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World: Muslims In The West -- Family's Hearts Are In England, Their Roots In Iran (Part 1)

Muslims praying in central London Britain is still struggling to come to terms with this summer's bombings in London, which killed more than 50 people. The attacks were perpetrated by Muslim extremists. But three out of the four suicide bombers were born in Britain. That fact has focused renewed attention on Britain's 1.5-million strong Muslim community -- from the contented, to the disaffected, to the radical. In a three-part series, RFE/RL profiles members from each of these segments of the population. In Part 1, we get to know the Faridys, who live in Richmond, a leafy suburb of the British capital. They are successful professionals and relatively prosperous. The Faridys are all British citizens, and proud to be so. But the Faridys' roots are in Iran.

London, 2 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Fifty-eight-year-old Ali Faridy is chief executive of a small electrical-parts company based just outside London. His wife also works full-time, and their two adult sons, Shahram and Mazdak, have their own careers and flats.

Ali Faridy has lived and worked in Britain since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. Those first years in Britain were difficult. He had to juggle the twin challenges of completing his engineering studies, while also raising a family:

"Yes, beginning is always difficult. But when I came here, I came as a student. I didn't come to start a business. So those days were my studying years," Faridy says.

Faridy says Britain has became a very tolerant society over the past 25 years. He says his Muslim faith and his origins have never made him feel like a stranger. He says he now feels more British than Iranian.
"I never really felt like I should be just hanging around with certain people that are from my own background. When you go ahead in life, you mix with different people."

"British, of course, because this is my home now, has been for years," Faridy says.

Faridy refuses to talk about the extremists behind July's deadly bomb attacks in London. He will only say they were "mad."

Faridy's wife, Shireen, is 54 and a chemist who enjoys warm relations with her colleagues at the laboratory. She, too, recalls her first years in Britain as being difficult.

In addition to raising two sons, she also restarted her own career in chemistry. She says she's "very grateful" for having been accepted by the British people. But she says she longs to return to Iran one day, "when it is democratic again."

"Of course, I am happy that, you know, my family are here. And they could study far from all the problems we had at home. But, as I said, I wish one day myself and family would go back there," Shireen says.

But Shireen knows that her sons feel British and may not share her sentiments.

"They are brought up here. They are educated here. And because of their age, they could mix with British people much more easier than myself. So, they are more British. Of course, they are more British," Shireen says.

Shahram is 28 and also lives in London. He was born in Iran, three years before his parents fled. He holds a degree in architecture from Exeter University. He has not followed his original career path, however, but has instead become successful in the music industry.

Speaking from a recording studio, Shahram sums up his formative years in Britain with particular pride.

"I never really felt like I should be just hanging around with certain people that are from my own background. When you go ahead in life, you mix with different people. When you don't actually have a chip on your shoulder, and you don't feel that you should be different, or you suffered more, you tend to integrate much better. And the opportunities are there for you," Shahram says.

Islam, Shahram says, is a religion with "so many good things about it." He says it steers people toward lives of peace and honesty. But it can be distorted, he says.

"If the ego takes hold of it and decides to make adjustments and tries to control certain people, which these fundamentalists are, they will take people in on their side who have held their hatred or anger toward something, using illusions to live their lives. These people will become their new soldiers, and as you can see, they will damage the world," Shahram says.

Shahram admires the rule of law in Britain, which he says makes all "decent" people feel free.

"In Britain, people have a law they're trying to stick to, you know. There are certain things that are far more developed here than, say, they are at the moment in Iran. But, at the same time, there are also good things in Iran," Shahram says.

One of those "good things," Shahram says, is "how families stick together" in Iran -- something he believes is lacking in Britain at the moment.

Shahram's younger brother, Mazdak, describes himself as "British born and bred." He is 25 and works as a film director. He says it makes no difference to him whether his friends are Muslims or not. But he says he "can't fight his roots," even though he feels completely British.

"It doesn't matter if you've never even seen the country. You always feel connected or attached somehow. My family always, since being young, encouraged us to know about our culture and pass it on to our children. So, I feel like I'd like to, in the future maybe, connect my roots more with my work," Mazdak says.

Shahram advises other young British Muslims to work hard, as he has done, in order to fully participate in British life.

"I love this country, and I'll always be contributing my ideas and my understanding. I think this is a great place for younger Muslims or younger children from any religion to understand that you shouldn't just expect things. You can work hard enough, and you can achieve. And if you're a minority, you should work even harder to become part of the majority," Sharam says.

It is this attitude, he concludes, which has helped his family succeed and to integrate into Britain's diverse society.

See also:

Young People Struggling To Cope With Social Exclusion, Deprivation, Discrimination

Radical Believes Suicide Bombers Acted With Right Intentions