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Muslim Youth and the London Riots: What Can YOU Do?


By: Alima Ashfaq

“They’ve died, two of them… The last one is fighting for his life, hopefully he’ll be fine! InshaAllah” Muttered my cousin in awe of the latest news. “How can this be happening in the UK?” It was 4 am in the morning and the news was leaving us distressed. Haroon Jahan, 21 and Abdul Musawi, 30 had been killed in the riots, according to Sanghat Channel who was reporting live, they had been run over by rioters as they fled their crimes. Later in the day, Shazad Ali, 31 also passed away due to his wounds. Inna lillahi wa inna ‘ailayhi raji’oon.

The pain of losing members of the community was visible, in the news and the community around me and to lose them to the sheer stupidity of various individuals hurt more. However, another fear began to develop, thus far the Muslim community had been busy in the Masjid at night and during the day busy in their own lives, and the youth were yet to get involved in the looting and general anti-social behaviour. Though now, there was a potential backlash – an opportunity for some members of the community to make trouble and for others, an avenue to show their anger. Some would say stupidity for stupidity.

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“Tensions are already high in the area. It’s already bad enough what we are seeing on the streets now without other people taking the law into their own hands,” Tariq Jahan, the father of Haroon said.

Let us remember that it is Ramadan, this should not be forgotten, a time when even those that have not been to the Mosque take a trip to connect with Allah. It’s a beautiful month and we need to keep its trust, in being the best in terms of conduct. These young men fought against being held under fear, their stance was to protect their community, their Masjid and we have to honour what they were killed for. Retaliating only goes against what they died for, and in fact retaliation at this stage by anyone will only further harm the community.

We are responsible citizens of the UK, this is our residence and we need to protect our community. Let’s focus on those who are causing destruction to our neighbourhoods and look at their characteristics.

1. They have a lack of morality, some would argue religion – There is nothing holding them back from committing such acts. Islam teaches us that we are ultimately accountable to Him; in fact He tells us we’re coming back to Him…

“To Allah is your return, and He is over all things competent.” Surah Hud [11:4]

Hence, whatever actions you take you will be held accountable, and they’ll be multiplied by everyone you harm by it.

2. They lack parental support – You have parents or guardians, they do worry about you, hoping you will return safely. Whatever actions you will take will affect those around you, and those that are harmed, it will harm their loved ones. Remember, you should treat others the way you wish to be treated.

3. Lack of concern for their own community – Your community is your future, it’s where your children will grow up, do you wish to bring your children up in gang fights, unrest and terror?

4. They lack a long term vision – Islam teaches us to look forward in life, in fact it tells us to aim towards Jannah. You need to consider, what do they have to live for? You have been blessed and you need to take care of these blessings, hoping for a bright future, regardless of where you are at this moment of time.

We are blessed with a beautiful month, we can’t and shouldn’t let others effect our worship. This month shall only come once, hence we need to ask ourselves; did we take all we can from it?

Let’s be honest, you’re awesome! The community thus far has been united. I guess Iftaar and Taraweeh have been keeping us busy and our youth by in large have not got involved in the anti-social behaviour alhamdulillah, and hence there has been no negative media coverage, we need to keep it like this. You need to continue to help your community and we need to understand Allah ‘azza wa jal is the Most Just, whoever is hurt, or dies as a result will be given full justice and they are blessed, now the question is will our actions be equally as blessed?

The fear of a backlash is a concern, as the community who takes the law in their own hands will only suffer. This is not about race, religion or gender; this is about keeping us safe. We know at times there is a negative portrayal of Islam in the media, we need to use this opportunity to say we’re not like these insolent youth, we’re better than that!

The father of Haroon added that he did not blame anyone and it was his son’s fate:

“I don’t blame the government, I don’t blame the police, I don’t blame nobody…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.”

These are indeed testing and frustrating times for us, not only is our country in turmoil, the fear of what happens next lingers.

Once again this brave figure standing on a wall in front of a crowd he said:

“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?”

It is in these moments that we have to remain strong, whether you’re a frustrated youth, a worried parent or an onlooker, it is your responsibility that you assist in ensuring there is harmony in your community.

This can be done by various means:

1. Minimising the fitnah – Either by keeping away from such occurrences so no-one else gets hurt, assisting in cleaning your town, or protecting your neighbourhood. At times there is a need for self defence, however this is something you will need to measure, we are taught that with hardship comes ease, the Police will gain control, we just need to be patient, assisting them where we can, whilst remaining safe.

2. If you’re a parent – Know what you’re children are doing, they are your responsibility and you need to ensure they’re off the streets and safe in their homes.

3. If you’re a frustrated youth – Stay away from the trouble, as you’re just causing more harm, rather than being reactive, be proactive and protect your community. The trouble shall pass and only the ruins will be left, which only you will have to deal with.

4. If you’re social media crazy or a community leader – Then circulate this article and the main aim of the message, this is our country, we need to make it our future and prepare it for those who will come after us.

I end with three words; peace, unity and tolerance. If we achieve these, we will be successful and get past this with an array of lessons, so we can all make Britain a better place.


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  1. Halima

    August 11, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    Wow. I don’t live in London or UK for that matter and can’t act upon much of this. BUT this is real troubling stuff. Sad. On a side note I think the Tariq Jahan man-is super calm, composed, and a good image of a true Muslim. His sons died but he can still have this cool demeanor. Awesome.

  2. muhammad barzani

    August 11, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    I wonder if the author Ms. Ashfaq realizes that the 3 ‘muslims’ killed were shia muslims
    (which according to most in muslimmatters are not muslims at all).

    • Amad

      August 12, 2011 at 5:54 AM

      What a strange, unfortunate comment. Is that all you could think about? How to inject sectarianism in this issue? Do you feel that this is the right place to talk about it? Three human beings died, that’s enough for us to keep aside differences.

      • Alima

        August 12, 2011 at 6:33 PM

        Assalaamu ‘alaykum,

        I hope you are all well inshaAllah,

        @ Halima – I agree, it was rather disturbing, I find it amazing how such destruction can occur from such small occurrences – it makes you wonder tbh. Also, Mr. Jahan is an inspiration mashaAllah and a role model for us all. May Allah ‘azza wa jal make things easy for him and his family, aameen.

        @ Br. Muhammad – The comments have pretty much said what I wanted to say, jazakumAllahu khayrun Br. Amad, Br. Rameez and Smee. Though I want to take it back to the purpose of the article and them being Shi’a (which they’re not btw) in all honesty it doesn’t come into the picture. We have a greater goal at this moment of time, which is peace and harmony in our community, so others don’t get hurt. And this is what we need to focus on. Such comments and questions do nothing – rather in my opinion they’re useless and take us away from having empathy, as well as uniting communities.

        In short, focus, focus, focus >> On the message of the article…

        And Allah knows best.

    • Rameez

      August 12, 2011 at 7:38 AM

      Dear Barzani,

      What a shameful comment and a sick brain you have got and still you consider your self a Muslim…

      My Prophet(SAW) never declared a Muslim as a Kafir even the Open Munafiqeen…..

      So how dare you to do so?? n who the hell are you to decide this?? which religion are you following????

      For sure what you are following is not islam….

      • muhammad barzani

        August 13, 2011 at 12:11 AM

        -tastless comment removed. This isn’t a place for shia-bashing

    • hijabi

      August 12, 2011 at 1:59 PM

      hats off to haroon’s father for his sabar nd to the msg he is conveying. and you brother must be shameful on your thoughts. we muslims really r in need to get united..

    • Smee

      August 12, 2011 at 2:14 PM

      Brother Muhammad,

      Firstly; I find you comments deeply offensive. I am from the city which is still in shock over the loss of these three innocent lives. Birmingham is a big city, but there is not an individual in it, which has not felt some deep hurt at this loss.

      Secondly; Did you look into the hearts of the brothers at the time of their death? Did you come to Birmingham, stand outside the masjid that they were trying to protect and then move along to the petrol station owned by their friends which had been looted the previous night as they protected it? As their bodies flew into the air due to the impact of the collision, did u come brother Muhammad, rip open their chests and look into the hearts to see what was there?

      Your inverted comma’s around the word Muslim seems to imply you went to this great length.

      Thirdly; I was so deeply offended at your thoughtless statement that I had it verified…the three men were not shi’a (I know people who know the families involved).
      I don’t see how this makes much of a difference, as it makes no difference to my city nor does it make any difference to the family of the 21 year old who just lost their youngest child… or to the families and as-of-yet unborn child of one of the other two brothers. It is not just the Muslims hurting here, I have seen elderly white men unrelated to these men also cry at this loss. This is called humanity.

      And my brother in Islam, if just reading about these men and the circumstances of their intentional murder does not move you enough, then watch this:

      Finally to all MM readers – Tariq Jahan has been an inspiration throughout this. I do believe had it not been for his calls for calm, then Birmingham would be looking at race riots.

      • muhammad barzani

        August 13, 2011 at 12:28 AM

        -Comment removed. Your comment about “commemorating death of a bunch of shias” is despicable and tasteless. Do you think it makes an iota worth of different if they were Shia? Forget shia, even if they were not Muslims? Sometimes we should “say good, if not just stay silent”

  3. Sharmin

    August 12, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    I saw the father talking in a news… Yes, MashaAllah. He deserves admiration. He was calm, and spoke as if he is comforting the greater community. Indeed, Allah loves those who have Sabr (patience) in time of grief. May Allah keep our brothers and sisters safe in London and all over the world. Ameen.

  4. Leo

    August 13, 2011 at 6:34 AM

    These guys who died were protecting their community weren’t they?
    I read somewhere that if a Muslim dies defending his family, wealth/property or his honour he dies as a shaheed. Is this true?

  5. Yasmin

    August 13, 2011 at 1:44 PM

    I would like to thank the author for writing such an eloquent post that is filled with so much useful information.Inshalllah, the Muslims will continue to remain peaceful and proactive amidst this turmoil. May Allah (swt) have Mercy on those innocent Muslims that have died as a result of this turmoil and May He grant their family members sabr jameel!

  6. Alima

    August 13, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    Assalaamu ‘alaykum,

    @ Yasmin – Jazakillahu khayrun and Aameen :)

    I decided to take a trip down Birmingham town centre today and the aftermath of the riots were still present. Some shops were still boarded and others like Adidas were completely empty due to the looting. You can’t help but be in awe of the emptiness!

    Alhamdulillah it seems to have blown over, though the Police have a adopted a name and shame method of catching the perpetrators. It’s quite interesting (and for them embarrassing) actually, they’ve put up a huge screen in the City Centre and shaming all the rioters they took pictures of, asking for people to come forward and report them. …Stories of mothers reporting their own children has come out!

    …Certainly lessons for the future, in sha Allah.

    May Allah jall wa ‘alaa save us from such misfortunes in the future, aameen.

    • Alima

      August 13, 2011 at 4:25 PM


      I would recommend you all to watch this >>​=QD5EIPwbGD8

      Tariq Jahan is truly an inspiration, mashaAllah.

      It times like we can hold up our heads high and say I’m proud to Muslim and it’s due to the actions of a fellow Muslim, wa lillahil Hamd.

  7. Rationalist Muslim

    August 13, 2011 at 10:46 PM

    Again, a sad loss.

    It is true that most humans probably are hurt by these deaths, but how do these deaths effect us? We will be in psychological and emotional distress for maybe 5 days at max, then back to our happy lives and castles we have built for ourselves (includes our careers, children and families). Have we lost a brother? Have we lost a son? Fact of the matter is that we have not. So sometimes all this sympathy and empathy that I see in comments, as sincere as it might be, seems to be just a temporary expression, nothing deep, nothing everlasting, nothing monumental. Of course this includes my shallow sympathies. I guess this is the depressing reality of human existence and relationships.

    I actually find it saddening that Tariq Jahan has decided to not blame anyone and put the matter to Qadr. Qadr is true but this is a fatalist attitude. I do not know why people are calling this act courageous, I find it otherwise. Tariq Jahan should have called for justice to be served to his dead son by asking for the culprits to be trialed. But he left the matters are decree of Allah, confusing :S

    • Alima

      August 13, 2011 at 11:40 PM


      @ Rationalist Muslim – To some extent I agree, I think it’s a loss within ourselves that we do cause to forget and move on, though in another aspect – it’s a mercy that we are able to ‘live’ and ‘let go’ rather than being so stressed about a situation that it affects our productivity in our daily lives. I think this is the test within itself. Verily death is just a reminder, reminding us of where we are to go, in hope that we will rectify our actions in our daily lives.

      …How do you suggest we keep this alive? I’m currently in the process of writing a short book on these riots, which I hope can be a means of remembering such incidents. Do you have any suggestions?

      In regards to justice, I agree once again, though taking another route on it – would you say, his response was timely and due to the situation at hand? Would you say asking for them to be trialed and taking on an angry approach would have spiralled tension out of control?

      I think we can go both ways with this, neither being right or wrong. I guess we can justify both, whilst agreeing that it was indeed in the Qadr of Allah, and this we have no choice but to be pleased with, whereas it’s the actions of another – we may differ with.

      And Allah knows best inshaAllah.

      On that note, muwaffaq inshaAllah.

    • Smee

      August 14, 2011 at 9:19 AM

      I think it would be more pertinent to change your name from ‘Rationalist’ to Pessimistic.

      How do the deaths effect the vast majority of people reading this post? They don’t…but inshallah it is a reminder to make du’a for the brother and their families. An act which carries monumental power. I’m sure I do not need to re-hash the benefits of du’a or the greater benefit of making du’a for your brother in Islam.

      Also as Alima pointed out…it is a blessing that we as humans do forget and carry on, alhamdullilah. If we did not we would be crippled, as we hear so much bad news on a regular basis.

      With respect to Tariq Jahan; He does not need to blame anyone for the culprits to be brought to trial. We live in Britain and the culprits will be brought to trial regardless of whether the father called for it or not (as of today, two men have been charged with murder and will appear in court on Monday inshaAllah whilst another two have been bailed pending further investigation).

      What he left to the decree of Allah was the fact that his son did die. He did not question why…he accepted it as what was meant. I personally think that that is a commendable act, especially since he is suffering such a great trial, it is easy to not remain patient.
      Also, had Tariq Jahan gone in all guns blazing asking for the non-asian individuals responsible for his sons murder to be brought to justice, asking for the police to be brought to justice etc etc we would have an even bigger riot on our hands.
      As he said in another of his more powerful statements as he appealed for calm, “If any of you wants to lose his son, step forward…”
      Had this father taken the stance of finding blame or retribution, I have no doubt in my mind we as a city would be mourning more deaths and losses.
      Our youth have a lot of pent-up anger and this incident has opened old wounds whilst also creating new wounds in some of the younger ones. As a youth worker…I hear it all and I also know that while a lot of them talk the talk, a lot of them will not hesitate to walk the walk. And I sincerely believe that it was Tariq Jahan’s stance that made the vast majority of people rethink their strategy.

  8. Salaams

    August 14, 2011 at 7:32 PM

    As salaamu alaykum

    I don’t think readers and observers of the events that occurred in Birmingham are fully appreciative of the magnitude of Brother Tariq Jahan’s actions. Bi’ithnillah, he averted a potential race war in Britain’s 2nd largest city. He also changed the perception and attitude of the British public towards Muslims from being enemy number one to national heroes.

    Additionally, I have made comments in MM previously about the unique problems and extreme dysfunctionality in the African Caribbean ‘community’ and the riots illustrated this. Tariq Jahan’s merciful, unifying, mature and stoic approach has been a source of much needed da’wah to my community.

    May Allah reward him immensley and set his affairs in order and continue to grant him hidaayah and grace.

    See the articles below:

    • Alima

      August 15, 2011 at 1:03 AM

      wa ‘alaykumassalaam wa rahmatullah,

      I totally agree, I don’t think we are… I don’t think anyone realises the magnitude and wisdom Br. Tariq Jahan displayed.

      In fact, when you look at our history, you realise how such reactions could have prevented so much from happening. Qadurullah and we are pleased with Allah ‘azza wa jals decree, it’s just you learn when we follow Islam as we should, peace and harmony resonates.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Definitely something to think about, jazak Allahu khayrun.

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