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Last Updated: Monday, 15 August 2005, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Soul-searching at Muslim festival
By Philippa Thomas
BBC News Special Correspondent

Living Islam festival
The festival is addressing what it means to be Muslim and British
Several thousand British Muslims have gathered to pray in a field in rural Lincolnshire. Over a nearby hedge, children are jumping on a big pink bouncy castle.

Side by side, boys and girls have formed friendly football teams. Stalls are selling everything from Islamic literature to coffee cake.

This is Living Islam, a festival which its organisers call Britain's largest Muslim family extravaganza.

It is a four day event which has brought Muslims from Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, London and beyond to camp together in the green open space of the Lincolnshire Showgrounds.

The Islamic Society of Britain organised this event months before the London bombings. Now the gathering intended to focus on faith and fun has taken on an extra dimension.

"This is just what the Muslim community needs right now" says event organiser Jeffrey Beere.

"It's time for everyone to know what we really stand for. Islam is the faith of 1.6m Britons. Its teachings fly in the face of the messages of hate that were behind the attacks on our capital ."

Serious mood

Between the sections of campsite laid out for men, women and families, there are dozens of summer activities .

A clown entertains toddlers by the café. A troop of teenage Muslim scouts is organising games. An archery team lines up for practice. This, I was told, was a favourite sport of the prophet Muhammed, honing the skills of focus and patience.

But duck inside the brightly striped big top, and the mood is serious. Here there are lectures and discussions about how to live within British society. Today's key speech has the title, "Being British and being Muslim".

There is genuine soul searching here about what it means and how it feels to be a British Muslim, in a month of bombings and attempted bombings apparently carried out by Muslims.

Time and again, I've been reminded that those who will bomb are in a very tiny minority.

But community worker Faraz Yusuf Zai, from Birmingham, was also passionate about the need for British Muslims to be open. "We must admit it", he said. "There are extremists on our fringes."

I asked what he would say to a young man so alienated that he would consider committing violence in the name of Islam. "Brother", he said, "there is no shortcut to paradise."

Your comments

God bless all those who worked hard to make it a success
Yusuf Noor, Manchester
Fantastic event, God bless all those who worked hard to make it a success. I sincerely would like to thank the police officers and the organisers who made our time peaceful. There were people from all over the UK and from different backgrounds. It's good to be united against evil. I cannot wait to go to the next event in 2007. The conclusion was Muslims, not terrorists .. Please not in our name.
Yusuf Noor, Manchester

I went to the Living Islam camp and it was great! It brought Muslims from all over the country together and showed what it really means to be a Muslim.
Tasnim Khanom, London

You could call it the Muslim Glastonbury although you don't stay in a mud bath for 4 days, Living Islam 2005 will not be forgotten... An exciting event packed with intellectual discussions to an entertainment night from some of the top Muslim performers. All should be told about this great event that stands strongly in the face of those who commit atrocities in the name of Islam.
Abu Huraira Rahman, Manchester, England

I went to the Living Islam event and I have to say it was amazing. The whole experience was brilliant. It was great to see all the Muslims praying together in the massive outdoor prayer area. There were things to do for everyone and the food was also brilliant! Furthermore, the entertainment evenings featuring some of the best Muslim performers from the world was excellent.
Rafiul Anwar, Luton, UK

It was a great experience for all Muslims and non-Muslims alike
Usayd Younis, Altrincham, England
I was at Living Islam and I have to say that it was a great experience for all Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the camp which was lively and exciting. The lectures and entertainment were also highlights of the event, as well as the fireworks display which really did catch the eye. I'd like to thank the organisers and the Lincolnshire Police service for helping to make the event a success. I also must say that being part of the team is a great experience that really will be remembered by those who took part.
Usayd Younis, Altrincham, England

Just got back, it was an absolutely great event. It was my second visit but this time the weather ruined it a bit. However, the atmosphere was amazing.
Sunah Akeel, Slough

Great event. Good on you BBC for covering it. Muslims are normal people having a good time, enjoying themselves. Weather did improve thankfully and the atmosphere was vibrant and buzzing. I encourage all to look at the website www.livingislam.co.uk and see for themselves. We must all make the extra effort to find out about one another and appreciate each other's values so that we can build a strong and united society and a better future for all. And come along next time it's held - you won't regret it, I guarantee!
Living Islam Attendee

Tea indoors, endless rain outside
Nussaibah Younis, London, UK
Attending this year's Living Islam festival was a fantastic experience for me - and it came just at the right time. The whole four days provided a living example of how Muslims can live a very British and a very Muslim life with no contradiction. Tea indoors, endless rain outside, orderly queues, speakers from the government and police combined beautifully with Islamic folk and rock music performed in the evenings as well as Muslim intellectuals speaking in the day. Not only did we prove that British Islam is possible, we also showed that it is a wonderful reality.
Nussaibah Younis, London, UK

I was at Living Islam and it's just one of the greatest things I have experienced in my life. All praise to Allah...it was one big family, being human, being Muslim, being British.
Anjum, London

I am an Irish Roman Catholic, living in the UK, and want to wish all the Muslims attending their festival a happy, holy and peaceful time. It has been a dreadful time for everyone in the UK and all I hope is that there are no more killings or injuries on anyone, by anyone and that includes any attacks on innocent peaceful Muslims. Finally, I hope the weather improves for you.
Gerry Low, London, England



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