The family Richardson has returned from a week’s escape to Morocco. Now The Archers, instead of the call to prayer, marks time in my day.
Crossing the road with the buggy, I keep an eye out for speeding SUVs instead of rogue camels. But one thing has changed; I am more aware of the news.
You see, when my kids started playing with two Moroccan toddlers in a cafe I started chatting to their mother, Menal. Menal was an Arabic teacher in a hijab, but within seconds we were comparing notes on the prohibitive cost of childcare for working mums. Some problems are universal!
After an hour’s chat she gave me a wry look.
‘Is it true the English think all Muslim women are inarticulate and repressed?’
Certainly the boisterous women’s football team on the beach, wearing veils tucked into tracksuit tops, seemed neither inarticulate nor repressed, and not averse to dirty tackles either.
But I couldn’t deny that headlines concerning observant Muslims are pretty exclusively alarming or puerile. If it’s not Jihadists in Mali, it’s the porous nail varnish which allows Muslim sisters to wash before prayer.
So I was guiltily surprised to hear North Africans expressing disgust at fundamentalists destabilising their region. Menal, the main bread winner in her household, explained about European women marrying Moroccans.
They can flash the flesh as merrily as before but are asked to convert to Judaism or Christianity (if not Islam), and so an Arab nation recruits for Judaism no less.
The darkest Muslim story this year has of course been the grooming rings in Bradford and Oxford. People who might have intervened in Bradford have reportedly admitted that such is the hysteria around Muslims, and the consequent fear of being called a bigot, that the activities of the child abusers were, to a degree, overlooked.
When a lack of balance in the national press masks an outrage on that scale, it is time for a rethink. More stories involving moderate tax-paying Muslims can only create a balanced cultural landscape in which cases of abuse are freely tackled.