Belonging to a community can be wonderful thing! After walking through Brick Lane on the East End of London, I was able to observe various things from the Bangladeshi community that unifies them. According to News and Analysis on Islam in Europe and North America from Euro-Islam.info, compared to other major European cities, London has one of the greatest Muslim populations. Following Christianity, Islam is the next largest religion in this worldly city. In addition, on a smaller scale, “nearly 40% of Muslims in England and Wales live in London” and most of London’s Muslim population and their mosques are on East End of this culturally diverse city. (http://www.euro-islam.info/country-profiles/city-profiles/london/). Clearly, there is a strong presence of people who practice the Islamic faith in London and their community is evident and observable on Brick Lane.
As stated in BBC online, many Bangladeshi Muslims immigrated to London in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Creating a pattern of people working for low incomes at unskilled jobs, this Bangladeshi community began to grow and open small restaurants. This industrial trend has spread greatly and is represented on today’s Brick Lane (http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/content/articles/2005/05/27/bangladeshi_london_feature.shtml). Mirroring the previous information, I observed many restaurants, shops, banks, and art owned by Bangladeshi Muslims. It represents this population’s religious practices well.
The Islamic existence on Brick Lane is quite evident in their abundance of restaurants, cafes, and supermarkets. One aspect of the Islamic diet is to only eat food that is pronounced Halal, meaning legal or lawful under the Islamic law (the Guardian) (http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2010/sep/20/halal-meat-the-truth). Numerous restaurants and cafes in this area have signs notifying their food is certified as Halal. I think this is important on Brick Lane because it gives the Bangladeshi people an easier experience in following their faith while dining or shopping in this location. As a community that provides multiple food options that follow the Muslim dietary restrictions, the Bangladeshi people are working together to follow their religious practices. The food sold here is one example of how the Islamic religion brings people together.
Another example I noticed on Brick Lane was a sign posted outside of a mosque. This notice brings the Bangladeshi community together by reminding them that Ramadan, a month including fasting and giving to charity, is coming soon and of their charity-giving duties during this time as faithful Muslims. Many people will likely see this reminder as they pass by this mosque and are prompted to prepare for this religious responsibility.
I really enjoyed seeing the supermarkets, street signs, and people in this area as well. The supermarkets, and other locations selling food, were full of food I was unfamiliar with. For example, the fish, fruit, and desserts stood out to me. From growing up in a relatively traditional Jewish home and community, I am accustomed to learning about Jewish and Israeli food, Israeli currency, and the Hebrew language. My own experiences of familiarity with unusual or exotic items broadened my own knowledge of certain items I would most commonly observe and allowed me to appreciate the unfamiliar sites I witnessed on Brick Lane. Furthermore, although I cannot read Arabic, I love that the street signs were printed in English and Bengali to show acceptance and integration of English and Bangladeshi nationalities (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brick_Lane). On a similar note, most of the people I walked by in the stores and on the sidewalks most likely were Bangladeshi Muslims because of their large population there. Although there was a diverse range of socio-economic classes and ethnicities, I am sure many people I passed are worshippers of the Islamic religion. I thought it was awesome to observe the community aspect and so many things that are new to me in this faith.
The existence of these foreign foods, the Arabic language, and Bangladeshi people tie this group of people together. I am fond of the strong culture that exists in the London Burough of Tower Hamlets on the East End of London. The Bangladeshi community is represented well on Brick Lane and my experience of observing this area helped me notice things valued and followed in the Islamic culture. I am so glad I took advantage of the opportunity to view this large community in London! Even though I am not Muslim, I appreciate Muslims’ devotion and concentration of the Bangladeshi culture on Brick Lane. Using the Bangladeshi community on Brick Lane as an example, I believe it is important for everyone’s mental wellbeing to have a sense of belonging in some sort of community!