The recent riots in London (and other English cities, which also included my 'kampung' Leicester) only reminded me of my experience of being caught up in racial riots in Singapore. I especially remembered the September riots of 1964. It was my first year at university.
I was on my way to the Union House for lunch and was surprised to see the place emptied of the usual hungry denizens. Then I saw someone in a hurry to get somewhere and he advised me, "Get home quick. Riot, riot!"
I recalled the earlier riot in July and knew what it was like. I ran across the field between theUnion House and Bukit Timah Road to get to the Tay Koh Yat bus stop at Farrer Road. "What if the buses have stopped running?" That was my main fear. This was not the era of mobile phones and our kampung house had no telephone connection at all. Shortly after, the bus turned up. It was almost full - with tense and anxious faces. There were still two more buses to take.
As soon as I got to Alexandra Road, I crossed over to pick up the Hock Lee bus which would take me to the junction of Alexandra Road and Pasir Panjang Road. I was in a desperate hurry to get that bus. People around me, children, women and men were fleeing and panicking like frightened rabbits. One scene I wanted to forget. I saw a Chinese man brandishing a wooden bar in his hand and chasing a Malay woman who was trying to escape into an alley between the shops. I do not know and neither do I want to know what ensued. I describe the man as Chinese and his victim as Malay not because I want to pass judgement on any particular race. That was what they were.
The Hock Lee bus came and I pushed my way into the bus which was already packed with frightened passengers. The bus started moving and some passengers just fell by the wayside. All the while I was saying to myself, "Don't be frightened, don't panic, don't cry."
The bus made no more stops. Some passengers rang the bell incessantly because they wanted to get down at their particular stops but it was to no avail because the bus kept on moving until it got to the Alexandra/Pasir Panjang terminal. I was lucky. It was where I wanted to get to.
After a mad scramble out of the bus, I made another frantic dash across Pasir Panjang Road to get to the Keppel Bus stop. The helpless faces I saw, about 20 to 30 of them, told me I'd run out of luck. This was the last lap and Keppel Bus was not coming to take me home. So I stood by the roadside pondering what to do next.
Then a car stopped right in front of me. The driver yelled, "Masuk, lekas masuk!!" In the rush, I dropped one or two of my files - I squeezed into the packed car, landing on I-don't-know-whose-lap. The little car sped down Pasir Panjang Road to Kampung Abu Kassim. My saviour was also living in the same kampung. We all thanked him most profusely. I ran like the hounds of hell were after me to get to 691 Pasir Panjang Road, my house, my sanctuary.
I saw my father waiting at the front door. I saw the pained anxiety turning to tears of relief and I grabbed both his hands,
I was the last one in the family to arrive home safely. My family and I were very, very lucky.
And now, after watching the riots in England, my heart goes out to the two families in Birmingham who lost their sons, wantonly murdered by the looters, who deliberately ran their car into three young men, who were only doing their civic duty of 'protecting' the community's property.
But my heart also burst with pride at the gracious and big hearted father of one of the victims. He advised the youth of his community to go home, to stop any further loss of lives.
He is Tariq Jahan, who had just lost his son Haroon Jahan.
Here is a Muslim, proclaiming and pleading for peace for all despite his traumatic loss. He asked only for justice, not vengeance.
Here is the ordinary, hard-working British Muslim, a man of peace, the sort of Muslim that Britain does not want to know. The British media, intellectuals and authorities much prefer to publicise the Muslims only as jihadists and terrorists.
In this holy month of Ramadan, Allah has shown them and the rest of the world what Muslims are made of. A simple, bereaved father who walked the Straight Path without need of preachings and posturings.
Al Fatiha to Haroon Jahan, Shahzad Ali Khan and Abdul Musavir Khan.
N.B. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister who condemned multiculturalism was in Birmingham that day when Tariq Jahan was appealing for peace. As far as I know, from my daily online readings of several British newspapers he made no effort to see this man who singlehandedly prevented a race riot in Winson Green, Birmingham. Even the Bishop of Aston, the Right Reverend Andrew Watson had warned of events "potentially having an ugly race dimension."
It takes a lot of strength and courage for Tariq Jahan to do what he did. David Cameron had none. He could only offer platitudes - of "a truly dreadful incident."
I wonder, would David Cameron bother to visit this man if he was not an Asian Muslim??????