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Thousands flock to funeral of Birmingham riot victims
LAKSHMAN MENON  London | 21st Aug 2011

n a day of sorrow yet also of solidarity and hope, tens of thousands of people, across the religious and colour spectrum, gathered for the funeral of the three young men who were killed in the riots in Birmingham died in the early hours of 10 August.

Haroon Jahan, 21, Shazad Ali, 30, and his brother Abdul Musavir, 31, died when they were mowed down by a car in the Winson Green area. The three were attempting to protect the property of their community.

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Around 25,000 people, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and atheists, gathered in respectful silence to participate in the largest attended funeral service in Birmingham in recent memory.

Within hours of a fourth man being charged with their murder on Thursday, an open air prayer service was held in their honour in Summerfield Park. At first, people arrived in a trickle. Then, as the sound of prayers from the Quran reverberated through the park, the trickle turned in to a flood. Soon, an estimated 25,000 people, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and atheists, gathered in respectful silence to participate in the largest attended funeral service in Birmingham in recent memory.

Addressing the gathering, the imam, Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi, said: "They made an example of how a Muslim should be and what Islam is... The best we can do for them is to pray for them and for ourselves and to pray for our community." He said that children would remember this day as one where "Muslims were victims no longer". A new history was being written, the imam added, one where Muslims defended everybody's communities. Emphasising that retribution was un-Islamic, he asked for 18 August to be made a "day not of mourning and sadness but a day of bravery".

Zubeda Limbada, a young local government worker, told The Times that there was an "extra special" dimension because it was the holy month of Ramadan. "There is a spiritual nourishment from this as well as great empathy," he said. Referring to the father of Haroon, Tariq Khan's, powerful plea for peace last week, Ms Limbada added: "Whether you are Muslim or not, his words embody what we should all have as values: this is the best our community has to offer, this is our response to violence."

After the prayers, a private burial service was held for the young men. As they stood in life, protecting their community, so in death, they were buried, side by side, deep within the English earth they cherished.

 
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