The UK Riots
In early August the UK witnessed a spell of looting, lawlessness and rioting akin to that witnessed in Baghdad during the second Gulf war.The commotion began in Tottenham, London but spread like a bush fire to Hackney, Brixton, Ealing, Peckham, Birmingham, Manchester and suburban Croydon.The UK Prime Minister and London Mayor Boris Johnson were of the many who cut short their holidays to fly back to deal with the unrest.
The riots in Tottenham were sparked off following a protest demanding justice for Mark Duggan. Mark Duggan was shot dead by police on Thursday 4th August following a stop and search. However, the subsequent riots in other parts of London, Midlands and the North had no link to Mark Duggan. They seemed to be motivated by greed, violence and criminality.
The rioting lasted for 6 days and included arson attacks, breaking and entering shops, theft, mugging and murder. Shabana Mahmood MP for Birmingham & Ladywell commented that there were a total of 389 arrests in Birmingham alone, with more than 2,000 nationally. Following the peripheral discussions on police powers, police numbers, police strategy, use of water cannons and the right of face cover removals – the questions that haunted the UK was what was the cause of such lawlessness and anarchy!
CAUSES BEHIND THE RIOTS
Such lawless and animalistic behaviour have prompted MPs to highlight social breakdown being the primary cause of rioting by youth.Theresa May – the Home Secretary commented that:“We cannot go on ignoring social problems”. Michael Gove enlightened the public with his points that:“there is a conflict in our society of right and wrongs” and that what is required is “moral self-restraint of individuals as well as uniformed policing”. But how does moral self-restraint harness itself when conflicting notions of utilitarianism and living life to the full is lamented daily in the west?
Gang culture and lack of morals have been at the heart of discussions to ascertain reasons behind such rioting. David Cameron has been outspoken on his views giving the causes as a moral decline resulting in a broken Britain. Cameron vows to tackle “slow-motion moral collapse”.This analysis has faced a fightback from Tony Blair who commented:“Blaming moral decline for the riots makes good headlines but bad policy … In 1993, following the Bulger case, I made a case in very similar terms to the one being heard today about moral breakdown in Britain. I now believe that speech was good politics but bad policy. Focus on the specific problem and we can begin on a proper
solution … Elevate this into a highfalutin wail about a Britain that has lost its way morally and we will depress ourselves unnecessarily, trash our own reputation abroad, and worst of all, miss the chance to deal with the problem in the only way that will work.”
It seems both current and former PMs are busy keeping up appearances with the media and the world at large.Tony Blair is calling for the government to stop attacking western society/british society at large and play it down as a problem of individuals.According to Tony Blair, the “big” cause of the riots in England was “alienated, disaffected youth… outside the social mainstream”. True to the conservative stance of society being composed of families; Cameron believes Britain is broke due to a widespread family structure meltdown.
Despite the different opinions existent, what has been clearly left out of the discussions is what are the ideas that motivate individuals to carry out such acts? Surely, the cause cannot be as simplistic as ensuring youth are raised in families with prim and proper manners; nor is it as simple as applying law enforcement to tackle ‘pockets of moral decline’ in individuals and leave society to continue to indulge in the culture that led to western economic downfall and for women to be perceived as sexual objects.Arguments such as poverty and the current economic crisis have been highlighted as a possible trigger. But such arguments also lack depth in identifying the root causes.
THE REAL CAUSE
According to the Civitas Institute for the study of civil society, England and Wales have the highest rate (besides Turkey) of youth crimes – with more young people in custody than other European countries.The number of under 18’s in custody in 2010 was 2,209.The current concern is that prisons are full, which posed a problem with where to house offenders of the recent riots.The number of recorded offences committed by youth was 277, 987 in 2008.The Criminal Justice System spends £4 billion a year on dealing with youth offenders. Every year, an estimated 70,000 school children enter the youth justice system, with 42% of first time offenders being youth.The number of 15-17 year olds in prison has more than doubled in 10 years. Of the recorded crimes; theft and violence against a person – topped the crime charts – followed by criminal damage.What was witnessed during the riots were all three offences and more carried out in broad daylight and without fear of any consequences.
The victims of this riot included Haroon Jahan, 21, Shazad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31, who were hit by a car as they protected stores from looters on the 10th of August. Four youths appeared in court suspected of their murder. Public scenes also saw the extent of humanitarian assistance – when a Muslim oversees student was helped up by people (after he had been punched and kicked by others); only to be robbed of his belongings from his rucksack.The looting craze was classless and also affected the middle– class who shared no moral insecurities to steal and help steal goods from shops by operating a getaway car. The real cause behind such flouting of morals is the viewpoint that western society promotes.The viewpoint of pleasing oneself and maximizing that pleasure, based on a criteria of doing what one likes based on their own desires is what has caused such moral decay in society.Any attempt to offer deep solutions must surely take account that the western viewpoint of life and freedom mentality is a fundamental cause behind the riots.
Without acknowledgement that the cause behind the riots is the capitalist viewpoint that drove individuals to do as they please – it is no wonder that solutions posed are superficial.
David Cameron has put ‘Broken Britain’ at the heart of his agenda.A top priority from this is tackling gang culture. Models of policing of gang crime and dealing with gangs from New York and Strathclyde Police have focused the solutions on three aspects: (i) Law enforcement (ii) Youth Services (iii)oice in the Community.
Draconion measures applied on such convicted looters included evictions by local councils and loss of benefits.A strategy that no doubt benefits the government who pockets the difference, but creates a further increase in homelessness and poverty. A further solution proposed is for government to attempt to provide coaching to parents to develop their parenting skills as well as a promise of throwing more money into the problem.
Such patchwork solutions seek to put the country in further debt and turn a blind eye on the fact that the very basis that western society stands on is shaky. By humans deciding the criteria of right and wrong, the yardstick will constantly change.
IMPACT OF THE WESTERN VIEWPOINT ON THE MUSLIM YOUTH
It is clear to see that the very problems that exist in western society of drugs, alcohol, gang violence, promiscuity and disrespect are also evident within the Muslim community and the Muslim youth. Though in some pockets, there is a reawakening of the Islamic identity within individuals, where young parents seek to raise their children with the Islamic viewpoint of pleasing Allah (swt) and the criteria of halal and haram – this is not representative of all Muslim youth.
According to the Prison Service Statistics (2004), almost 10% of the prison population were Muslim; of which two-thirds were young men aged 18-30. The National Census in 2004 also identified 28% of 16-24 year olds to be unemployed.With the promotion of gang culture by the Music industry along with the rise of drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy; some Muslim youth have also been affected by the western viewpoint and are victims of ‘broken Britain’. Some Muslim youth have adopted the notion of ‘life is short – enjoy it’,‘I am free to do what I like’ and ‘do it as long as you can get away with it’. Such a capitalist inspired
mentality will also create ‘homegrown’ Muslim criminals and gangs since they are a product of the Capitalist way of life and thinking. Not only have such Muslim youth integrated into the crime ridden atmosphere in Britain, but they have also embraced a basis not from Islam. Instead of doing actions for the pleasure of Allah (swt), they will choose to carry actions to please themselves – despite the reminders from Allah (swt): “I did not create Man and Jinn save but to worship me”.“Do you not see those who make their desires their gods”. In such a Muslim, the criteria of halal and haram is replaced by ‘do it as longasyoucangetawaywithit’or‘I am free to do as I please’.
A WAY FORWARD FOR MUSLIM YOUTH
Muslim youth in the UK must see their position as distinct and unique. It is a test to live in the heart of western society and remain steadfast. However, it is not a test that predecessors such as Musaab ibn Umayr, Zaid ibn Harith or Fatima Az-Zahra have not experienced. They too lived in the heart of disbelief and moral decay.They did not seclude themselves from the Jahil Arab society, and neither did they compromise their principles.They stood their ground as Muslims, proud and non-compromising of their identity as Muslims and ready to address society and carry dawah to demonstrate the inaccuracies of the Jahil way of life and basis.
Muslim youth in the UK must therefore, read about the lives of such youth of the past and take a lesson from this to motivate them.They must learn lessons from the riots and ensure:
(i) Muslim youth strive to carry out actions for the sole pleasure of Allah (swt) rather than themselves.
(ii) Muslim youth strive to adhere to the criteria of right and wrong as halal and haram from Islam and not their minds. Allah (swt) reminds us:“There are some things you like that are bad for you, and some things you dislike that are good for you. Allah knows and you know not”.
“On the day of judgement, every atoms weight of good shall be seen and every atoms weight of bad shall be seen”
(iii) Muslim youth surround themselves in the correct Islamic atmosphere, learn about Islam and carry the dawah of Islam to those they meet.
(iv) Muslim youth reject western culture as a basis for their actions and expose its rottenness to those who idolize it.
(v) Muslim youth are conscious of the agenda to strip them of their Islamic identity and link to the Ummah globally, expose it and reverse it through dawah.
(vi) Muslim parents provide a distinct Muslim upbringing that enables the child to have the Islamic viewpoint of worshiping Allah (swt) and the criteria of halal and haram.
Such a mindset will develop a distinct non-compromising Islamic identity and will be a vehicle to judge morally right from wrong – based on Islam.