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Column: 'Diverse Finsbury is an example of how things could be in the world'

The violence of the Finsbury Park attack belies the truth of an area that is in fact, a cultural melting pot, a picture of diversity at its finest, writes Stephen Mullan.

Stephen Mullan Stand up comedian and writer

YOU WILL NOT meet many men born and bred in Christian Ireland, practising Ramadan. My friend, a devout Muslim, convinced me to give it a try and following an attack on our local Mosque, I decided to join the fasting in solidarity.

Let me be clear, I say I did Ramadan, and I did, but it was just for a day, I couldn’t hack it. My work colleague, Tahir still makes fun of me trying to do Ramadan for just one single day. “I thought you were going to cry,” he laughs as I remember longing for just one sip of water, but I was humbled to learn another lesson from neighbours in my multicultural community.

The violence of the Finsbury Park attack belies the truth of an area that is in fact, a cultural melting pot, a picture of diversity at its finest, that is not only a happy place but also an example of how things could be in the world.

I wasn’t cut out for fasting

I wasn’t cut out for Ramadam but was impressed by the experience. I was forced into a sense of gratitude. It’s not just about fasting Tahir explains:

The fasting is nearly irrelevant, we don’t think impure thoughts, we don’t argue, it’s a meditative time where we are grateful for the things we have and we focus on what God has given us as we work through our day.

The food and water was one thing but do you know how hard it is to not have an impure thought for a day? Let alone the whole month of Ramadan. No cursing to yourself when the bus is late? It was another lesson learnt from the blessing that I live in amongst people from all corners of the globe, and every day is a day to learn from other people. Even after the attack they called for calm and returned to prayers.

You’ll meet people from all corners

My friends in Ireland cancelled visits to London “with everything going on over there”, but if you visit the area around our local mosque you’ll find a unique place. You will meet people from all corners, all beliefs, all backgrounds and experience this brilliant corner of North London and learn that there may be square pegs and round holes but that makes for something a bit special. I told them to come over here and take some notes because here’s the picture.

I live here with my Portuguese girlfriend, my neighbours from Jamaica, and Venezuela. Sheila will not tell me how old she is when I help her into her house most days with her shopping but she will always remind me in her thick cockney accent that she is in fact from, Waterford.

At the Turkish Supermarket, we shop for everything. Fruit and vegetables of all shapes and sizes are stacked outside pouring onto the pavement while workers re arrange and re stack. Old batteries and iphone 3 chargers, you name it they have it. When do they close? Never, and some nights when I can’t sleep I’ll walk down there, for a chat and a cherry coke watching football reruns and learning Turkish words.

That’s the way it is around here

My mate Jimmy is English and like most people around here, we love our local team, Arsenal FC. Match days, people of all creeds and colours walk the streets around Emirates stadium wearing the red and white of the Gunners, and afterwards, we buy some Red Stripe Jamaican Lager and exchange it with the street vendors for the finest Jamaican Jerk chicken.

The Chinese restaurant is next to the Spanish café while the Italians make pizza next to the Vietnamese and when a newcomer to the area asks me for directions to our local mosque, I know the way. Straight ahead, till you see an Irish pub. Take a right at The Auld Triangle and you will see the Mosque, it’s practically next door.

That’s the way it is around here. Now I just have to convince Tahir to break his fast at the Auld Triangle.

Stephen Mullan is a stand up comedian and writer. He started his work in comedy on the London circuit, and performs in the UK and Ireland. He writes on all things comedy, food, sport and current affairs. He is currently working out of Lisbon, Portugal for the summer before relocating to Dublin at the end of the year. Twitter and Instagram: @stephenjmullan.

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Stephen Mullan  / Stand up comedian and writer

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