By L Amatullah
The last week has seen the country shaken and shocked by the worst riots in years. Millions have watched aghast as flames towered on their television screens, or indeed their street corners. Many Britons have been seen inflicting violence and looting with abandon, displaying apparently no moral compass. They have seen fit to destroy their own neighbourhoods, attack innocent individuals and wreck the entire livelihoods of those struggling to run small businesses. Whatever the reason behind their actions, one fact remains; their loyalty to their own neighbourhoods and nation was lacking – something they illustrated through shameless, and indeed in some cases, proud, destructive behaviour.
There is however, one thing that seems not to have attracted adequate limelight amidst the focus on those involved: those who are NOT. A constant target of suspicion and distrust, yet a glaring absence from these crimes was the British Muslim community. Indeed while members of other communities, whose loyalties are rarely if ever questioned, were busy vandalising and looting, members of the Muslim community were seen protecting the streets, and being the tragic victims of the riots. In the capital, Muslims from the East London Mosque were seen chasing away rioters, while Ashraf Haziq, an unfortunate Malaysian student, was caught on camera being robbed whilst suffering a broken jaw. Most prominently, Birmingham saw the tragic murder of three young Muslims as they stood in defence of their neighbourhood.
Now is the time that Britain and the West should finally realise that the one community they too often alienate is in fact the community that upholds the highest values with determination. Now is the time that David Cameron may finally wish to reconsider his assertions in his ill-thought and ill-informed Munich speech months back, or re-evaluate the basis of his government’s PREVENT strategy. Now, rather than questioning the patriotism and loyalty of the Muslim community, he may wish to redirect those contentions elsewhere, where the absence of loyalty is made apparent through harshly destructive behaviour and proud disobedience. Now, rather than condemn multiculturalism, he may wish to appreciate it for being a positive driving force in achieving calm amidst the crisis.
British Muslims were not caught in a single case of rioting, but rather were those who came out of their mosque and chased away rioters to protect their areas, who stood guard over their local communities and made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives to protect it, who suffered inhumane attacks while on their way to break their sacred fast. They are those who maintained calm, wisdom and humility in the face of exceptional bereavement, being pivotal in easing racial tensions and preventing further violence. They are those who bore no ill will but only sympathy for their attackers, maintaining respect for their adopted country.
These are the Muslims of Britain. These are those who day in day out reflect the true honourable nature of their targeted and tainted community. But while they continue to bear the flag of decency, it is the handful of irrational extremists who enjoy the attention, jeopardising peace in Britain and the honour of the group they claim to represent. Every community has its brand of extreme fringe elements but none get highlighted as much as that of the Muslims.
However, on this occasion, the humanity of the majority has been caught and documented and it cannot be ignored. It was Mr Tariq Jahan, the bereaved father from Birmingham, whose pleas for calm, his comments on the beauty of a diverse and harmonious society – indeed, his appeal to multiculturalism – that has been hailed as a leading force in preventing an escalation of racial tensions. It was the Indian Sikh community in West London, the Turkish Muslim community in North London and the Somali and Bengali Muslim community in East London that were seen protecting the streets.
Cameron did not choose to comment on the EDL in Munich (although the EDL were wreaking havoc in Luton on that very day and did very little to protect Britain during the riots in spite of their flamboyant ‘patriotism’), he did not choose to comment on the BNP (again a glaring absence from the counter-riot spectrum), nor did he choose to comment on any other group. But he did condemn the so-called failure of state multiculturalism and ‘segregation’. This past week saw those very ‘segregated’ communities protecting the streets of our capital in the absence of a police presence while the Prime Minister made his leisurely return from holiday to protect the country he is responsible for. This past week has proven that rather than question the patriotism of Muslim Britons and any immigrant group, their loyalty is one to uphold as exemplary.
Mr Jahan, a Muslim of Pakistani roots, has been hailed as the leading voice of reason, a hero and more influential and admirable than any politician or leader has been during the course of the riots. He was not merely the voice of reason, he was also the voice of his community: ‘It doesn’t matter who you are, we’re here to help everybody’. His words were a reflection of the vast majority of those he represents – humane and law-abiding citizens, proud of their British identity and loyal to their country and community. Furthermore he made clear his patience, wisdom and humility are rooted in his faith: ‘I don’t blame anybody. I am a Muslim’. It is time Tariq Jahan, and the communities he represents – Muslims and migrants – are at last given the recognition they deserve and are no longer unfairly maligned and alienated. Now is the time to appreciate their positive contribution to society as inspired by their Islamic faith. Now is the time to finally appreciate the loyalty of British Muslims.
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