Inside the white chapel at St Teresa’s Effingham, row upon row of girls would pray on their knees twice a day during Mass, all except one small figure seated on a pew in their midst.
Ten-year-old Reem El Mutwalli, the only Muslim pupil at the Catholic boarding school, felt she could never escape the services each morning and night because her presence invariably interrupted the seamless symmetry of bowed heads.
“I didn’t kneel and that showed,” Dr El Mutwalli told The National. “I stood out. So if I was to ditch prayers or not appear then people would notice.”
Although far from her Emirates home, the young Reem soaked it all in – the “wonderful” atmosphere, smell of incense burning, the candles, the chanting and uplifting hymns that she still listens to at breakfast all these decades later.
It might, she concedes, seem an unusual choice by her parents, but Tariq and Buthaina’s generation believed in the merits of a convent education, and what safer place for their only daughter than an all-girls’ establishment run by nuns in the English countryside?
Now the respected…