Amid the rhetoric of England’s politicians and political commentators, one man has stood out as the voice of reason, hope and sincerity during England’s time of riots.
Tariq Jahan, a father, a Muslim and a resident of Birmingham, a city hit by the riots, has emerged as a hero to many from different cultures, backgrounds and religions. He spoke out at a time of confusion and appealed for calm and respect when most politicians were calling for punishment, tougher policing and no-mercy sentencing.
Mr. Jahan’s message came out in a time of personal tragedy. His own son, Haroon, 21, was one of three young men who were killed by a car that was “deliberately driven” into them on August 9 while they were trying to protect their community from looters at the height of rioting in Birmingham. It was widely reported that the driver and passengers in the car were black, a fact that risked creating, or aggravating, racial tensions.
Despite having lost his son only hours earlier, in a unshakeable yet compassionate address, Mr. Jahan appealed to the community for calm from all sides “Blacks, Asians, whites - we all live in the same community,” he said. “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 demeanor, presence and words have been widely credited with preventing a race riot from erupting in Birmingham, which would have likely seen members of the large Asian community trying to exact revenge on Birmingham’s black community.
Since the outbreak of the riots, on August 6, tensions had been running high and the public as well as politicians had been quick to condemn one another. David Cameron, the prime minister, declared in the House of Commons: “We will track you down, we will find you, we will charge you, we will punish you. You will pay for what you have done.”
The peace-filled message of Mr. Jahan is embedded in his roots as a Muslim; he openly declared his faith to media and onlookers. “I’m a Muslim. I believe in divine fate and destiny, and it was his destiny and his fate, and now he’s gone,” he said. “And may Allah forgive him and bless him.”
Many Muslims in Birmingham and the UK are proud of his compassion and humanity, and cite him as a good example.
Hamza, who is from Birmingham, said that “in all the confusion he was a voice of reason and a voice of hope.”
Amir, a student from London, commented that “His patience as well as his call for peace resonated with those that heard him speak; it was moving and inspiring at the same time for me as a Muslim that Islam, to which he referenced, was such a force for both personal and societal benefit.”
Police praised Mr. Jahan’s appeal as “powerful, generous and farsighted.” And party leaders untied in paying tribute to him. The opposition leader, Ed Miliband said, “He is the true face of Britain. The Britain we are proud of.”
Mr Jahan has dismissed any suggestions that he is a hero “I don’t know about being a role model or a hero. I am a father. All I want is for there to be peace and for my family to be able to pray for my son.”
He was not far from the three men, Haroon Jahan, 21, and brothers Shazad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31, when they were hit by the car. He rushed to help the victims without knowing that his son was one of them.
While helping one of the brothers who had been hit, someone called to him to tell him his son was lying on the ground. He administered CPR to Haroon. He said: “In my mind I was hysterical but I thought if I could just get him breathing again he would survive."
Remarkably, Mr. Jahan said that he felt no anger towards the man who deliberately ran over his son and that he didn’t blame anyone for his son’s death.