My name is AbdulMaalik Tailor. I was born and raised as a practicing Hindu, and I was the most practicing Hindu in my immediate family. I grew up in a semi-Jewish neighborhood and attended a Church of England school, which meant I had to go to church and had a position in church of putting up the hymn numbers. Currently, I’m the founding director of Halal Tourism Britain, and I provide guided tours mostly around London but also outside of London. I am also Britain’s first professionally qualified Muslim tour guide. I am also a member at the moment of UK Inbound, which is the travel trade association. I also am doing some work for the national tourism office, Visit Britain, where I’m promoting Halal tourism now within UK Inbound, Visit Britain, and even with regional tourism offices. I am actively promoting Halal tourism within Britain.
What was your path to Islam?
My journey to Islam was a bit different, I think, than other people because I was raised as a practicing Hindu. As I said, I was the most practicing Hindu in my family. I believed in monotheism, and we used to celebrate the different religious festivals in Judaism, Christianity, and Hinduism. But when it came to Islam, I realized after a while that there was nothing being taught. I kept on seeing the old men with the big bushy beards and long skirts who were going to the mosque. I’d be here around 5 or 6 in the morning walking my dog and thinking to myself, ‘What are these guys doing, going to the mosque at this time of day?’ You know, it just doesn’t make sense. But eventually, I realized that these Muslims are praying at a time they have been told to pray. I, on the other hand, could pray at a time I wanted to pray. For example, if I woke up sometime after, it was okay for me to do my prayer. But for the Muslims, they had to pray at the stated time. That’s what generated curiosity, and from there, I eventually got an English translation of the Quran from my friend. After I did my research, I decided to become a Muslim.
Could you provide information about the specific tours you offer in the UK?
There are various types of guided tours that I have. One where you can get the most in-depth knowledge are the walking tours. There are also sightseeing bus tours, both daytime and nighttime, and there are even river Thames cruises. In addition, I run halal food cruises on the River Thames. We offer a variety of experiences with guided commentary and use visual aids to help people understand the context of the locations we cover. Most of the tours are in London, but we also have day trips outside of London.
What attracted you to the Muslim Heritage in the United Kingdom?
When I became Muslim, I met wonderful brothers and sisters, and I was horrified that most Muslims I met didn’t know anything about their Muslim heritage in the country where they were born or residing. That sent alarm bells ringing for me. I realized that Muslims were rushing to visit Andalusia, Spain, but there was no thirst for exploring Muslim heritage in Britain. This lack of curiosity has created problems with that mindset. I also noticed a lot of negativity in the media regarding Muslims in Britain. I thought there must be positive stories about the contributions of Muslims to Britain, but there was also a lot of hidden history.
What inspired you to start offering guided Muslim tours in the UK?
There were no Muslim tours in Britain when I started ten years ago, and I wanted to provide meaningful education about the Muslim contribution to Britain for both Muslims and non-Muslims. I also looked at the national curriculum and realized that there were parts that could easily be taught, such as King Henry VII. I wanted to take teaching from the four walls to outdoor learning because taking people to the places where history happened adds a different meaning and value to their education.
What is your perspective on the significance of Muslim guided tours in non-Muslim countries like the UK?
Most Muslim guided tours typically happen within Muslim countries, and people might not be aware that Muslim tours are available in non-Muslim countries, especially in the West. In the UK, for instance, Muslims make up a minority, and there is a demand to cater to both Muslim tourists and the domestic Muslim community. These tours are not just for Muslims; non-Muslims interested in history and heritage can also benefit. In fact, 30% of our bookings are from non-Muslims.
What challenges do Muslim travelers commonly face during their journeys, and how do you assist them in overcoming these challenges?
International Muslim tourists are often unaware that the UK offers widely available halal or halal-friendly food options. They may also have questions about prayer facilities, and we guide them to suitable prayer places. We also recommend that travelers try local cuisines rather than opting for full board packages, which can be cost-effective and offer diverse culinary experiences.
In your opinion, what are some of the most Muslim-friendly travel destinations around the world outside the Muslim world and why?
Vietnam is becoming a Muslim-friendly destination, and it’s gaining popularity among Indonesian and Malaysian travelers. The country offers halal and halal-friendly food options, even though it’s a non-Muslim country. Additionally, countries in Asia, both Muslim and non-Muslim, are recognizing the growing Muslim market and making efforts to cater to the needs of Muslim travelers.
What do you think the future of Halal travel is?
Halal tourism is one of the fastest-growing segments of the travel industry. The Muslim spend on travel is increasing, and by 2030, the halal tourism market is expected to reach $341 billion globally. Countries around the world, whether Muslim-majority or not, need to prepare to cater to Muslim travelers. It’s a growing and significant market that cannot be ignored.