Tariq Jahan is still grieving the loss of his son killed in the Birmingham riots, but is begging his community to unite. His son, Harron, died alongside two others who were mowed down by a car while trying to protect shops from destructive looters on Wednesday.
Jahan’s focus on restoring peace in the city of more than 1 million people has been praised as “powerful, generous, and decisive intervention,” said West Midlands Chief Constable Chris Sims.
The city has endured repeated clashes between South Asians, Caribbean blacks, and the largely white police force, according to the Associated Press.
In a decorous speech to members of the community, Jahan promoted ending the vicious cycle of violence in Birmingham.
“I lost my son,” he said. “Blacks, Asians, whites – we all live in the same community. Why do we have to kill one another. Why are we doing this?”
Jahan appealed to the audience just hours after his son’s death, “Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home, please.”
Listeners of the speech included both international television cameras and crowds of angry Muslim men contemplating revenge for Wednesday’s hit-and-run accident.
“Those words were so powerful, so heart-felt and so spontaneous and generous that I think anyone that hears them must have been moved,” said Constable Sims.
The day after the speech, Jahan’s image and message covered British newspapers, and reactions of amazement and pride flooded Twitter as users hailed him a hero.
Among hundreds of tweets gratitude, one Twitter user said, “We would like to extend sincere thanks to Tariq Jahan and his family for reinforcing the message of calm across our communities.”
“Tariq Jahan your dignity and grace are an inspiration. You have my greatest admiration and heartfelt sympathy,” wrote Rory.
“What an amazing man Tariq Jahan is. Despite his son being killed in awful circumstances his response is incredibly dignified,” said Boro.