London is a multicultural city and a melting pot of different religions and races.
So it’s unsurprising that various ethnicities can belong to a faith from a different country.
However, one white Muslim primary school teacher from Kingston found herself being the target of ignorant abuse when she visited her family home.
Sarah Ward, 41, was taking a walk in the town she grew up in wearing her hijab, when two drivers drove past on separate occasions, beeping their car horn and telling her to “go back home”
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The Londoner has experienced prejudice against her because of her faith
(Image: Sarah Ward)
Sarah said: “I was walking down the road with my son who is 11, and I’ve grown up in Cornwall.
“In two instances on this walk, in the town where my mum lives, one car beeped and told us to go home and then another car beeped and told us to go back home.”
The primary school teacher believed it was sheer ignorance on display when the driver yelled at her.
Sarah said: “I’ve gone to school in Cornwall, my brother has grown up in Cornwall, I know that place, I know that area.
“If you want to say where I spent my childhood, I spent it there. This is where I’m from, this is part of me.
“You haven’t even looked at who I am, you haven’t even seen that I’m not foreign.
“I’m an English person. All you’ve seen is the scarf, you haven’t seen anything beyond my clothes”.
The Londoner was born into a Muslim family when her English parents converted after learning about the faith through a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.
Sarah said: “My parents converted in 1971.
Sarah’s parents were very happy to be English and the family ate fish and chips
(Image: Sarah Ward)
“1971 was the time when Cat Stevens was becoming a Muslim, Muhammad Ali, so I always laugh at my parents and say instead of becoming hippies they became Muslims.”
Sarah believes that the tragic events of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing on September 11 changed the perception of the faith.
The 41-year-old said: “I would say in my lifetime 9/11 is the date that I can pinpoint when things changed, and how I was perceived as Muslim and how other people are perceived as Muslims”.
The Londoner found herself being viewed as a threat on the District line, she claims, and says one time a passenger decided to leave the carriage after staring at her bag.
Sarah said: “When I was on a Tube two or three years after 9/11, I had to go up to London to collect a projector.
“I had this projector in a bag and there was a woman who was looking at me and she actually got off the Tube and she didn’t say anything.
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“And then when we got to Earls Court, it was on the District line so the train went through, she got back on the carriage again and she was shocked to see me.”
Despite the prejudices that come her way, the teacher is happy to politely dispel myths about the faith having links to terrorism.
The mum-of-three said: “I’ve had colleagues ask me, ‘Well there must be something in your religion that advocates this because there’s lots of Muslims doing it’.
“So I’m quite happy that they felt they could ask me that and that they felt comfortable enough to even voice that, because I know that’s what a lot of people think.
“There’s nothing in Islam that would ever promote bombing of innocent people or the deaths of innocent people.
“Nowhere in Islam is there any room for terrorism, to attack women and children, and people who are not engaged in a battle. It actually goes against everything that Islam teaches.
“When you know the basis of Islam, you cannot equate that defence of life with terrorism
“There have been some journalists who have been to Syria and they’ve said if you look at these ISIS fighters, they don’t read the Quran, they don’t know the Quran, they don’t even know their faith.
“So we’re very fortunate that we are encouraged to get educated about our own faith so when you know about Islam, you know that terrorism and these things are an anathema to the teachings.”
Sarah observes her faith where she volunteers at the Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden, as the community continues to bust misconceptions about Islam.
The teacher said: “The head of our community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, he does a peace prize every year and we’ve been giving this peace prize for I think maybe 11 or 12 years.
“The head of the community gives a speech about peace and he’s also spoken at the American parliament, Canadian parliament, British parliament and the EU.
“He always speaks about peace, so you know as Muslims in Britain, I think we live this life where we know as Ahmadi Muslims we’re doing everything we can to bust these stereotypes.”
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The teacher says her faith and English upbringing were never in conflict with each other, as she continued to embrace British culture while practising Islamic beliefs.
The mum-of-three said: “We were an English family, we ate fish and chips and roast dinner. My parents loved gardening.
“Being a Muslim doesn’t mean I had to throw off any of those vestiges of my culture.
“Yes, I don’t drink and I don’t eat pork products but apart from that, I spoke English at home, I dressed in English clothes.”
“I think there’s a misconception that to be a Muslim you have to cast off some of your culture and that’s not true at all, my parents were very happy to be English.”