London must be one of the easiest cities in the world to be a Muslim in, or whichever faith you choose to follow. I feel comfortable in my hijab and there are big Muslim communities in the city. Pakistani’s, Bengali’s and Indians in the East, Arabs and Persians towards the West, North and East Africans in the North of course and the Turkish towards the South. This is without counting the growing number of Indonesian, English and Caribbean Muslims spaced out across the city.
Its also a good place to be a woman of colour – the diversity of this city is such that whatever you look like: Hijabi, Punk, Hasidic, Rastafarian, City Gent, Hare Krishna devotee, Sloane Ranger, you don’t stand out all that much.
With the mix of communities come the different villages. As those who live here know, London isn’t a city really, but a series of villages which have collided with each other. China Town in the middle, Brick Lane (little Bangladesh) and Green Street (Little Pakistan) to the east and Southall (Little Punjab) and Wembley (Little India) to the West. Brixton and Peckham for a taste of the Caribbean. The sizzling South American contingent is based mostly in Kensington and the Lebanese dominate Edgware Road. Greeks in Wood Green
The American’s and French have taken over Kensington and Chelsea and the East-enders have all moved eastwards to where London meets Essex, their “locals” following in their tracks. Canning Town struggling back to its feet (if Uncle Ken and the Labour government manage to stay in at the next election) and bohemian Camden sliding into decline. Elegant Hampstead, flashy Knightsbridge and intellectual Bloomsbury lift the mix (well its prices anyway). No, I’m wrong, London isn’t a city, its a little cosmos, a whole world.
It’s a city with such great strength of spirit. The 7/7 attacks happened in London on a Thursday and the city was back on its feet and back to work on the same tube system on Monday. No whinging, no shutting the place down, two-finger salute to the perpetrators and back to business. The Blitz Spirit was alive and well and I felt so proud that Monday.
Notting Hill Carnival, the biggest in Europe, the Visakhi Mela, Eid in the Square, St Andrew’s day parade, Chinese New Year in the city, the Olympics heading our way in 2012. Now, no-one knows how to party like London when it’s in the mood.
The city of my childhood; walking down to Green Street Market with my mum where the traders wouldn’t let you touch and the West Ham Football Club supporters marching by in their Doc Martins and bald heads in the 80’s. Going to Oxford Circus nine to a car to see the Christmas lights, getting your pictures taken by the lions in Trafalgar Square, seeing Ginger the mummified man in the British Museum and getting into Tower of London free as under fives because we were such midgets (we were 8, 7 and 5)
Green Street Market
Yes it’s dirty at times, expensive, feels rude to outsiders and also slightly mental, but even if I travelled the world, I probably would still end up in colourful, manic, amazing London.
“London's Muslim population of 607,083 people is probably the most diverse anywhere in the world, besides Mecca” (What the maps don't show – The Guardian Friday 21 January 2005)