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By Nick Lang: I had quite an experience recently, which gave me a personal insight into just how bad the whole Islamaphobia thing really is in this here country of ours – I know what you’re thinking; how does a white-skinned, Jewish agnostic have a personal encounter of hatred towards Muslims? Let me start at the beginning…

One fine Saturday afternoon, whilst shopping in Clapham Junction for pants or something equally insignificant, I stumbled across a Muslim book stall, owned by a friendly man who was giving out free Islamic literature. I spoke to him and told him that although I was not likely to be a potential convert, I do have a keen interest in religion and religious philosophy in particular. He gave me a couple of books written about the principles of Islam, and about the main teachings and guidelines, which made for pretty interesting reading: Plus, if ever you need a decent criticism of the Bible, or more particularly Roman Catholicism, look no further. Little did I know, as I began to read one of these books, that it would show me more than the simple basics of a major, but widely misunderstood religion.

A week or so later, on another slightly less fine Friday evening, on the joy-filled rush hour train to Staines, I was reading the book entitled ‘A simple call to one God’ (by Dr. Asra Rasheed) when I realised that the guy across the gangway from me was looking in my direction… A lot. I ignored him for a few minutes, as for all I knew he was just looking passed me, and seeing as I think it’s rude to stare I refrained. But after some time I got curious enough to look at him and see what he was staring at, and to my surprise it really was me. He had been staring at me for no less that 3 or 4 minutes, and with a ridiculously disgusted look on his face, as though I’d just taken his girlfriend by the hand and promptly spun her around and rogered her senseless right in front of him whilst screaming aloud that his mother was next. So I gave him that, “erm, can I help you mate?” look, to which he shook his head, and almost snarling, turned to face the other way. Needless to say I was quite shocked.

Now I’m not generally one to jump to conclusions, but I refuse to believe that my appearance is so grotesque as to warrant such a reaction. I was coming from work so I wasn’t wearing offensive clothes, my walkman wasn’t on loud enough to be bothering anyone, and I don’t have “I’m Jewish, feel free to hate me” tattooed on my forehead, so what else could it have been? Surely the only explanation, other than it being a sign of such immense ignorance that you can’t even read about Islam without people thinking you're about to strap a bomb to yourself, is of course that I bear an uncanny resemblence to a guy who did actually once take his girlfriend by the hand and promptly spin her around and roger her senseless right in front of him whilst screaming aloud that his mother was next.