As a Christian, I’m proud to be a “Muslim Ally” – Here’s why…

By Julian Bond

A few years ago, I didn’t think of myself as a “Muslim ally”, nor did I call myself one. After leaving the Christian Muslim Forum, I added “Muslim-friendly” to my Twitter bio. I later changed this to “Muslim ally”, to annoy the haters and so that there could be no doubt at all about what I stood for and with whom!

Standing side by side with Muslims

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In my journey side by side with British Muslims over the last 17 years (only nine of which were at the Christian Muslim Forum), I have encountered a lot of Islamophobia and have been highlighting and challenging it for all of that time. I spent a number of years actually working directly full time on this issue but what really drove my efforts was identifying with Islam.

From the beginning I resolved to know and to experience as much of Islam as I could (and I continue to do so to this day). It seemed sufficiently unknown, unfamiliar and unpopular that someone ought to make the effort. It was in fact after as little as a year working on the Archbishop’s Christian-Muslim Initiative (the precursor of the Forum) that I began to no longer see Islam and Muslims as “other”. However, at the same time, have been wary about seeming too much like a Muslim, especially when I was officially the Christian Director of the Forum. Again though, it was not long before colleagues began calling me an “honorary Muslim” – which I definitely took as a compliment!

I’ve really been an ally from the beginning along the particular and maybe peculiar Christian-Muslim path that I have taken. I have been fortunate to be granted privileged access to Muslim communities and their spaces (apart from more culturally-related gender issues) – although anyone could too as Muslims are extremely welcoming.

At present, I am currently the only official ambassador for a Muslim publisher of children’s books Chickpea Press and am also organising, for about the seventh year running, an annual Christian-Muslim dialogue event. Part of the legacy of the Christian Muslim Forum lives on in my voluntary inter faith work. Apart from a few events each year my work is mainly online and I regularly receive appreciation from Muslim friends for what I am doing, often when I meet them in person after online social media interactions.

Ongoing Islamophobia: Marching ahead

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Image credit: ©Vale B(Daniela Barrera Ravello)

Despite all the positivity this work has brought though, I still feel that Islamophobia is a huge challenge – although there is some encouragement along the way. Those of us working in this area need to do even more, yet it is hard to know what else to do.

I see my work as a Muslim ally at its strongest when I’m working in collaboration with Muslims and other like-minded individuals – although collaboration seems to be low down on many agendas, whether individual or organisational. Fortunately, I am quite stubborn and rather than be put off by lack of collaboration my commitment to it increases, even though it comes with a tendency to gravitate towards the unofficial and the progressive!

As a good ally, if I could get everyone together and address each and every one of them, I would make a call for us all to work together. Working together is crucial – especially in a climate of growing Islamophobia and antisemitism. This is why I’m proud to be a Muslim ally and think we should all be too! So, reach out to your neighbours, break down those barriers and stand up against hate – for everyone’s sake…

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