Riots in London – British Muslims’ Reactions to the Death of Three Young (Muslim) Men

11./ 12./ 13.08.2011

Earlier last week, the UK was shaken by a number of serious riots that ripped across London, before spreading to other cities, such as Birmingham, Bristol, Nottingham and Liverpool. On Wednesday, the riots resulted in the deaths of three young South Asian Muslim men in Birmingham, who had tried to protect their property from looters. The three men were fatally hit by a car that drove through the line of defense. On Thursday, the West Midlands Police arrested three men from Birmingham, aged 16, 17, and 26, on suspicion of murder of the three Muslim men.

 

While the deaths of the three men has heightened tensions amongst some parts of Britain’s multi-ethnic communities, the local Muslim community in Birmingham decided to react with prayer rather than more violence. This was mainly due to an appeal made by Tariq Jahan, father of one of victims in Wednesday’s hit-and-run attack. Jahan, who – as Channel 4 reports – has been heralded as one of the heroes of the riots, repeatedly called on people to not seek revenge for his son’s death and to not march in protest of the killings (albeit this march was intended to be peaceful). Not only did Jahan call on Muslims to find solace in their religion, he also called for peace and an end to the riots. As the Daily Mail reports, Jahan’s speech reminded British society of the “true meaning of decency”; similarly, the Independent describes it as “extraordinary” and very much in contrast to the overheated rhetoric chosen by politicians and the press. This description especially applied to the following abstract of the speech:

 

I don’t blame the Government, I don’t blame the police. I don’t blame anyone.

I’m a Muslim. I believe in divine fate and destiny, and it was his destiny and his fate, and now he’s gone.

And may Allah forgive him and bless him.

Tensions are already high in the area. It’s already bad enough what we are seeing on the streets without other people taking the law into their own hands.

My family wants time to grieve for my son. People should let the law deal with this.

Today we stand here to plead with all the youth to remain calm, for our communities to stand united.

This is not a race issue. The family has received messages of sympathy and support from all parts of society.

I lost my son. Blacks, Asians, whites – we all live in the same community. Why do we have to kill one another? Why are we doing this? Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, clam down and go hom – please.” (As published by the Daily Mail)

 

In the aftermath of Wednesday’s events, the local Muslim and Sikh communities have united and, as the Birmingham Mail reports, openly demonstrated this unity by guarding each others’ places of worship.