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#OutofOfficeQuotes 78: "Friday prayer beats sniffing glue in bus shelters..."

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

The Bengali site supervisor showing him round the unfinished foundations is also wearing a hard hat; Hook tries to work out the squat, middle-aged man’s religion. He’s always taken pride in his tolerance, his understanding of complex issues – a few years back he won the regional award for Journalism that Promotes Racial Harmony (London East Region).

Yet now, Hook realizes, he’s forgotten much of what he wrote: the difference between Sunni and Shia, the origins of Ramadan, why it is Muslims pray to Mecca five times daily. The thing that scares him most is his own ignorance. He’s supposed to care, understand and empathise, when all he wants to do is run away.

The Bengali shouts in his ear but as they’re standing next to a pneumatic drill Hook can hardly hear him. Impatiently the man points a stubby finger up at an unfinished dome, closing like tulip petals against the white hot sky.

It occurs to Hook that he’d better pretend to take some notes for the article he drafted on the bus: mostly he writes from memory, but some people find that suspicious. Reaching into his jacket he extracts the notebook and pen Shelley bought him last Christmas, pages virginal.

His drafted feature extols the virtues of diversity and tolerance; Hook’s written a million similar pieces on how the mosque provides a sense of belonging and the caring sharing Tablighi Jamaat instil discipline in the young. Maybe they do – Friday prayer beats sniffing glue in bus shelters.


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