Finding themselves in the same trench, Muslims and Sikhs in the British city of Birmingham joined forces to defend the city’s places of worship against possible attacks by rioters and looters.
We’ve been protecting each other and it feels good to have put differences behind us and establish common ground because we both love our communities and want the streets to feel safe,” Mohammed Shakiel, an Astron resident, told The Birmingham Mail on Saturday, August 13.
Under the joint plan, Muslims attend Tarawih (nightly Ramadan prayers) at mosques in the city while Sikhs stand guard outside to watch their Muslim neighbors’ backs.
Muslims in turn go to protect the city’s Sikh temples during the night-time Kirtan Sohila prayer.
Even Birmingham churches benefited from the Muslim-Sikh cooperation as the two communities watched out for other places of worship in the city.
Riots have engulfed British cities since Saturday. Ever since, gangs of looters have terrorized residents and shop owners.
The people who have been robbing and looting are just scum and it’s not what the people of Birmingham want, said Shakiel.
We’ve stood together as deterrents – we never wanted there to be any trouble and I hope we’ve seen the end of the robbing and looting.
But acting as deterrents to thugs also has its dangers.
On Wednesday, three British Muslims lost their lives while guarding homes and property in the riots-hit city.
The trio was guarding a gas station when they were hit by a speeding car. They were taken to hospital but died from their injuries.
The solidarity shown by the city’s Muslim and Sikh communities offered many hope of a peaceful future despite the current turmoil.
It goes beyond just two communities – it’s for the whole of Birmingham and we’re all united, Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, chairman of Handsworth’s Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Temple, said.
“Each place of worship is important.”
But while Bhai Sahib does not seem surprised about the unity shown by both communities in the times of distress, he said he still wants to see this solidarity in the times of relief.
“We should be together in peaceful times too, he said.
The rioting has reflected very badly on Birmingham, but the way communities have united is a source of hope for the city.
There’s always hope.
Clerics of both communities also joined the city’s faith leader in issuing a joint appeal for calm in Birmingham.
The city’s Faith Leaders’ group, which represents Birmingham’s Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists and Jews, urged people to work together to maintain order.
We pray for those affected by destruction and greed and pray for those working round the clock to maintain the rule of law, care for the distressed and rebuild damaged businesses,” said a statement from the group, cited by The Birmingham Mail.
“We will continue to work for communities that live together, connected by trusting relationships, mutual respect and joint enterprise.