This picture of Imam Abduljalil and Jamila Sajid lasts and lasts on my mind. It is the Imam looking down from his six foot something frame tenderly at his only wife Jamilla, who spoke with much passion about freedom on his side. The Imam spoke first about the Innocence of Muslims, a You Tube that a few weeks ago was all the rave in the news and which he addressed in the context of freedom of expression. His wife Jamilla told us of her firm belief in togetherness and how in Brighton in their early years, she decided to speak to all her neighbours about why it is important to talk to other people. She says, "What is important is to keep talking. When you talk, you discover many other things, and there can be peace!"
It was not easy. I asked her if some people did not reject her message especially those who were from her own background because she has opted not to wear the hijab for the time being and says she may one day wear it but not now.
"Of course. Some of them shut the door in my face and broke eggs on me when they saw me." But that did not stop her. She spoke to us at a Sophus Lies Gata 5 at the invitation of Initiatives of Change (IOC) and then went on to speak at the Daru Salaam Mosque about bringing up children without rolemodels, the experience of Muslim mothers in Great Britain. Jamilla is of her own mind and the Imam knows that.
Abduljalil hardly mentioned the film in question. "Freedom of Expression is paramount" he says. He explains that does not mean insulting others. However, violence is not an answer to such insult if it should occur. I could hear between the lines that responding with violence, and two weeks ago violence hit many embassies and in Libya Chris Stevens the USA ambassador and two of his colleagues were killed, is futiel. Abduljalil says violence does not show your enemy or the person you fight that your are superior but on the contrary, it gives a poor image of the violent and all that they stand for, The Prophet and religion included.
He told a story of how lonely he was in his days in Oxford. Then one Christmas there was a message for those who were going to be alone at Xmas and felt it to get in touch. He ended up being a guest of a Christian family at Christmas. He had thought it would be his last one in England as he could not stand the place. Rev Carr and his family however, made him see another side of life. Imam Abduljalil tells of his fears on his way to the Christian home which turned out to be the Rev's home. 'First, they will have dog at home. Then they will serve pork!" It turns out that this family had no dog. I would say that for a British family was like to be without 'god' and then they did not have 'pork' and even alcohol was not served. He relaxed when he heard Rev Carr say that they too did not serve alcohol but allowed those who wanted to drink to do so in town and to if drunk to stay outside! Abduljalil cannot ever forget his surprise.
Islam as a religion suggests what a woman should wear but does not oblige one to wear that. This is no secret. The suggestion is made several times but it does not become an order to wear a hijab but yes, to cover the body. In Jamilla's case, the body is well covered with her punjabi-lke suit and lovely delicate sandals. Her long hair covers her head.
Imam Abdulljalil says that the Prophet has taught that one in a foreign land must understand and respect the rules of that land. Abduljalil argues that if some people cannot understand that freedom of expression is paramount in the West, they have to remember they are not at home. They also have to know that just because in their countries some people are ordered to hit at others by presidents who are dictators, the case does not apply in America and other lies. Therefore, he said people who feel offended have to know that it is not the president of America who told someone to make a film titled "The Innocence of Muslims". The hitting back at a whole land and its peoples is illogical. He pleaded for dialogue and patience, and never hitting back. The Imam and his wife work for peace. This is a favourite couple!