Young people, knives and hope…

by Mujib Abdur Rahman

Recently we have seen many videos uploaded on social media of young people bullying and mugging in Tower Hamlets and various parts of UK. Many people are rightfully shocked and angry. A lot of comments have been made about how the parents are to be blamed, how the kids should be ‘beaten up’ and so on. We also have heard of an increase in stabbings and killing, as well as use of guns involving young people. Knife crime has become so common on our streets and our schools!

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Issues

Having been born and bred in Tower Hamlets (like many readers) I have developed a deep understanding of the various issues that are faced by young people in the borough, issues that I have seen as a child and issues that are still apparent as an adult.

Poverty, lack of services; cuts, overcrowded accommodation, has contributed to gang violence, the breakup of families and relationships, teenage pregnancy, abuse and bullying in the homes, schools and neighbourhood. Vandalism and substance misuse where Muslim youth are seen dealing drugs and openly drinking alcohol, are on the increase where years gone by this would not have been the case. And it isn’t just limited to the common problems we hear. Many Muslim youths are even questioning their Dheen and their sexuality.

Having seen many events unfold before me, before me, I am deeply concerned with the social and moral deprivation of the borough and have the passion to help see positive change in the wider community.

As a Youth Worker, I have worked directly with young people in which I was involved in providing them with various activities as well as working with them on one to one basis. This role has given me the opportunity to work with them and build good relationships, earn trust and respect. And from this the above issues had been apparent. When speaking to young people one hears of many issues they face. This is where young people need us most.

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Be the change

As much as we detest their actions and blame individuals and groups, we need to develop a concern for young people in our locality. We need to help rather than refute. There are many mothers and fathers out there who are crying on a daily basis due to the lifestyle of their children. We need to sympathise with them, rather than blaming their upbringing skills. Young people are… well young. They have a very adventurous mind, no doubt as some of us did when we were young! But they also need guidance.

We as individuals should build bridges and openly engage with young people in the different ways we can. Youth Clubs are not always the answer. Just playing a bit of pool and glued onto the PS4 won’t help them. As much as there is a lot of good work done by Youth Clubs in Tower Hamlets, we all need to play a part in their lives. That means local residents, teachers, Imams and businesses. We all want to live peacefully, and whilst our issues are not the same as of those from Syria, Kashmir and so on, every life is sacred and needs to be preserved.

We cannot say things like ‘these guys need to be beaten up’ to teach them a lesson. This mindset isn’t healthy, especially for the young people who look up to us. We cannot encourage a cycle of violence.

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Role models

By employing empathy and discretion when dealing positively with young people, we can ensure they are each seen as an individual and support provided to them in a therapeutic manner.

Not all people are the same and cannot be dealt with in the same way. Different young people require different support at different levels, and this can only be achieved through understanding them through their lenses and through active listening. Young people want to achieve good results, however sometime can’t find the courage to ask for help. Just the other day I heard how some young people I work with have taken it upon themselves to help elderly people in their area by carrying their shopping bags for them! These are boys who spend their time hanging around under buildings! When we hear of stories like this we need to proactively encourage young people.

Young people have ambitions and we need to ensure they are provided with the right tools, guidance and support which will lead them to fulfilling their career aspirations. Whilst workshops and presentations can be delivered to cohorts and groups, needs can be different for each individual, and a person-centred approach is needed to deal with those that require additional support. Alhamdulillah many people, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, young and old have been blessed with skills and intelligence. This is what we need for a better community, to see our own children, nieces and nephews and grandchildren grow in a healthy environment.

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Action

As Muslims we know that connecting young people to Allah is going to help them change their lives for the Dunya and Akhirah. Our Masajid should be further open, we need more circles and more ways to connect to young people.  Believe me there are many who will connect. Even a Salam when walking past them can make a difference to their lives.

Too often we hear ‘young people are the future’. We need to start saying ‘young people are the present’. It is because they have the skills, the passion the potential, we just need to open up and give them the opportunity.

Green Lane Mosque in Birmingham has a ‘Knife Bank’ to allow people to dispose of these potentially dangerous weapons with complete anonymity. This is a beautiful initiative and I am hopeful other Masajid in UK can do the same.

May Allah give us the Tawfiq, Aameen