News / Europe

UK Muslims Respond to Hate Crime with Prayer

A man reacts during prayers at the scene where three South Asian men were killed by a car during the recent rioting in Birmingham, England, August 11, 2011
A man reacts during prayers at the scene where three South Asian men were killed by a car during the recent rioting in Birmingham, England, August 11, 2011
Susan Yackee

The riots that ripped through several cities in England early this week resulted in the deaths of three young South Asian Muslim men in Birmingham on Wednesday. However, the local Muslim community decided to reply with prayer instead of more violence.

The three victims had been standing with other local residents in an effort to protect their property from looters when a car plowed through the line of defense.

An estimated 300 Muslim and Sikh men gathered near the site of the killings, according to Guardian News. Some of the men were seeking revenge. As the crowd considered their options, Tariq Jahan, whose son was among those dead, appealed to the crowd not to avenge the crime.

Mustafa Khalili, a Guardian editor, said the deaths had “heightened” tensions, and people began calling for revenge. The father appealed for calm several times since.

The crowd of Muslims and Sikhs decided not to hold a march, which could have led to further violence. Instead, the father and other members of the community led an ethnically-mixed candlelight vigil for the three young men killed. Khalili says the vigil was calm and that those who assembled reflected in their grief.

Basharat Nazir, a spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the United Kingdom, said the father’s response was in “the true spirit of Islam.” He said the father’s calm demeanor let “common sense” prevail. He added Islam teaches in “the face of atrocity” and "excesses done against us, we should respond back in a thoughtful manner and should rely on the authorities to take the necessary measures.”

Police said they have a suspect in custody and have begun an investigation of possible murder charges.

Nasser Khan, vice president of the Ahmadiyya Association in the United Kingdom, stressed that the deaths were a tragic crime and that they should not be considered “sectarian or religious” incidents. “They were purely defending their communities and their country, which is what Islam teaches you.”

Khan said a handful of Muslim extremists might sometimes catch the media spotlight, but incidents like this prayer vigil should be publicly recognized.

Nazir said, “Responsible people within all the communities should stand up and hold hands and stand up against the extremists.” He said that those who bring violence to society should know that no community will tolerate people that create disorder in this world.

“It goes against all religious teachings. And the Muslim community should be no different to any other,” said Nazir.

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