Mahmood Bakshi arrived in the UK on the 28th November, 2012, having travelled from Saddar Town in South Karachi, where his family sold textiles in one of the oldest markets in Pakistan — the Empress Market. Landing at Leeds Bradford Airport, he was greeted by his older brother, Jameel, who drove him to the family home in Albion Road, Bradford. There he met other relations, including several cousins and an aunt and uncle who had gathered to greet him. Jameel owned and operated a taxi company; his cousins ran a fast food takeaway and restaurant. By average British standards they were well off. Mahmood’s visit would make the family even wealthier. He was here to establish and expand the family’s textile business and to meet the woman he was destined to marry — his younger cousin, Saba, who was veiled and sat shyly in the corner of the room. The weather in Britain on that November day was unusually cold. Snow had fallen overnight, and further showers were forecast.
Mahmood shivered as he embraced his relatives.
“Don’t worry Brother,” Jameel said, patting him on the shoulder. “You’ll soon get used to the weather here.”
“It will never suit me,” Mahmood replied, hands wrapped around a cup of hot tea that his aunt Bibi had just given him. “The temperature touch thirty degree when I am waiting for the plane at Karachi Airport.” His shoulders quivered as a chill rippled up his back. The cold seemed to have penetrated his flesh and wrapped itself around his bones.
“I’ll turn the heating up some more,” Jameel said moving toward the wall thermostat. “It’s already on twenty five,” reaching up and adjusting the dial, “… we’ll all bake at this rate.”
Mahmood’s cousin, Mabarak, took his sweater off. “We’re going to the Hanfia Masjid Mosque tomorrow,” he said. “Come with us. It’s the biggest in Bradford. The imam there will breath fire into your soul. He will inspire you to do great things.”
“If my hurting joints haven’t frozen solid,” Mahmood replied, slurping on his tea.
“My poor brother,” Jameel mocked jokingly. “You’ll need the electric blanket tonight.” He leaned closer to Mahmood and whispered, “Saba will soon be warming your bed.”
Mahmood glanced at his future wife. She was looking down at her feet, her deep brown eyes staring passed her shoes and into the carpet, seeing but not registering the world around her. “She is very pretty,” he whispered back. “Perhaps uncle Farooq will let us talk alone? That would warm my heart.”
“I know how to put some heat into your soul,” Mabarak said, a wicked grin on his face. “We’ll fry some infidels. Bang!” he shouted and threw his arms wide, indicating an explosion “We’ll blow them all up. You can warm yourself on their scorched bodies. ”
Mahmood forced a smile.
“How do you stop a white man from spitting?” Jameel said gleefully.
“Turn the grill down,” Mabarak quipped, rocking with laughter, tears streaming down his face.
“Seriously,” Jameel said, “all Kafir should burn in hell. Fuel for the devil, that’s what they are. The drunken vermin deserve to die. They’re like viruses, a plague that threatens to infect our communities.”
Mahmood smiled uneasily. He felt that hate was the real virus. It infected people’s minds, turned them into violent extremist.
That night he lay in bed, the day’s conversation pounding in his head and keeping him awake. He tried to think of pleasant things, anything that would shut out the radical views of his family. As he tossed and turned he wondered how many others shared the same warped ideology. Did neighbours and people in the mosque think like this too? Mahmood finally fell asleep thinking of his gentle mother and her moral values. ‘The way we choose to live our lives affects the people around us,’ she would say. ‘We can spread hatred and discontent or love and peace.’ This is good virus … very good virus. Like my dear mother, I want to infect the world with love and peace.
With these gentle words in his mind he fell into a deep and peaceful sleep.