The inquest continues; this is an important question we need to resolve

Now it looks as though the police are on top of the problem of public disorder, everyone is busily asking what were the lessons of the astonishing rioting that looked as though it was tearing the country apart. I have already given my opinion that the main cause is the undermining of the married family – and the resulting social disintegration – that has been going on (often as a direct result of government policies) for half a century at least. But there is more to be said, a lot more. It has already emerged that much of what needs to be understood can be learned from the spontaneous behaviour of so many people who have acted in a way which absolutely negates the destructiveness of the last few days, and which gives hope that we are not doomed to go down this road forever.

Sometimes, after a wake-up call people don’t go to sleep again until they have actually begun to put things right. And it has become clear that we need to draw the lessons, not only from the destructiveness of the looters (and its direct causes) but from the generous and decent behaviour that we have witnessed. And first of all, before we move on, let us get clearly into our minds so that we remember it always the literally iconic words of Tariq Jahan (one definition of an icon is that it is “a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol of something”. This remarkable man stands for something that we need to learn. This is what he said (you can see him saying it here) to a very angry crowd who were spoiling for vengeance (most of them were Asians; the killers were black):

My name is Tariq Jahan. I’ve come to speak for what happened to my son. His name was Haroon Jahan.

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I’m no professional TV man, but what I have to say I’ve written down, and if you can understand, we should be able to get along.

Last night, we lost three cherished members of our community. They were taken from us in a way that not father, mother, sister, brother should have to endure.

Today, we stand here, to plead with all the youth to remain calm, for our communities to stand united.

As we stand here today, this is not a race issue. The family has received messages of sympathy and support from all parts of the community – all faiths, all colours and backgrounds.

Please respect the memory of our sons, and the grief of our family and loved ones by staying away from trouble, and not going out tonight.

Basically, I lost my son. Blacks, Asians, whites, we all live in the same community. Why do we have to kill one another? What started these riots, and what’s escalated, why are we doing this? I lost my son. Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home – please.

And they did. A few days later, Mr Jahan gave an interview to the Times, in words which made me think about what he had said. He sounded to me like a Catholic, and certainly not like my idea of a Muslim.

“All I want,” he told the Times, “is for there to be peace and for my family to be able to pray for my son. I have no grievance against anyone, especially the guy who ran his car into my son. I don’t feel anger. What he did I leave in the hands of the Lord to punish him the way he wants.”

Hang on, I thought; don’t Muslims believe in the lex talionis, an eye for an eye? Is this man a convert or what? “Revenge not yourselves, my dearly beloved… for it is written: Revenge is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord (Romans 12:19).

I looked it up on the net; and there it was: “Murder requires retribution and vengeance. In Islam blood revenge is a law of Allah.” On closer inspection however, that turned out to be a probably evangelical site aimed at converting Muslims. I’m in deep water here, a non-specialist trying to do this sort of thing on the internet: you have to be careful. But without further comment from me (except to say that it looks as though I have always had this one wrong) and after looking at several Muslim sites, here is what one of them says:

Islam is often accused of having legislation that encourages retaliation rather than forgiveness. But the Qur’an itself refutes this…

And the retribution for an injury is one like it, but whoever pardons and makes reconciliation – his reward is [due] from Allah.

The least that can be said is that there are Islamic values which are recognisable by Christians and compatible with those of a Christian culture. This poses an interesting question, directly relevant to the lessons we need to learn from all this. Is Tariq Jahan’s noble behaviour a victory for multiculturalism? Or is it the direct opposite, a refutation of it, a demonstration that it is only by appealing to common values that we can forge a decent society? Melanie Phillips yesterday argued strongly and to me persuasively that multiculturalism has driven us all apart:

Despite the violent mayhem across Britain over the past few days, it is important to point out that there have also been heartening examples of cross-community co-operation and solidarity. Sikhs have been volunteering to stand guard over mosques;

Muslims have been guarding gurdwaras; ultra-orthodox Jewish men in Stamford Hill handed out challah loaves to people forced out of their homes in the conflagration; and people of all colours and creeds have been coming together to clean up their communities after the mayhem.

This is how a healthy society should behave: people from different communities and creeds co-operating in a neighbourly, helpful and respectful way. That is very different from multiculturalism, which is often wrongly assumed to mean precisely this. It does not…

Multiculturalism is a baleful creed which, far from bringing people together, drives them apart. That is because multiculturalism is not a synonym for people from different cultures all getting along together. If this were so, it would be no more than a re-statement of how all decent and civilised societies should behave… It is multiculturalism which has done so much to wreck Britain; it is multiculturalism which has resulted in police neglect of black-on-black murder and gang warfare; it is multiculturalism which has helped create the anomie, amorality and utter absence of attachment to any notion of the common good which manifested itself in the anarchy on the streets of British cities.

What do you think? Is she right? That’s not a rhetorical question: I would like to know.

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