What is Islam?

Ilhan Younis, 18, London

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I was a year old when it happened. A mere toddler. Still couldn't even speak properly. 9/11. The event that changed the lives of not only myself and my family's, but the lives of Muslims all around the world.

That was the day it started. And as I say this, the memories flood through my mind. Graffiti on the walls of my home, the looks, the comments where I'm being told “this isn't your country and you should go back home”. But for someone who was born and raised in London, this line struck me, for this is the only place I have ever known to call home. My home. For I believe that home is where you make it. And if fast forwarded to today, 2001-2017, over 15 years later, myself, my family and Muslims all around the world, still feel the same. As though we don't have a place. And it hurts.

Seeing our brothers and sister around the world being attacked, but now also on our frontsteps. Finsbury Park Mosque. Acid attacks. Fear is rife within our community. And I feel like a walking target. In fact I am a walking target. My headscarf or hijab, which I wear to show my devotion to God, means that I constantly have to be aware. That I have to stand against the wall when waiting for the tube, not only because people can generally be unpredictable, but because I'm Muslim. Because I'm feared, hated and unwanted. But do you really understand what it means to be Muslim?

Shahaada. Islam means submission. It's about love. The same love which the Muslim community gave to the Grenfell tower victims. The same love the victims of the Manchester attack received from Muslims. The same love that was in the heart of the imam who protected the Finsbury Park mosque attacker, from angry bystanders. There are shards of light within the Muslim community. But as a Muslim myself, I can also safely say that the Muslim community does have it flaws. Where culture has been mixed with religion. Where mental health is a taboo topic.

There's racism within the community, where black Muslims such as myself are easily dismissed. Where sex or sexual health is never discussed or where homophobia is prominent. However we're not the only ones with flaws in our community. So why must the fundamentalists within our group define us, when other fundamentalist groups such as the DUP are supported and rewarded in billions of pounds? Why must one set of rules apply to one group, but another set to Islam?

When in fact what we should realise is that every individual has their own flaws. Their imperfections. Their insecurities. That's what makes us human. And some flaws we embrace and accept. But some we must solve or change. Every human has their stake in this planet. And the part which you as an individual play is on your shoulders. But we must also stand together in solidarity and as one, and appreciate that our differences and our diversity only makes us stronger.

Ilhan is a member of our Young Leaders programme. The Almeida Young Leaders is a scheme giving young people with something vital to say, the tools and platform to do so. Each young leader has been mentored by a writer and director to develop their ideas, structuring a speech and skills in public speaking.