From tumult of London riots, a father's voice emerges
Tariq Jahan, whose son Haroon was killed in the London riots, has gained Britain's ear with his dignified but urgent pleas for calm.
A week after harrowing riots in London that spread to other British cities, the voice of a first-generation Muslim whose son was killed may prove to be the most eloquent cry for sanity.Skip to next paragraph
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Hours after failing to revive his son Haroon and two others killed in Birmingham by a car that drove at high speed into a sidewalk crowd, Tariq Jahan, born in Pakistan, was able to stand before a crowd bent on revenge, and say, "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? Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home, please.”
Mr. Jahan’s few hundred words shot out of the multiethnic Birmingham neighborhood, lighting up the Twitter and YouTube worlds and becoming a kind of anthem of sober reflection for all Brits, forged out of pain and loss.
Jahan is getting credit for reaching average people in a way that political leaders have been unable to. His story and his deeds are getting daily play here; a Financial Times editorial, “Disunited Kingdom,” found Jahan’s example the “most inspiring” from a “torrid week” and a “reminder of the obligations of community.”
“Tariq Jahan’s dignified pleas for calm, in spite of his own loss, have helped diffuse tensions,” says Paul Bickley of Theos, a London think tank on religion and society. “Cities and towns across the UK will need many more people of faith to build solidarity over the coming months."
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Jahan was in a crowd that was protecting shops in a Muslim community when he heard a car crashing. He first tried to help two brothers and then found that his son was the third victim. He tried first aid, and whispered to Haroon to stay alive while an ambulance arrived. But the 21-year-old did not survive. Jahan later read from prepared notes to an angry crowd, backed by local leaders of different races. (Listen to his speech here.)
Cameron chides a 'broken society'
British leaders today fought to define why and how violence could spontaneously combust in London and Britain for three days of looting. Prime Minister David Cameron blamed fatherless families and lax schooling. Today, he called the riots evidence of a “slow-motion moral collapse” that will require tough policing. Opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband has blamed a culture of wealth and banking that is alien and impossible for youths to participate in, and criticized politicians for a lack of leadership and for offering “knee-jerk gimmicks” in now trying to deal with the problem.