An interview with Mohammed Shafiq, the chief executive of the Ramadan Foundation

Multiple problems fueling UK unrest

Over 1200 people have been arrested by police in Brittan with the government of Prime Minister David Cameron announcing it those involved in the unrest will be dealt with in the harshest manner.

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - We have conducted an interview with Mohammed Shafiq, the chief executive of the Ramadan Foundation from Manchester, to further talk over the issue.

Q: Have the government and the media failed to focus on the cause rather than the symptom?

Shafiq: I would like to say that I disagree. Let's be very clear the thugs and the criminals who damaged the communities in our country didn't do it for any political reason they didn't do it because there is a racism issue or any other issues, they did it because they got a kick out of looting their own communities, and that is absolutely sick. There are no justifications for it.

Yes there are serious questions that need to be asked, serious concerns on economic and deprivation, on the government agenda on cuts. That should be directed at the government. That should be done at Westminster, demonstrations outside Downey Street in Westminster not damaging your own community burning shops and homes.

Let me tell those people that say this is somehow a result of the anger that the young people have as a result of this government's economic agendas. What crimes did those three Muslim brothers in Birmingham Commit? Which millionaires where they siding with? All they did was protect their own community from tugs and criminals they didn't do anything else. They were not part of the government elite. They were only protecting their own livelihoods, their own community, and they were killed as a result of that.

Don't give me any lectures, don't give me any reasons to try and justify these actions. These are mindless thugs and criminals, and we want the law to come down very heavy on these people. There should be no justification for their behavior. They brought shame on themselves, they brought shame on our community, and they brought shame on our country. I hope that they pay a very heavy price.

Q: We heard the British Prime Minister earlier on speaking against multiculturalism in the UK. Do you not think that this kind of stands and the stand that has been taken on this issue is only creating more problems even for the Muslims or the black community in the UK?

Shafiq: I have been very clear, I have said this many times in the media. I have opposed David Cameron on multiculturalism; I have opposed him on immigration, I have opposed him on public sector cuts. I work in the public sector, my job is affected itself I am not going to take any lecture from anyone who will suggest I am somehow a stooge of the government. I have opposed the government every step of the way.

I have done that through the political process, I have done it in a non violent way, and I have done it head on, and yes the Prime Minister is wrong on multiculturalism, yes he is wrong on immigration, yes he is wrong on public sector. We need to invest in our economy, we need to create jobs.

I was on the streets of Manchester when these riots were happening. I stood there for five hrs in the streets of Manchester, what I saw was thugs white, black, Asian just ransacking shops. They were not ransacking banks and high class shops they were ransacking local convenient store.

Q: the earlier protests that were happening in the UK against the pension cuts, against the spending cuts, and the unemployment, and the students tuition fees, were met by a violent response from the police. Has the way that the police and officials have been acting rather angered the people and made them reach this stage?

Shafiq: I was not at the student tuition fee protests but I was at the protest of the Trade Union Council (TUC) march for a million. There were a million people, they were absolutely peaceful, and millions of people came out in the streets of London.

You can demonstrate you can question this government's agenda without resorting to violence. Sometimes when you try to justify the actions of these mindless thugs, criminals, and murderers I think it's a very sorry tale.

Damaging shops, burning people's shops, burning people's homes, killing people is not a legitimate tool. I think it is quit offensive for the people who died, people who lost their homes, who lost their businesses, and lost their livelihoods to suggest that people who oppose the thugs and the criminals are supporting the government, that is quit offensive.

Q: Lets disgusts how the government so far has been responding to this crisis. We are hearing David Cameron saying that he wants to deploy the army, that he wants to restrict immediate freedoms and that he wants to increase the police presence. Tell us is the government prepared to face this crisis or is this crisis getting out of control?

Shafiq: I think the conservatives seem to be enjoying this crisis. What we can't have, we can't have liberal values taken away from this country. The idea that you can ban people from social networking sites I am absolutely opposed to. You can ban or cut people's benefits or expel them, but I think they got to go through due process.

What this government has to do for example on policing, it has to stop these cuts. It is actually cutting the police numbers, cutting resources, and I think what this has demonstrated is that their cuts agenda is damaging the British economy, damaging confidence in Brittan and we got to oppose it.

That is what I have been doing for over twelve months since this government came to power. Yes, there are some elements of this government agenda that I support, there are issues that I am very supportive of, the discarding of section 44 in which people in my community were stopped and searched, 300,000 people were stopped and searched, predominantly black, Asian, Muslim people were stopped. This government got rid of that there are some good things this government is doing.

It is very clear, they have to reverse the cuts they have to invest in jobs, they have to invest in the country, what we can't have is a right-wing amongst the conservative party we must oppose that very strongly.

Q: I would like you to confirm for us if you can, if you want to, how the government is adopting this policies. The fact that the policing is what the people are not satisfied with, this is creating a problem and isn't it better for the government to address the root causes even for the prime minister in his initial comment, at least acknowledge that those problems are the underlying cause of what is happening though also condemning the riots.

Shafiq:Let's be clear, if you start an argument to try and justify the actions, or try and legitimatize the actions, I think that is very dangerous. If you want to come to Manchester, I will show you the shops that have been boarded up. They are not fancy shops or by multinationals they are local community shops. They are local women who have worked their lives to build their shops and their homes and livelihoods, and they have had their whole livelihoods destroyed.

You can be rebellious, I encourage people to be passionate and to stand up for their rights and to impose the government. The government actually encourages that but it has to be done in a peaceful way. Like we did at the TUC in London in March, I think that is the way forward. What you can't have, you can't have violence indiscriminate violence.

Those three young men in Birmingham, who died, were killed, brutally murdered, they took the initiative to protect their community and they paid a heavy price. To suggest that killing of innocent people is somehow justifies because you are taking on an oppressing government, I think that is very very dangerous. You cannot compare what is going on in the Middle East, what is happening in Egypt, in Tunisia, what's happening in Syria, and other countries, to what is happening in the UK.


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