We had a great time at Manchester Carnival today. The streets were bustling, the music was loud and the costumes were bright. People of all backgrounds were out enjoying the warm, if not sunny weather. Skin was on show and booties were being shaken (is it obvious that I am white). The smell of jerk chicken, curried goat and weed wafted through the air.
People were drinking and getting merry. Judging by the number of discarded spirit bottles at the entrances, some had plans for a bigger night.
Amongst all of this high-spirited chaos were Muslims, only identifiable to me by their hijabs. (There will have been many more without their hair covered and men of course but I can’t say how many: us Muslims don’t have a secret code to identify ourselves to each other.) One or two of them wore burkas.
No one said a thing, why should they? They were out with their families for the afternoon, watching their children on the fairground rides or treating them to candyfloss. And the women in the burkas didn’t seem bothered either; they weren’t protesting at the gates against this hedonistic celebration of all things haram.
In the last week, I have heard a lot of people say that Muslims wish to change British laws and customs to suit themselves, and that the burka is a symbol of their hatred for Western values. If anyone saw the way that Muslims were enjoying the fun at Carnival today they could not possibly continue to hold this view. Yes, there may be a tiny minority of Muslims whose religious fervour extends that far but they do not represent the rest of us.