personal reflections on human rights...and other stuff

The UK Riots: What's Worth Remembering


There are fewer sirens tonight. Since my arrival in London earlier this week, the howl of police cars pierced the night intermittently for hours. There’s been much said of the damage done and plenty said about how citizens not involved in the violence and lootings were appalled. The time now is for bringing back a sense of normalcy and security to those who’s livelihoods were affected; it’s time to bring those responsible to justice, however muddy that path may be when handing out justice to an 11 year-old. It’s time to reflect on the causes of the riots. Divisions are already apparent among politicians in the UK. Prime Minister Cameron said that a lack of responsibility is to blame. "Young people smashing windows and stealing televisions is not about inequality," Cameron said. "When you have a deep moral failure you don't hit it with a wall of money." Some of Labour’s politicians are blaming the riots on deep inequality between Britain’s rich and poor.

Whatever the causes, it’s worth the time for politicians and average citizens to find inspiration and learn from acts of kindness and love in the face of the violence. Londoners taking to the streets with their brooms is a remarkable gesture, a citizen-led movement of such simplicity and pureness in its goal that you cannot but help but think to yourself that there is hope for this dismal human race after all.

Then there is Tariq Jahan, a man whose 21-year-old son Haroon was killed in Birmingham along with two other men defending local shops from looters. He spoke in the streets of the city and called for peace: "Today we stand here to plead with all the youth to remain calm, for our community to stand united.”

I cannot imagine the pain he is going through, losing a son from a senseless, mindless act of violence. If I were in a similar situation, I honestly don’t know if I would have been so forgiving.

The broom-toting cleaners and Mr. Jahan’s composure in the face of his son’s death reflect the deepest, strongest values that move us to lead kinder, gentler, and more peaceful lives. They show us that we can be strong and united in our repression against violence. The citizen-street-cleaners show us we can act together with a sense of purpose to do what’s right. Mr Jahan shows us that, even in light of a heinous an act committed against someone he loved dearly, violence is not an option as a form of retaliation; peace is.

When I remember my time in London during these events, I will remember these acts, I will remember these people. Their lessons are worth passing on to others. 



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