Today 5,000 people gathered in Summerfield Park, two streets from my home, for a peace rally. Last week three young men were murdered two further streets away, run down by a car on the pavement as they stood outside their community’s shops protecting them from looters as riots erupted across the city. Tariq Jahan’s extraordinarily powerful plea for peace in the raw hours after his son’s death was hugely influential, widely and justly acclaimed for dousing flames of violence.
The footage I had not seen until this evening is this. If anything I find it even more amazing than the first clip. Watch it to the end.
Clearly and understandably emotions were running extremely high in the Muslim Community around Dudley Road, the pressure for a gesture of protest/resistance was intense, but a march would inevitably have been the focus for further tension and conflict. Community leaders had to work fast. Councillor Rudge, the council’s cabinet member for Equality, is credited with bringing faith leaders together late last week and with their help, and that of West Midlands Police the march, with all its potential for trouble, became an emotional Peace Rally, in a Park, in the sunshine.
I have chosen to embed this posting of the speech because, if you follow the links you find Azhar Fauji’s YouTube Channel. Azhar Fauji posts as a 19 year old from Birmingham, it contains clips of young Muslims traveling to stand up to the English Defense League. Elements of it feel difficult and confrontational, but seen through his lense ours is an hostile world. In this context it was important to be able to stand in a park along with Azhar Fauji sharing One Voice for Peace.
The rally started with the great Birmingham Inner City Jam Band (?) singing a cover of Jessie J’s Price Tag, which was a neat choice, Man in the Mirror likewise. Their third number, How Great Is Our God moved things boldly Christian. Later both Sikh and Muslim adherents sang prayers. A line up of young people from different backgrounds spoke intelligently and passionately about their aspirations for the future. Chris Sims Chief Constable of West Midlands Police spoke briefly and well – his front-line officers got thanks and good applause. Faith leaders then all said pretty much the same aspirational thing with varying degrees of power and eloquence. It as strong to see them all together. Next came the family speeches and minute of silence. Too many politicians spoke for too long – though Yvonne Mosquito smartly translated the Arabic chanting that occasionally punctuated the event as “God is Great” and thus diffused any anxiety felt in that direction. One of the more startling elements of the two hour event was a representative of business community challenging his peers to move on from greed, make choices for the wider social good, to give back to the community and promote youth opportunities. There was a concluding prayer written collectively by the faith leaders before Brothers United in Christ sang Lean on Me cuing communal singing and dancing.
It’s always fascinating to be at an event that is covered by the national media. It is sad that, in reporting a rally focusing on unity The Daily Telegraph choose – late in the piece – to take a ‘religious tension’ line, they can’t let it lie can they!