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Last Updated: Friday, 10 June, 2005, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
'Muslim? Change your name like me'
Tariq Ahmed
Tariq Ahmed: Became Daniel Jacob
What happens when the world changes around you and suddenly your face doesn't seem to fit? Tariq Ahmed, a British Muslim who changed his name to beat prejudice, tells his story.

Almost four years since 9/11 and it's still talked about like yesterday. That's four years in the spotlight for Muslims around the world, most of whom, like the rest of us may never have heard the name Osama bin Laden before the attack on America.

While many Muslims will tell you the name Osama has a beautiful ring in their culture (it means "like a lion") to many Western ears it is synonymous with terrorism.

If you want to find a job when you are out of work and a Muslim, then change your name
Tariq Ahmed
In the case of Tariq Ahmed, a young London public relations executive, the fact that 9/11 was at the forefront of other people's minds led him to a radical decision - he changed his name to get a job.

Tariq had been working in Germany and returned to the UK following 9/11. With a mixed Muslim and Indian-Christian heritage, the complexities of identity were simply something that he had grown up with. And this experience had taught him a lot about stereotypes.

"The Muslims in this country are OK. We are not linked to terrorism. We are well educated, we have good jobs. We don't eat curry all the time and we even have the odd drink now and again," he says.

"[But] my 'brand' is Muslim and for people who don't know me or see me, but see my name on a CV, they will associate me with being Muslim."

Tariq said that he first noticed a subtle problem in people's perceptions when he speculatively sent his CV to corporate headhunters in the City.

Name test

"I sent my CV off and friends in very similar situations were doing that kind of exercise," he says. "And they were getting calls in for interviews, they were getting job offers and I was not.

"Then a friend said to me, 'What about your name? What about changing your name?' So I decided to test it."

If [Muslim] people want to achieve their objectives, then they have to understand the more they adapt or the more they can fit in without losing their core identity, the better it will be for them
Tariq Ahmed
Sheikh Ali Tariq Ahmed became Daniel Jacob. And when he sent his original CV back out to the same companies who had shown no interest, "Daniel" got calls.

The fact that his new name was Jewish is coincidental, he says. Jacob is his mother's family name and he chose Daniel because it was innocuous and Anglo-Saxon.

Surprised by what he had found, he went the final step and legally changed his name by Deed Poll to Daniel Jacob.

"It was amazing because the interest was so much more obvious than before," he says. "If you want to find a job when you are out of work and a Muslim, then change your name and it will happen more quickly. Believe me, I know."

Tariq's experiences have made him philosophical. He says he remains proud of his Muslim upbringing - but also believes that you don't have to wear your culture on your sleeve.

When he returned recently to work, at the same company which employed him in Germany, colleagues encouraged him to change his name back to Tariq, something he has now done.

What this has taught him, he says, is that Muslims need to regard western wariness of Islam as a particularly challenging PR project.

"If people want to achieve their objectives, then they have to understand the more they adapt or the more they can fit in without losing their core identity, the better it will be for them and the better it will be for society."

Tariq and others tell their stories of living as British Muslims in Don't Panic, I'm Islamic, on Sunday 12 June at 1900 BST on BBC Two.




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