Modern society has come a long way. As a citizen, I am proud that Britain has accomplished great technological and cultural achievements with respect for rule of law, democracy and an admirable judiciary. We are known across the world as a ‘civilised’ society. However, as a parent battling to bring up four children in a society that has encouraged binge drinking, the over sexualisation of women and high consumerism I cannot help but question if this is what civilised means. For a long time, I have felt we are witnessing a state of moral decline where we have lost respect for ourselves and for others.
The looting that took place last week ensured that city centres were no go areas for the law abiding last week. Yet, over the years, I’ve felt my city centre has become a no go area for an entirely different reason. Government policy on alcohol sales and licensing has ensured that our cities have gradually become out of bounds for families and was made increasingly worse by the previous government with its ‘24 hour’ drinking policy. When I last had the misfortune of driving through my city centre on a Friday night, I was met with young men displaying genitals, egged on by their girlfriends, other groups daring each other to urinate and defecate on parked cars and one couple ‘at it’ in a shop front corner. These were well to do privileged young people but sadly, something about their lives is so lacking that many feel the need to escape by seeking chemical oblivion. My non-Muslim friends say they envy the fact that I don’t drink but none are brave enough to lay down laws for their own children –not wanting to be the parent that spoils the fun for their child or fears their child on being ‘left out’. Local schools are sending home letters saying children as young as thirteen have stolen drink from families and have been caught so drunk that they have required medical attention. I know parents who have been told that pupils are displaying overtly sexual behaviour during and after school. Binge drinking, a rise in drink and drug related offenses, teenage pregnancies coupled with the breakdown in the family unit are all indicators of a gradual moral decline in Britain. Many young people today lack respect for their parents, neighbours, teachers, law or any kind of authority. They even lack respect for themselves.
We have generations of families that have no hope of a job, or a decent education but live in a culture that promotes consumerism and material wealth. This is a cycle that has to be broken. How long can we justify unemployed, healthy young people with nothing to occupy their time? The welfare state, when applied properly is a useful tool but nothing is free and community service should be encouraged for young people from the age of 14 and compulsory for anyone on benefits. I for one would praise a government that made any unemployed child of mine give something back to the community and give them a taste of hard work.
Last week also demonstrated great humanity too. The post riot clean ups helped to restore our faith in one another as human beings and of course there was Tariq Jahan. At a time of unimaginable grief, this dignified man stopped his community from descending into further violence and bloodshed. This was a Muslim man, who if you were to believe what has been written about Muslims in the tabloid press over the last few years could be a potential terrorist, who has no interest in integrating into society, who spurns ‘British values’ and is unpatriotic. Despite the looting, violence and blatant disregard for their communities, no-one accused the rioters of lacking patriotism or a British identity. Yet law abiding British Muslims citizens have over the years been increasingly accused by the press, politicians and sections of society of being ‘the enemy within.’
Tariq Jahan, despite being crippled with grief over the murder of his son, spoke as a true Muslim. He appealed for calm and an end to the unjustifiable violence. Here was a man who like many other parents across the country had taught his children the value of family life, hard work and commitment to neighbours and community. His son died defending his community. Tariq Jahan was aware during this holy month that his reaction to the heartbreaking events of that evening would shape not only his character for the rest of his life but also the response of an angry community around him. He spoke with dignity and strength, calling upon his strong trust and hope in God’s love to give him the strength he needed. His response became a beacon in these dark days for all.
Tariq Jahan has hope but what hope is there for the young people that set out to destroy their communities? It would seem to me that they have actually lost all hope, for themselves and of those around them that have been empowered to make decisions on their behalf-the leaders of our country. What is required is a change of culture across the board with positive role models for young people and communities, where people take individual and moral responsibility for their actions and where a shared vision of equality, fairness, duty and justice is experienced by all in our country, rather than just by some. Cameron has promised a fight-back but I wonder if the sticking plaster he promises is going to heal the festering wound that years of neglect and government policies have encouraged to grow. I hope so, for the sake of our generation and the future generations to come.