder: Will you be introducing your parents to any of the Indian Muslims who have had their WhatsApp accounts deactivated by Facebook in the wake of the Modi government’s lockdown in Kashmir?

How about the Muslims of Sri Lanka? When members of a Colombo-based advocacy group called the Center for Policy Alternatives came to your company with multiple examples of inflammatory and Islamophobic videos and posts on Facebook — including a post declaring, “Kill all Muslims, don’t even save an infant” — the New York Times reports that nearly every complaint of theirs “got the same response: the content did not violate Facebook’s standards.”

A call to kill all of Sri Lanka’s Muslims, spread through your platform, doesn’t bother you? Doesn’t shock you?

Let’s not forget the Uighur Muslims in China, either. More than a million people have been locked up in concentration camps across Xinjiang province, where they have been beaten, tortured, and raped. Yet BuzzFeed News reported in August on how “Chinese state-owned media is running ads on Facebook seemingly designed to cast doubt on human rights violations” against the Uighurs.

Are you OK with Facebook helping cover up what experts are calling a “cultural genocide” in Xinjiang?

THEN THERE’S THE U.S. In May 2018, a detailed report by the Southern Poverty Law Center explained how “anti-Muslim content finds a home on Facebook.” A more recent investigation from Reveal found that while “Facebook has removed groups tied to white nationalist organizations … the social network continues to host groups that are openly hostile to Muslims, such as ‘DEATH TO ISLAM UNDERCOVER.’”

Again, Mark, you know all this. You do. You can’t plead ignorance. You recently hosted Farhana Khera, of the civil rights groups Muslim Advocates, at your home in California. Khera says she told you “about the pain and suffering that Facebook is causing Muslim communities, here in the United States and around the world.” Did her personal testimony not affect you?

Then again, you previously hosted Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, who once called Iraqis “semiliterate primitive monkeys,” and Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro, who has falsely claimed the majority of the world’s Muslims are “radicalized.” Last month, you also had a secret dinner with President Donald Trump and refused to disclose what you discussed with him. (What a difference four years makes!)

Meanwhile, The Guardian revealed this week that two Muslim members of Congress, Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., “have been targeted by a vast international operation that exploits far-right pages on Facebook to inflame Islamophobia for profit.” The Guardian’s revelations “show how Facebook has failed to stop clandestine actors from using its platform to run … hate campaigns” and how these online Islamophobes have “operated with relative impunity.”

You must be aware of how social media hatred has real-world consequences, right? Patrick Carlineo, who pled guilty to threatening to assault and murder Omar in November, spent years using your platform “to taunt Muslims, attacking them with racist slurs and saying he wished he could confront a group of Muslim politicians with ‘a bucket of pig blood,’” according to The Guardian.

Facebook moderators in the U.S. didn’t lift a finger to stop him. Is it any wonder that Omar agrees with me that you’ve helped put a target on her back?

The sad reality is that, across both the developed and developing worlds, Muslim minority communities are being demonized, targeted, and attacked by far-right nationalists. And these far-right nationalists are being aided and abetted, whether directly or indirectly, by self-styled liberals in Silicon Valley. By Facebook. By you, Mark.

Is this really how you want to be remembered? Not as the founder of a company that brought together 2 billion people online through funny memes and friend requests, but as the founder of a propaganda machine that helped incite and organize the mass killing of hundreds of thousands of Muslims?

What happened to the Mark Zuckerberg of December 2015 who told his Muslim employees that he would “fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you”? Who told the rest of us that “as a Jew, my parents taught me that we must stand up against attacks on all communities”?


Thursday, 12 December 2019

Turkey's ancient tradition of 'Paying it forward'

At my local bakery in Göztepe, near Kadıköy on the Asian side of Istanbul, everything is made on the premises in a wood-fired oven tucked away at the back. Any space not taken up by the 1,200 white loaves they produce a day is filled with baguettes, rolls, rye, multigrain and cornbread, as well as cakes, biscuits and pastries. Amidst the constant flurry of customers, I’ll sometimes see the owner give someone a loaf of bread without any money changing hands. At other times a customer will pay for two loaves of bread but only take one.

Is there bread on the hook?

In many Western countries, it has become common in recent years for people to hand over money for an extra cup of coffee or a filling meal when they pay for their own, to be held at the counter for a person in need. In Turkey, this seemingly modern idea of “paying it forward” goes back centuries. It’s called askıda ekmek, and it relates specifically to paying it forward with bread.

Askıda ekmek, which means “bread on a hanger” or “suspended bread”, has its roots in Islam, the dominant religion in the country. It works like this: you go to a bakery and pay for two loaves of bread but only take one. On paying for the bread, you tell the person who takes the money that one of them is askıda ekmek. Your contribution is bagged and hung together with others so when people come in throughout the day and ask, “Askıda ekmek var mi?” (“Is there bread on the hook?”), they can take a loaf for free.

It’s not clear exactly when and how the practice of askıda ekmek started. Although there are similar, more recent traditions in other countries, like the Italian practice of “caffè sospeso” (“suspended coffee”), askıda ekmekis is strongly tied to the local culture and religion. History professor Febe Armanios, who focuses on Christian-Muslim relations in the Middle East and food history at Middlebury College in Vermont, US, explained that askıda ekmekis “a custom rooted in Ottoman times and is tied to the concept of zakat, the Muslim pillar of faith that focuses on various acts of charity”. There are five pillars of faith in Islam, and followers must fulfil them all to lead a good and moral life. The zakat requirement can be met by giving money or provisions.

The giving of ekmek (bread) is of special importance in Turkey because in Islamic belief, bread sustains life and the protection of life is sacred. “Bread … is absolutely critical to eating and is representative of hunger-satiation/starvation-desperation,” Armanios said.

In Muslim hadiths, the collected sayings of the Prophet Muhammed, bread is nimet, a blessing sent from God. If a piece of bread accidently falls to the ground it must be picked up immediately before placing it somewhere higher. Some people kiss it before doing so to further demonstrate their respect. Plain white bread is baked twice a day in Turkey and every meal is accompanied by a basket full of sliced fresh loaf. Leftovers are never thrown away; when bread goes stale, it’s made into French toast and breadcrumbs. I often see plastic bags containing old bread hanging off fences along my street, placed there for people to take either for themselves or to feed animals.

Ottoman sultans used this respect for bread to legitimise their rule and garner loyalty. According to Armanios, it was believed that a well-fed populace is an obedient one and far less likely to revolt if prices of food staples such as bread were kept in check. Market regulators, called Islamic muhtasib, policed the sale of bread to control the price and ensure cheap fillers weren’t used in place of flour (even today, bread prices are determined by the government). The Ottomans also encouraged those who could afford it to provide for those in need. But tradition has always been that when carrying out zakat obligations, the poor should not be embarrassed by having their identities revealed to the donors and vice versa.

Early on, in traditional Islamic societies, this was achieved by placing sadaka taşı (charity stones) in mosque courtyards. In his 2014 paper, associate sociology professor Ensar Çetin of Nevşehir Hacı Bektaş Veli University in Nevşehir, central Turkey, described them as “stalagmites… transformed from ancient porphyry columns with cavities [in] which to leave money. There [were] also cavities [in] the walls. It’s a model designed not to offend poor people so the giver and receiver remain anonymous to one another.”

Let us help people who live on the streets who cannot afford bread

These days, sadaka taşı have been replaced by websites with online zakat calculators, run by charitable foundations that rely on donations to help those in need. Individuals can calculate exactly how much money they should donate, traditionally 2.5% of their wealth. Askıda ekmek has gone online, too, with, a popular Turkish website featuring daily recipes, asking readers to nominate neighbourhood shops promoting askıda ekmek. Their aim is to transform it from a local neighbourhood activity into a national resource listing participating bakeries, using the call to action, “Let us help people who live on the streets who cannot afford bread”.

One man has taken these technological advancements a step further. In 2012, Oğuzhan Canım read about bakeries in Kırıkkale, 80km east of Ankara, promoting the practice of askıda ekmek so more bakeries would participate. It made him think about ways to scale the custom in order to reach more people. Canım knew there was limited government aid for university students in Turkey and that there weren’t enough bursaries, scholarships and food grants to go around.

His solution is a social enterprise called Askidanevar (What’s on the Hook?), the first in Turkey to combine the concept of askıda ekmek with the reach of social media platforms. The idea may be innovative, but the aim is very simple: to connect university students in need to the companies that want to support them.

Askidanevar targets students because Canım believes they’re the future of Turkey. He wants young people to have the opportunity to read poetry, engage in the arts and pursue goodness, and become complete, well-rounded individuals. This way, he believes, they’ll not only succeed in their studies, they’ll also pay it forward and contribute more to Turkish society and the world, through a culture of sharing.

This holistic approach isn’t unusual in predominantly Muslim societies. The community or group takes precedence over the individual and the well-being of all is paramount. It’s normal in Turkey for individuals to look out for others, be it family, neighbours, colleagues or even strangers, in the belief this improves things for everyone.

Askidanevar maintains the askıda ekmek spirit of anonymity. Students only identify themselves when they upload their university cards on signing up. Once they’re members, they can click on a “Take” button to get a code to use for a free meal from a range of participating restaurants. With another click, they get the chance to receive books, magazines, theatre and concert tickets and other items by sharing or retweeting posts from Askidanevar. Companies click on a “Give” button to leave their details and information of what they’re offering.

Around 150,000 students are currently registered with Askidanevar, using around 500 donated food coupons each month. Since the social enterprise’s inception seven years ago, it has helped around half a million individuals, the majority in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, Turkey’s three biggest cities.

One student member I spoke to, Tuğba, learned about Askidanevar via Instagram. “Last year” she told me, “I started… university and did not meet new people [or] new friends. During a summit, which I went [to] thanks to [the] Askıdanevar ticket system, I [made] friends”.

For Tuğba, receiving a ticket to a summit at no cost, had an impact on her life beyond that one event. It made her new friends and gave her a sense of belonging at university, of being part of a new community; something she didn’t feel before.

At the heart of askıda ekmek – whether that’s leaving a loaf in a bakery or helping students access opportunities outside their studies – is an ethos of helping people, with no expectation of reward or recognition so that recipients maintain their dignity and improve their lives.

In a world divided by the pursuit of individual profit and torn apart by conflict, as Tuğba said, “That is amazing”.


Tuesday, 10 December 2019

There was a time when Muslim women in India not only prayed in mosques, they even built them

Almost 800 years to this day, Delhi Sultanate ruler Razia Sultan carved out a piece of history. In fact, two. The first was, obviously, being elevated to the throne in the early 13th century and becoming thereby the first woman to rule over Delhi.

The favoured daughter of Iltutmish, Razia rose to the throne ahead of half-brother Muiz ud-din Bahram. At that time also the ulema initially opposed her candidature. She was sincere, wise, adept at administration and capable of leading the Sultanate in a war. The only handicap she faced, according to them, was her gender.

However, as she enjoyed the confidence of her father Iltutmish, she defied the odds to claim the throne. The other feat was notched up with her ascension itself. In the run up to assuming control of the Sultanate, she went to Quwwatul Islam Masjid in Mehrauli, said to be the first mosque of North India. She did so on a Friday when the mosque would have maximum worshippers; and sought the support of the devout for her claim to the throne.

Importantly, she did not call herself Sultana, the feminine of Sultan. She referred to herself as the Sultan. With her address at the Quwwatul Islam Masjid, Razia not only blazed a trail for other women to go to masjid but also to build masjids. The khutbah too was read in her name, the first time ever in India’s recorded history.
She used to travel without a veil and used to ride horses and elephants. It is believed that she used to go to mosques and madrasas. Her patronage of khanqahs and madrasas is well known, especially the one that was associated with Minhaj Siraj Juzjani, the author of Tabaqat-e-Nasiri. He was considered a Sheikh-ul Islam under Razia Sultan.

Muslim women had things pretty good in medieval times. Politically, they were taken into confidence by the emperors who consulted them at every stage. The stories of Noor Jahan, who wielded great control over the Mughal king Jahangir, are also well known to need reiteration. The founder of the Mughal dynasty Zahiruddin Babur too is said to have consulted his women, his mother, his wives and daughters, before venturing out for a battle.

In Delhi, we have the 16th century Khairul Manazil Masjid built by Maham Anga, the foster mother of the greatest Mughal ruler Jalaluddin Akbar. The Khairul Manazil Masjid, built in 1561 by Anga, is said to be the first mosque in Delhi to be commissioned by a woman, the same woman who was virtually the ruler of the empire in the early years of Akbar, as the Mughal scion was too young to fulfil the responsibilities of an emperor.
Though there is little historical evidence to prove if Anga herself came to attend the prayer sessions here, what is proven beyond doubt is that she was instrumental in the construction of the mosque. Incidentally, many Mughal princesses after her undertook the construction of mosques as an act of piety without necessarily visiting the mosques for daily prayers.

In the case of Khairul Manazil, Anga hired the services of her trusted relative Shahabuddin Ahmad Khan, who was also a minister of the empire. The mosque’s central arch has an inscription that clearly reveals that the mosque was built by Maham Anga. The mosque had a madrasa attached to it, probably funded by Anga herself for Islamic education of children.

At around the same time, and also during the age of Jahangir and Shah Jahan, we have Mughal miniatures showing them riding horses and moving around without a veil. Often they dictated their nikahnamas and incorporated conditions like monogamy, no instant triple talaq, or investing in themselves the right to divorce through Talaq-e-tafweez.

They continued to build mosques, madrasas and sarais. According to some historians, they also graced the mosques, at least on special occasions like Eid, or when a new emperor took the reins of the empire, and had the khutbah read under his name as a sign of legitimacy.

Though there is little documentary evidence, it is fair to believe they offered prayers in the mosques if one looks at the architecture of the Sultanate and the Mughal period closely.
For instance, there is a Tughlaq era mosque in Wazirabad in Delhi. The mosque has an elevated chamber shielded by lattice walls. There are some historians who believe it was meant for the kings. However, as the kings usually entered from the main gate, called the Shahi Darwaza, it is fair to believe it was meant for the royal women who entered and departed from such a gate after offering their prayers at the mosque.

Most historians believe that in the Wazirabad Masjid, the place behind the lattice walls was reserved for women worshippers. Men prayed in the main hall and women in their own specified section, behind the lattice walls.

Similarly, if you go to Bengal, there in Hazrat-e-Pandua we have Adina Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. Hailing from the 15th century, it is a much bigger mosque than Quwwatul Islam Masjid. The prayer chamber here is elevated with a lattice wall and a raised mihrab, a semi-circular niche.

Many mosques in medieval India can be said to have been graced by royal women, and even those from the families of nobles. There is no single piece of historical evidence to show that women were prohibited from going to the mosques, and there is no record of ulema issuing a fatwa against the entry of women into mosques.

Not just mosques, women went to Sufi khanqahs and dargahs too, and are said to have participated with great zest in singing Sufiana Kalam. From the early 13th century when Qutubuddin Aibak laid the foundation of the Mamluk dynasty to the time of the latter Mughals in the 18th and 19th centuries, women were consistent in their patronage of khanqahs.
As most dargahs and khanqahs had mosques attached to them, it is fair to conclude that women would enter them as the Sufis did not express any rigidity. For instance, Nizamuddin Auliya held out for musical gatherings or samaa, and was able to convince the Sultanate rulers too of the same, despite stiff opposition from the Hanafi scholars of the age who believed music to be haram (prohibited) in Islam.

Inside the mosques, we find no clear markers prohibiting the entry of women beyond a certain stage.
It all began to change with the decline of the Mughals and the coming of the British. As conservatism was the order of the day, women began to be excluded from both mosques and cemeteries. They were not allowed to enter the mosques for spiritual elevation. They were denied the right to offer prayers at the grave of their near and dears ones in the cemetery.

All along, women continued to go for hajj. In medieval as also modern times, women were never denied the right to go on hajj where, like men and women from other countries, they established prayers in both Makkah and Medina, where they went to the last resting place of the wives of the Prophet as also his companions. Yet, when they came back home, a different kind of Islam ruled their lives.

Call it the impact of the local culture, but this Indianised form of Islam meant women could build mosques or take part in financing them, but could not offer regular prayers inside them. Today, women cannot go for prayers to the mosques that their fellow women built hundreds of years ago.

The most conspicuous case being of the famous Fatehpuri Masjid in Old Delhi, where the local residents cannot recall any occasion when women gathered to offer prayer in a group, or the Taj-ul-Masajid in Bhopal. It is the largest mosque in India, but it has not been able to spare a room or hall for women. The biases are more pronounced today than at any time in the Islamic history in India.


Thursday, 5 December 2019

UK chief rabbi owes us Palestinians an apology

The chief rabbi of the United Kingdom has weighed in on the row over alleged anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

Writing in The Telegraph this week, Ephraim Mirvis claimed that Zionism is not separate from Judaism as a faith. He astonishingly implied that no one can have a view on this except Jews and Zionists.

So much for open debate and discussion!

He further claimed that “Zionism is a belief in the right to Jewish self-determination in a land that has been at the center of the Jewish world for more than 3,000 years.” The reality is that not all Jews agree with his definition, let alone non-Jews.

A survey of British Jews by City University London last year shows deep disagreement on the term, with 41 percent not taking up the political identifier “Zionist.” Thirty-one percent identified as anti-Zionist or non-Zionist, while 10 percent said they were unsure.

The survey also found that the number of British Jews who call themselves “Zionist” dropped from 72 percent in 2010 to 59 percent in 2015.

Muslims have a strong attachment to the cities of Mecca and Medina – and of course to Jerusalem – but should all Muslims have a right to move to Saudi Arabia?

And what about Christians? Where was Christianity born? The answer is in historic Palestine. Should all Christians have a right to go and live there?

The chief rabbi and Zionism both ask us to accept that only Jews have a right to determine where they live and never mind the impact of their demand on whoever already lives on that land.

In his article, Mirvis astonishingly fails to mention my people, the Palestinian people, even once. His anger with the left has unfortunately left him ignorant of our plight.

To the chief rabbi, we are invisible.

He did not once acknowledge our existence on the land, our own unshakable connection to it or that it was and still is our home – whether for those living in historic Palestine or in the diaspora.

We are in the diaspora because of Zionism.

The chief rabbi implies that we cannot disassociate Zionism from Judaism – by implication accusing all Palestinians who oppose Zionism – as indeed we do – of anti-Semitism.

This is why Ephraim Mirvis is wrong, with the greatest respect to him, to conflate the two – a religion and a political ideology.

Palestinians do not have a problem with Jews – or with any other group – wanting to live in a state or entity of their own.

However, Zionists chose a land with a people, not an empty land for their state. That is the key issue here. In 1948, 750,000 Palestinians were violently driven from their homeland to make way for the realization of Zionism’s goal, and since then millions of Palestinians have been deprived of their most fundamental rights.

As British Palestinians we abhor all forms of racism including anti-Semitism. We will stand with our fellow citizens who follow the Jewish faith in striving to eradicate the scourge of all racism in this country, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

However, we will not accept the conflation of Judaism and Zionism to label us and those who support our legitimate right to self-determination in our homeland as anti-Semites.

The chief rabbi owes us Palestinians an apology for this conflation which suggests we are anti-Semites. Zionism owes us much more than an apology for our dispossession.


Wednesday, 4 December 2019


Akon is an unlikely superstar, according to Akon himself. He bets there's a good chance no other Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper has been a St. Louis-born Senegalese with a given name like Aliaune Damala Bouga Time Puru Nacka Lu Lu Lu Badara Akon Thiam.

The early years of his career were spent in semi-obscurity, writing and producing records for other rappers. But here we are in 2019, and Akon has become a household name. Even if you don’t regularly sing his nostalgic 00s bops into your hairbrush, chances are you’d still be familiar with his humanitarian missions in Africa.

Earlier this week, fans were let in on the secret to Akon’s success.

Ditching the dance floor, Akon took to the stage at the Sharjah Entrepreneurial Festival, tracing his journey from "car thief to pop star and entrepreneur" to the 2,000 people in attendance.

“Always perfect your craft," he explained. He added, however, that "sometimes things happen when you don’t want them to happen, and when God wants it to happen. And I think that’s a side that entrepreneurs dismiss – the spiritual side of your goal, or the spiritual side of your success.”

“It makes you ask the question: what is success? Is it fame or fortune? Does that measure what success means to you? Or is it faith?” he questioned. “For me, real success is faith. If God is not smiling upon me, I am not successful. I don’t care even if I have a billion dollars in the bank. And what good am I if have a billion dollars sitting in the bank in the first place?”

He credited his Muslim faith for allowing him to step back and reassess his career trajectory even when he was a rising star in the music industry, stating that it was his spiritual mindset that mapped out his plans for the future as a successful humanitarian entrepreneur.

Hinting that his motivations truly lie in reaching the hereafter, he revealed, “I don’t believe in having that much money sitting away without applying it to changing somebody’s life. Now I may not make a million dollars out of that transaction, but I may get a few good credits to go to paradise. I am cool with that.”


Monday, 2 December 2019

Q&A With Asma Shuweikh, The Muslim Hero Who Defended A Jewish Family

We caught up with Shuweikh over the phone on Wednesday morning. The stay at home mother of two lives in Birmingham; on the fateful day of the tube ride, she was in London visiting family.

The following interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Why did you decide to intervene on the tube?

I decided to intervene because it was a very disturbing situation — the fact that he was talking to the children, and looking at the children and explaining to them that they’re not really Jewish people, and that they are going to be slaves — and I thought that was really, really uncalled for, honestly.

I’ve got my own two children — I’m a mother, and I’m also a practicing Muslim, and as a practicing Muslim, you have to speak up to injustice. If you see someone who needs help or someone that’s in trouble, especially when you’re going about your daily life, it’s your duty as a Muslim — and as a mother and as a British citizen — to go out of your way to help.

Who modeled this for you in your life?

My model was definitely our prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. He did not accept any of this kind of intolerance toward ethnic minorities. He had friends from other faiths, from the Jewish faith and the Christian faith.

I mean, this is what Islam teaches us, but obviously it never gets shown in the media. This is what normal Muslims believe in but it does not get portrayed that much — which is why I decided to talk to people and explain it to them so that they understand what it’s really like to be a proper Muslim, and really a proper citizen as well, and even human being really. We should not accept anything like that.

My mum always told us to stick up for yourself and don’t allow people to discriminate against you for who you are. And I have to be an example to my children as well. They live in a multicultural society, so we have to show them how, because they’re the future.

Have you ever been harassed in public yourself?

Yes, when I was growing up, I was spat on, and people used to pull off my hijab. At that time, the Muslim community was less well known and there weren’t as many Muslims around so it was quite difficult. It’s not as bad now, but especially with what’s going on with Brexit, we still get a lot of attacks, slurs, racial aggression towards us. And when someone does say something like that to me, I do have to talk back, I do have to say something. It’s my character, really; I’m not the type of person who stands for anything like that.

That’s one reason why I spoke up on the tube: I did get a flashback of that day when that had happened to me. I thought, if you don’t want someone doing that to you, why would you allow it to happen to somebody else? Especially with children, it’s a very sensitive situation. If I was with my children on the tube and someone did that to my kids, I would like somebody to come up and say something.

On the tube that day, it wasn’t just me. There were other people who stepped in — the person who was filming stepped in between the man arguing and the victims. Another man tried to stop him, too, and he got a bit aggressive with him. And after both the family and I left the train, somebody else confronted the man and was having a bit of a discussion with him.

Did you tell your children about what you did on the tube?

Yes, of course I did, I had to. My son is still too young to fully understand what’s going on, but my daughter does. She was asking me questions: What did you do? And I always instill that kind of character in my children. I have to tell them, when you see something like this, you should not be quiet or allow people to discriminate against you or say anything bad to you. Stand up against what’s wrong in a respectful way.

I tell them that’s how to be a law-abiding citizen and a good Muslim, which is how our prophet, peace be upon him, taught us to behave in society — to coexist with other religions and other races.

Do you think the attacker actually took in anything you said?

My main purpose was to try to calm him down. I didn’t really want to reason with him. I think that speaking to him in a very calm manner, and getting kind of on his level so he doesn’t feel like I’m attacking him, was probably what made him calm down.

He attacked me as well, but you don’t see that in the video. After the camera switched off, he came up to me and got into my face and my personal space, and I just panicked. Then I told him to back off and I said you need to keep your distance, that I was just trying to help so this doesn’t escalate. He attacked my religion. He attacked what I was wearing. I didn’t expect any less, to be honest. I knew that if I was going to talk to him, that he was going to turn on me. But at least I didn’t have my children with me, while the other man did, so his situation was much more sensitive.

I don’t believe you can change somebody’s mind, if they’re very firm with their beliefs. But you can try to make them understand that that kind of behavior is unacceptable.

You later reunited with the father from the tube. What was that like?

It was lovely. I was thinking about them after I left the train, hoping they were okay. I had been in a rush to visit my friend in hospital, but I made sure the situation was quite calm before I left.

He brought me a lovely bouquet of flowers, we sat down, talked about our experiences, our backgrounds, what kind of food we like. I asked him about how his children and wife were doing. It was wonderful chit chat and I said it would be nice to keep in touch and he said he would.

Has the publicity changed your life at all?

Oh yes definitely! Anyone who knows me knows that I am not the type of person who likes the spotlight. I’m not very into social media and I didn’t have a Twitter account until my friends told me the video had exploded. A friend sent me a link and asked, Is this you or is this your look-alike? I said, No that’s me! I couldn’t believe it.

I had no recollection that someone was filming the incident. But I’m glad that they did film it, because at least now we can use it as a positive to help everyone to get together and be more understanding of one another’s background and faith.

When have you ever seen a story like this? You haven’t. Usually you see only the negative things about Muslims in the media, so if something positive happens, we should push it forward — especially because this wasn’t just any family; it was a Jewish family. There’s this kind of speculation about Muslims, that they don’t like Jews — which is wrong! It’s a completely wrong statement. It’s not true at all.

This is a positive thing, with me being a British citizen, me being a mother, me being from an Arab background. And also the other side of the story: that father is a human being, a Jewish person, and a British citizen, too. It balances everything out.

My message is that everyone can learn to coexist in a multicultural society. I think everyone should take time out of their lives to meet people from different backgrounds, not just believe what they see in the media. Befriend them. Meet the Jewish community, meet the Muslim community, meet the people who are passionate about their religion instead of just assuming what they believe and who they are.