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I Mourn Ken Bigley, Too
Last uploaded : Sunday 10th Oct 2004 at 11:30
Contributed by : Zeinab al Shaikh


An Awards for All 'Voices' Essay
During the past week my neighbours have been exceptionally upset by news from the Middle East and from Iraq. In the space of a few days three bombs exploded in the Sinai resort of Taba and the British hostage Ken Bigley was beheaded in Iraq.

My neighbours are Jewish and British. My parents came here from Pakistan in the 1960s and I was born in the UK. They are not political, but what drew me to the idea of writing this article for the ?Awards for All? project was the trend amongst young British Muslims to be deeply political.

My parents are good people who have worked hard to make a small business successful enough to be able to finance my education, along with that of my brothers. I feel remorseful when they are embarrassed and even angered by the political chatter that seems to dominate everyday life amongst the young men -- and even women -- who congregate in our road.

Without doubt the hardest thing for me is coping with the anger of my white British friends and neighbours when Muslims kidnap, hijack and murder. I read that Esther Rantzen is hosting an evening with Palestinian women and this pleases me because my Jewish neighbours have become less than friendly in recent years . All of my neighbours -- Christian and Jewish -- seem to blame every Muslim for the acts of terror, just as some of the young guys who hang out in my street blame all Jews for the acts of Sharon.

It is appalling to me that the world has begun to believe that Islam means beheading people. The religion I inherited from my parents is a peaceful and gentle one that encourages family life and good deeds. In fact, my Jewish friends have similar traditions: they circumcise their boys and are not allowed to eat anything from the pig. I venture to believe that Judaism is a gentle and peaceful faith and that the violence in the Middle East is a bizarre departure from the history of an otherwise downtrodden people.

When my class had a special trip to Amsterdam to see Anne Frank?s house I cried when I heard about her betrayal and death from typhus in a concentration camp. Something has gone horribly wrong when people can victimise others, and I blame Sharon, not the people of Israel, for the continued acts of violence in Palestine.

Getting back to the subject of the political nature of local ?boy talk:? I do worry that our kids do not have enough of an outlet -- for example, sports or field trips -- and they become fixated on political causes that they are frankly too young to fully understand. I hope the leaders of our young men are encouraging, rather than discouraging them in the pursuit of enterprise and creativity.

In the wake of the execution of Ken Bigley I beseech non-Muslims not to condemn the religion of Islam and to believe that a huge majority of British and world followers of the great faith follow the teachings of Mohammed and would never condone the acts of the kidnappers.


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