Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Tea, Biscuits & Conversation to Combat Extremism

The tragic death of Lee Rigby in Woolwich on 23rd May 2013 resulted in a state of disbelief for many in the UK. In broad day light, a loyal soldier was murdered by two men claiming to be acting in the name of Islam.

While thoughts and prayers were directed to the Lee Rigby's young family, there was also worry about the results of such a murder. Revenge and retribution were on the minds of some, the association of all Muslims with the attack was on the minds of others.

The EDL and the BNP are two organisations that looked to capitalise on these events to drive forward their agenda. They saw this an opportunity to divide communities further, something which was condemned by Rigby's family.

Russell Brand said on his blog:

"What the English Defence League and other angry, confused people are doing and advocating now, violence against mosques, Muslims, proliferation of hateful rhetoric is exactly what that poor, sick, murderous man, blood soaked on a peaceful street, was hoping for in his desperate, muddled mind.

The extremists on both sides have a shared agenda; cause division, distrust, anger and violence. Both sides have the same intention. We cannot allow them to distort our perception."

Indeed many argue the best way to react to such an event is to increase understanding of the people living in our communities, learn more about what it is that motivates one another, listen to each others concerns and worries.

One story which demonstrated this so well was that of the York mosque (pictured above). They were told that an EDL protest was going to take place outside their place of worship.

Imam Abid Salik said: "We did have a few people who did come to protest but when they came some of the members of the mosque went over and they engaged in a conversation.

"Some people went over with cups of tea and biscuits, they were talking for about 30 or 40 minutes and then they came inside, which was a really, really beautiful thing."

Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu said the mosque's response was "fantastic" and that "Tea, biscuits, and football are a great and typically Yorkshire combination when it comes to disarming hostile and extremist views."

Read more here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-22689552

Do you agree that this is the way forward? How can people be encouraged to do this? How can organisations like the EDL be challenged on their views? What can organisations like Hope Not Hate do to help communities?