I just watched Tariq Jahan describe to the BBC how he arrived on the scene of three likely murders in Birmingham, a car had piled into a crowd during riots, and immediately began administering CPR to one of the victims. He then realised that another of the victims was his own son, Haroon. I can’t see the links to the interview up yet (here’s a report in the Asian Image) but I’m sure his words will be repeated many times across the media. His grace, dignity and decency in appalling circumstances were beyond compare. Muslims will be proud of that man; every single person in the country should be proud of him.
Tariq Jahan, his words and his demeanour, captured something fundamental about the riots and, more deeply, UK society. It’s that we’ve been so obsessed by the perceived societal causes of terrorism that we’ve miscast muslims terribly – defined people through the prism of faith and associated them exclusively with issues of immigration and security. When, in fact, if any communities have encapsulated, through their own actions, values of decency and bravery, a preparedness to do their best to secure the things they’ve worked hard for, then it’s those from Pakistan, Turkey and elswehere who happen to be muslim.
Here’s a Youtube clip of Kurds and Turks driving rioters away from their properties in Stoke Newington. Along with Tariq Jahan’s words, it’s a potent reminder that our muslim communities often represent the best of British. Shop-owners, mechanics (like Haroon Jahan), workers, businesspeople, taking measured action to defend what they’ve worked hard for. Perhaps these riots will be a defining moment when everyone starts to get this. I really do hope Tariq Jahan’s malice-free, moving and wise words represent a watershed in how we as a nation deal with diversity and where we see our best examples of decency.