Justin Gest begins his book Apart: Alienated and Engaged Muslims in the West with a description of the young man portrayed on the cover of the book (see above). Zak lives on London’s East End in an unfinished project. Like many teens in the West he eats junk food, listens to hip hop, plays soccer, and wears Nike sneakers and clothes. Yet, as Gest’s title suggests, Zak, because he is Muslim does not feel at home in his surroundings. Gest writes:
Fried chicken and French fries to snack. Soccer after school. Hip hop music. Nike threads. Family obligations. Difference has rarely been so strikingly familiar.
And yet Zak is treated differently. He hears and reads that he actually is quite different. And Zak says, indeed, he feels different. ‘No I don’t feel British,’ he asserts forcefully, almost to himself as much as to anyone else. ‘Their values have nothing to do with mine.’
‘The way we’ve grown up here in the big country of the UK,’ he says, as he gestures back toward the empty lot, ‘we’ve only ever really seen Mile End.’
He goes quiet, and nods in the direction of a neighbor in a flowing white prayer gown, passing by on the uneven pavement. Lowering his voice, he says, ‘You know, yeah, I would love to change the world, but when you think about it, it’s not going to happen. I can’t worry about them, because I got other things. I gotta feed my family…’
He pauses pensively.
‘Besides, you’re just a pawn in their game. They just want your vote. They don’t give a [damn] about you.’