I have today published a short report – aimed primarily at those working at the community level – that brings together a range of different Muslim voices from across Birmingham and the West Midlands in an attempt to better understand and explain the riots and more so, the actions and response of Muslims in the city to them.
Entitled, ‘“We Live Together and Can Stay Together”: Muslim voices in the aftermath of the Birmingham riots’ I believe that the findings challenge some of the many negative perceptions that have become commonplace about Muslims and the religion of Islam in today’s society.
You can read the report for free by clicking here.
For those preferring a ‘taster’ before accessing the full report. I have reproduced the opening chapter – ‘Remarks’ – below:
Following the unprecedented wave of riots that swept through various English town and city centres in August 2011, a wide range of politicians, academics, commentators and others have sought to try and explain or make sense of the events. Some of the ‘explanations’ have included the perceived collapse in moral standards, a lack of responsible parenting and the erosion of discipline among the young. Some blamed youth culture, citing rap music or the paucity of celebrity culture as being particularly impacting. Others resorted to more traditional explanations for civil unrest: to poverty, deprivation, exclusion and class amongst others. A few employed metaphor and hyperbole to elucidate: as evidence of a ‘sick’ – as opposed to a ‘broken’ – Britain or as a ‘Katrina moment’. Another, rather more controversially made the suggestion that Britain’s ‘whites’ had in recent decades become ‘black’.
Despite some having inferred racialised undertones to the riots, the reality is that the perpetrators were in fact highly diverse. Images that have appeared in the media and that have since been circulated by the police have served as a vivid reminder that there was not one dominant ‘racial’, ethnic, religious or cultural community or group behind them. This was true for Birmingham as indeed it was for London, Manchester and everywhere else.
However, that diversity did not entirely reflect the diversity that exists within contemporary Britain. Initial evidence seems to suggest that a disproportionately low number of perpetrators were of Muslim or Sikh heritage. Empirical evidence is not available to categorically prove this, not at this stage at least, but widespread media coverage, eyewitness accounts, the release of images by the police as well as the publication of court proceedings all seem to suggest that the number of Muslim and Sikh perpetrators was low. Exploratory conversations with community activists working at the grassroots level as with local police officers in the Birmingham area substantiate this view.
In fact in Birmingham, Muslims and their communities were thrown into the spotlight for quite different reasons. Whilst groups were rioting in the city centre, many from Muslim and Sikh communities had instead chosen to take to the streets on the outskirts of the city to protect their local communities and the businesses that operate within them. This was tragically highlighted by the murder of three young Birmingham Muslims – Haroon Jahan, 21, and brothers Shazad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31 – all of whom were victims of a hit-and-run driver. At the time, they were part of an 80-strong group of people that sought to defend local communities in the Winson Green area of Birmingham from any overspill violence and looting.
Combined with the disproportionately low numbers of Muslims involved in the rioting, many believe that these untimely deaths challenge many of the negative perceptions held about Muslims and the religion of Islam in today’s society. This report brings together a range of different Muslim voices from across Birmingham and the West Midlands in an attempt to better understand and explain the riots and more so, the actions and response of Muslims in the city.
This report has been produced to support all of those individuals and organisations that are working towards building a better society.
A further academic article which draws upon this research will follow in coming months.
Image reproduced from here.