Documentary filmmaker Robb Leech from My brother the Islamist continues his travel in understanding the Muslim faith in his new piece Welcome to the mosque in which he tries to grapple with the life from inside of a mosque. Having been thrown in head-first into the brutal concepts of what many would call extremist Islam, with his step brother being the poster boy for fringe ideologists and later convicted of terrorism acts sentenced with life in prison. It is fair to say Robb Leech has seen the stubborn ways of the closed-minded, backward, imploding, narcissist religious fervent groups such as the now banned Al Muhajiroon. Who do not fret over anyone who they do not see eye to eye with; whether he is their own father, brother, mother or sister. Anyone who fails to see their views or heed to their words is the same worthy of eternal condemnation, the fire.
In Welcome to the mosque the audience like Robb Leech himself, are invited beforehand to go inside the life of a mosque with an open mind. To leave outside the preconceived ideas and notions, the spoon-fed media goboldegu and take the journey with him. As he tries to learn what a normal Muslim is like inside a mosque and more importantly what goes on in the dreaded terrorist training centers across UK, aka mosques. Centering around the life of East London Mosque, the largest mosque in UK Robb Leech tries to present a normalized, humane image of the life of a mosque, to some degree, with the aid of the media representative of East London Mosque, Salman. Applaud must be given to Robb Leech not so much for the documentary itself but for his ability to be able to see above the truncheon image of Islam, presented nonetheless by his own step brother who had the unfortunate chance of being swallowed whole by the menace of naïve religious indignation. Through the course of the film, nothing out the ordinary is said by Robb Leech which should not have been said or anything presented in a sinister way. Although sometimes it could not be helped to feel he does try and weave in controversial questions when he can. Which on his part, being a documentary filmmaker is done to appeal to a wider audience and come across as having asked the right questions to the right people; why segregate? why do young teenagers feel the need to embrace religious conservatism? How young teens feels about ISIS and what are their views about it. – Which is ironic considering he felt somewhat disturbed by the fact Ofsted, the UK schools governing body, had asked the same question to young students of the East London Mosque secondary school. Overall, he does in earnest try to unravel the enigma which surrounds mosques not least the East London Mosque, which was at the centre of the three London school girls news story several months back. Having gone to Syria after apparently being radicalized at the East London Mosque. It is a good attempt at trying to change perceptions and open closed doors which in many cases may have been intentionally closed to keep out the known unknowns i.e the mosque – a place of worship.
To address some of Robb Leech reservations which seep through the programme on issues like segregation and rightful and just arranged marriages, it needs to be understood these are not foreign concepts to British way of life. In fact, they were the very fabric of British society post second world war, where men and women often worked in factories in segregation. Where trains had carriages which were segregated and schools had strict disciplines on boys only and girls only schools; a tradition which is still kept in many of the grammar schools across UK. It was also the accepted norm for a woman to be in a relationship outside or before marriage was seen as reprehensible and very much discouraged, something seen as being below the character of a noble woman. When a woman who would come of age, she would be shown prospective husbands and under right environments encouraged to have a courtship between the two people to get to know one another, which is something done in a correctly arranged marriage. This is a well-known fact most if not all historians agree on and can be found by simple googling. Sometimes at work i get asked about the beard and why a person like me chooses to keep one. Is it because the religion commands it or what is the reason? The way i answer these type of questions is not by opening up a line of philosophical reasoning or a high level intellectual debate but simple straight forward answers; As Muslims, we try to emulate the prophetic traditions as much as possible in our lives as we see them as the perfect emissaries of God and pure human beings to grace this earth. All prophets appeared in a certain way from Adam through to Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad peace be on them all. To draw back the curtains of ‘otherness’, i explain these that concepts are not alien ideas but were very much admired by people of the UK. For example, in all so-called images of Jesus and Mary – the blessed mother of Jesus, whether on church windows, books, bibles or V screens, are of a man with a beard and a woman in a hijab. In fact it is safe to say is that the British Muslim community are the only community which are holding onto the British values, customs, and traditions that used to be the way of life.
What is foreign however, is the creeping concepts of secularism taking firm hold across the followers of all religions, the biggest victim being the Christian faith. Secular concepts which carries the notion religion should be forcibly pushed into the confines of the house and in many cases only in the mind of a person. This is a is foreign alien concept which should make us have reservations and concerns.