I was in Birmingham for the weekend, and met some remarkable people. One was a former boxer who spoke volumes with simple words.
Tariq Jahan (pic: right) and some others went to a refugee camp in Syria with an ambulance, and as got there they saw a bomb explode. He held up a baby, and the hand were severed off, with a bone sticking out. ‘This was not army against army, it was a refugee camp.’
We were there as part of the Cambridge Interfaith Program, visiting places of worship and various groups doing interfaith work. This was one of the places where the 2010 UK riots took place. Three boys here died as a result of it. Tariq was the father to one of them.
‘I see my son as a gift from God. He’s a gift. So it is up to God to take back that gift.’
Unexpectedly, I ended up hanging out a lot with Mohammed Ali (pic: centre) during the weekend. He was one of the speakers we met, a local Birmingham guy, a world renowned artist in some circles also known as Mohammed Ali Aerosol Arabic.
Mohammed described in all seriousness, about the amazing instance – that was where a Muslim man (Tariq), became a British hero and saved the country from further conflict by ending the riots with what he said in the response to his son’s death.
Today he goes around speaking to people, doing work with various charities around the world. But Tariq made something clear to us, to not get carried away with the impression we had of him as a person, prior to the change that took place in his life after his son’s death.
‘I don’t blame the government. I don’t blame the killers. I don’t blame a riot. I believe in Divine Decree. I’m a Muslim.’
He was not a good Muslim before. He used to box and that led him to trouble. He was also a bodyguard for various famous people, which meant being around a certain type of environment. More importantly, he tells us,
‘..to solve problems, I’m used to using this (fists).’
‘But what do you say to God on the night he took your son? How do you solve that?’
The following morning, the media scrambled in front of Tariq’s house. Many were there waiting to get something. Mohammed tells me, Tariq came out and said something. What was said, defused the situation for the whole country and brought an end to the riots.
“Black, White, Asians – we all live in the same community … step forward if you want to lose your son. Otherwise, calm down and go home – please.”
Mohammed articulates to me, considering the Islamophobia narrative in British society today, did we consider how in this situation, where he could have sought revenge and who knows what can happen from there. But instead we have a national hero, who is a Muslim.
Back to the session Tariq had with us.
Tariq says sometimes he is asked, who killed your son? Was it white people? ‘No.’ Was it black people? ‘No.’ Was it asian people? ‘No. It was a human being. A member of our community. Who made a mistake.’