R'11 Day Nine: What's Goin' On?

Ramadan is a time of heightened spirituality, and it is important that we reflect not only internally, but also externally with what is going on in the world. For example, heightened Middle Eastern violence and revolution; drought and famine in Eastern Africa; recent stock market plunges in the States, Asia, and Europe; etc. As Muslims, we are taught that essentially 'everything happens for a reason', and we should not question why Allah does not put an end to all of the violence, starvation, and injustice in this world. Yet on an intellectual level, it is extremely challenging to not feel disenchanted about the state of our world.

Let's take the London riots and unrest as the primary example, since with everything else going on in the Middle East and Africa, this story has taken a back seat. If you're following events as they unfold, you'll know that the violence has spread from London to across the rest of the country. It all started on Saturday after peaceful protests regarding a police officer shooting and killing a civilian on the spot. This sparked initial riots which led to increased youth gang violence targeted small businesses, police officers, larger department stores, etc. Fires are being set ablaze across London and now in cities such as Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham and Bristol. Regardless of the number of police officers on the street (i.e. the government is pleaing an additional 16,000 police officers to be on the streets tonight), the rioting activity is challenging to control. London Tube stations were shut down, a soccer/football match has been cancelled, and people genuinely are aghast at what's happening around them. The government is seriously considering imposing a curfew. Sound familiar?

Yet there is a double standard with how people perceive events in the UK, since many are calling it 'mindless violence'. But is it? This very same activity happening in the Middle East is called a revolution, and generally everyone is on board with supporting that. Yet as outsiders looking at the UK, perhaps because they exude an image of having a relatively stable economy and way of life there, we couldn't possibly think that a revolution would be needed. I mean really, after a fairytale royal wedding, how can things not be dandy over there? But the eruption and spread of youth gang violence says otherwise.

From a psychological perspective, there are always reasons behind people's actions and behaviour. The youth rioting and looting in the UK are not doing it for the heck of it. I believe they are truly disenchanted and frustrated by the standard of living. And when your voice is not heard and things seem to be declining, perhaps violence is the next step to show greater society how frustrated you are and that change needs to happen.

If we dissect the situation further and examine the issue of youth gang violence, you'll come to find that the reason youth get involved in such activities is mainly because they lack other healthy opportunities and outlets. Imagine not being able to afford tuition for higher education; unemployment rates being at an all time high; and the government cutting youth programs aimed at preventing the exact negative outcome that is currently spreading across the country. So in essence, the behaviours we're seeing from youth in the UK is a desperate plea for help.

Yet I don't think that the "people that be" in the UK are interpreting the situation in this way. And don't get me wrong, this does not at all justify what the gangs are doing to the livelihood of innocent people across the country. While their feelings of despair and frustration are valid, the means by which they are displaying these emotions is certainly not.

So what can we take away from this and why does it matter to us here in Canada? The London riots show that regardless of religion and culture, discontent with the state of life can and does erupt in violence when people feel like their voice is not being heard. Further, it shows how the media lacks consistency in labelling the same Middle Eastern violence as a revolution, yet in a more developed country such as the UK, these events are solely riots. And most importantly, it shows that while we superficially say that the 'youth are our future', there's very little evidence to show that nations are actually practicing what they preach.

A band-aid solution such as placing a bucket under a leak in the ceiling will not work in this case. It's time that governments realize that a full-out renovation is needed, there's too much structural damage and things need to be built from the ground-up again.

This seems logical, does it not? But I'm not holding my breath on this anytime soon...


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