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Home Security And Safety Modifications For Domestic Violence Survivors

Very important guest post by Nora Hood at Three Daily.

For many domestic violence survivors, finding a way to feel safe and move forward is especially difficult. It takes a lot of courage to leave an abusive situation, and even more to strike out on one’s own into a new living situation where they can feel safe and comfortable. In some cities, there are support groups and shelters that will help a victim of abuse during that transition period, but they can be overcrowded or extremely short-term.

Untitled         Photo via Pixabay by Stux

If you or a loved one have recently left a violent situation and will be living alone (or are the sole caregiver for children), it’s important to take steps that will facilitate safety and a feeling of security. Whether the residence is a home or an apartment, there are several things you can do to make sure the new place is as safe as possible.

Here are a few tips on how to get started.

Let technology work for you

Technology has come a long way in the past decade, enabling the use of advanced features such as surveillance in a private home. Where home security in the past might only have consisted of a motion sensor, according to Angie’s List, “Today’s home security systems are far more advanced, and homeowners can now choose from a wide range of security options such as around-the-clock monitoring and video surveillance.” Taking into consideration your budget, do some research to find the best security option for your needs.

Pile on the locks

If you live in an apartment building, there may only be so much you can do to deter an intruder. One of the most important steps is making sure the locks on your door are secure; if it makes you feel safer, add a couple more, or reinforce the door with a steel chain. Remember to show sliding patio doors some attention; a sturdy broomhandle or steel pipe laid in the track will prevent the door from opening on the outside. If you live on the ground floor, ask the landlord if you can plant thorny bushes beneath your windows to prevent someone from getting too close.

Location is everything

If possible, do some research before you move. You want a home or apartment that is not isolated and has at least one neighbor. Moving too far away from town could be a mistake, especially if the area isn’t well populated. When moving into an apartment complex, talk to the landlords about not having your name on the mailbox, and let them know that you don’t want any strangers to have information about you.

Have an escape route planned

No domestic violence survivor wants to think about the worst possible scenario, but it’s important to be prepared in case an abuser does find out where you live. Have an escape route planned; keep your cell phone charged at all times and in a place where you can easily reach it, along with your car keys. Talk to your children about what you’ll do in the event of an emergency so they’ll know exactly how to react.

It’s always difficult to think about taking safety precautions, because it brings up unpleasant memories. It’s imperative to make sure you feel safe and secure, however, and the best way to feel in control is to make sure your home is a place where you can relax. Garner support from friends and family, if possible, or consider joining a support group where you can get help should you need it. Remember that you are not alone, even if it feels that way sometimes.

When You’ve Had Enough

When You’ve Had Enough: How to Leave a Violent Home Behind
Excellent and vital guest post by Nora Hood.

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One in four women and one in seven men will be a victim of domestic violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to HuffPost. Many others will be sexually or physically abused by a family member, such as a parent, sibling, or aunt or uncle. Regardless of the abuser, everyone has the right to leave and go somewhere they feel safe. However, fear and the very real possibility of being “punished” by the abuser for trying to escape leaves far too many people in dangerous situations. If you or someone you love is ready to break the cycle of abuse, keep reading for tips on how to do so safely.

Acknowledge That the Abuse Exists

It’s not uncommon for abuse victims to downplay the situation. Psych Central explains that there are many forms of abuse, including emotional and psychological. Just because you haven’t landed in the hospital doesn’t mean you aren’t being abused.

Ask for Help

As the victim of domestic violence, physical abuse, or sexual assault, you have rights, and even if you’ve been forced to ostracize your friends and family, there is a network of people who are willing, ready, and able to help you make your exit. Pewitt Law, a Washington-based legal firm that specializes in domestic violence, notes that most law enforcement agencies provide civil standby. This is a process by which one or more officers arrive to deter violence and keep the peace. These officers can be there to protect you as you leave the home.

Other forms of assistance include crime victim compensation. Some states provide financial advisory services as well as benefits to help pay for medical expenses, food and shelter, and counseling for domestic abuse survivors.

Don’t Instigate

While you are not to blame for your situation, there are certain actions you should avoid when you’re planning to leave, as they could trigger a violent reaction from your abuser. Try to act as normal as possible while you make your exit strategy. Do not tell your abuser that you plan to leave. When researching your assistance options, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline, take steps to ensure your internet history remains private. You can do this by opening up an “incognito” or “private” tab through your browser. Popular Science cautions, however, that even in private browsing mode, you may leave digital clues behind, which a tech-savvy (and paranoid) abuser may be able to trace. A better option is to use a prepaid smart device, paid with cash, which can be turned off and hidden. These “burner phones” can be picked up anywhere, from Walmart to your local gas station.

Safety at Your New Home

When you finally have plans and make preparations to leave, keep yourself safe by maintaining a comfortable distance from your abuser. You should be able to utilize a civil standby when you collect your personal belongings. Other ways to keep yourself safe during and after your relocation include:

  • Hire a moving company to enter and exit your abuser’s home with you; request a rental truck, if possible, and that your movers do not wear clothing that would identify the service you are using.
  • Do not list your new address or telephone number on social media.
  • Outfit your new home with an alarm system, deadbolts on the front and back doors, and peepholes where you can see who is knocking before you unlock the door (HomeAdvisor offers more home security tips).
  • Change your work hours.

Don’t leave your safety to chance. Get help, get out, and get your life back on track. You are better than your abuse and don’t deserve to suffer.

She Changed American Culture

An excerpt from Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

On May 3rd, 1980, Candace Lightner’s thirteen-year-old daughter Cari was hit and killed by a drunk driver as she walked to a school carnival. The man who committed the crime had two previous arrests for driving under the influence. When Ms. Lightner was told about her daughter’s death she remembers collapsing, being carried into the house and “screaming all the way”. Her screams were soon to be heard across the nation.

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After Cari’s death Ms. Lightner’s reactions where not that of passive suffering or resignation, she was outraged! Her anger became the spark that ignited Mothers’ Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and literally changed the climate of American culture by making driving under the influence intolerable. Since leaving MADD Candace has worked with victims of violent crime and, as a woman of Lebanese heritage, with organizations that are trying to stop stereotyping of Arab-Americans.

“It’s funny, because people will say to me in chatting about death, “Oh you are so lucky because your daughter went instantly.” I don’t think there is any lucky or unlucky situation. I mean, you are sort of dealt the hand you’re dealt and do whatever you do with it. I wish I had had the opportunity to have seen her, been with her and had some time together before she died, but that is not what happened. I can’t tell you that one loss is less painful than another. I haven’t had two children die, one slowly and the other suddenly. So, I am always amazed at how people can make judgments, you know, about how fortunate you are.

I remember being on TV once doing a call-in show. Of course you could see my face and expressions. I’m used to doing a lot on radio but not on TV. Someone called in and said, “I just know that God meant for your child to die so you could do this.” I was floored. I didn’t cuss, which I normally did, because I was on TV, but I think I was so stunned that in looking at the tape you can see my eyes get real big. I said, “I don’t think anyone planned for my child to die.” I used to get letters like that too. Like God chose you. Well, why didn’t he choose somebody else? I wouldn’t mind.

If I wouldn’t have gotten mad after Cari’s death I don’t know if I would have made sense of it or not. I think it was the fact that it didn’t make sense, there was no rhyme or reason, no excuse; there was no illness. In this particular case it was a crime that was the most often committed crime in the country and it had been completely and totally ignored. So it kind of doubled my anger, because it was treated so lightly. It wasn’t as if she were murdered, where everyone would have gone, “That’s horrible!” I even had friends of mine who said that. I wasn’t angry with them because I knew that was true. It makes me realize that it was so acceptable that people weren’t shocked and horrified by the fact that she was killed by a drunk driver.

It was like, “How dare they feel that way about my child!” She was very, very special. Everybody should be horrified by it and they weren’t. So I think part of what I did was to make everybody horrified by it. I also think I had far more anger then most people I know. I am a very passionate person and I was literally enraged. I had never been so angry in my life and I hope never to be that angry again.

I don’t know what I would have been like if I hadn’t started MADD. It’s so hard to say because I don’t have anything to compare it too. This is not something I had a choice about, I had to do it. I didn’t think about it, I just did it.

Anger is very focusing, very directing and progressive. It is much easier to focus on anger then it is on grief. That is probably one of the reasons I did it. I was in such horrible pain. I tend to do whatever I can to avoid pain, avoid feeling things. Getting angry was a good way to avoid dealing with the pain and the hurt and it was much easier to focus on the cause or blame. In some ways I was fortunate because I did have someone to blame. I had an individual to blame and I could do something about it. I could hope to have him incarcerated, which wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t started MADD. I have always tried to get something positive out of anything negative, either through humor, life lessons or whatever.

The full impact of Cari’s loss finally hit me after I left MADD. There were several things I began to notice. The last year I was at MADD I found myself getting very weepy. I was very burned out and wanted to leave. I no longer had the anger, the passion; the things I thought someone needed to do a good job. It just wasn’t there. Then Clarence Busch (the man who killed her daughter) was re-arrested. The similarities were so numerous. He hit a girl the same age my daughter would have been if she had lived. The girl had the same name. Luckily, she didn’t die. When the press showed up in mass I did not want to deal with it. I found myself crying and going through the turmoil again. It forced me to make a decision.

After I left MADD I really started grieving, for leaving MADD and for Cari. Some said, “Five and a half years after she died? You should be over your grief by now. There is something wrong.” So I went to see a psychologist. told her I needed to grieve for my daughter. I said, “I want you to know I tend to postpone and hide from pain and I need you to help me face this.” I spent six months grieving and crying and grieving and crying and couldn’t stop. I felt like I was going to grieve for the rest of my life.

I don’t deal with the fact that Cari was killed by a drunk driver anymore. When I grieve I grieve for who she was, the loss and love I still feel for her, the missing her, wondering what her life would be like. I look at Serena (Cari’s identical twin) a lot. On Serena’s birthday I always get a little weepy thinking it should be Cari’s too. Serena and I talk every once in a while about what we think Cari would be doing if she was still alive, what our lives would be like. I don’t think, “Oh, she was killed by a drunk driver.”

I was fortunate to be able to see her after she died. I think that the biggest thing the parent goes through with a child is wanting to know that they’re OK. I know that she is. In the first week there were a lot of occurrences that happened, we all sort of felt her. I know she’s fine . . . probably better then the rest of us.

My pain or grieving is more about missing her presence. There is an inside ache. It’s hard to explain . . . just the loving and holding, the touching, the physical. I’ll dream about her. I’ll dream I’m holding her, loving her or something physical, even sleeping in bed with her and holding her. I don’t dream about her often but when I do that is the kind of dreams I’ll have. I will wake up momentarily thinking or feeling that she is alive. That comes from the joy. It’s a good experience. If there is a need in me to hold her and hug her and love her again, I’m assuming that there is, the dream will satisfy that for a period of time.

I didn’t look at it as a life lesson when I started MADD; it was just how I was feeling. People think I’m very altruistic, I’m not. Starting MADD helped assuage my anger and deal with my pain by avoiding it. There was also a fear that it would happen again to my other children, because it had happened once before. It wasn’t because I wanted to save the world. When they interviewed me for the movie about Cari and MADD, the producer said, “Why do you do this?” I said, “You don’t understand. I don’t have a choice.” It was my nature. I never believed you had to accept things as they were.”

Candace Lightner is now the president of We Save Lives.

More profiles and interviews at Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

A Glass of Water

Dear Gabriel,

I’m not afraid to drink a glass of water from the faucet of my home. Fact is, most of us are confident that the water we drink, bathe, and clean with is safe.

But in places like Haiti, that’s not always the case. The need for sanitation and clean water is overwhelming. In Port-au-Prince, hundreds of thousands of people have no access to clean water. Imagine being a woman in a rural place like Grand Anse, where finding a private place to use the bathroom can be life threatening because you don’t know who or what might be watching.

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It’s with the monthly support of people like you that we can build wells, sanitary latrines, and safe spaces for women – helping provide some of the basic, essential tools a woman needs to pull herself out of poverty. You can change a life right now just by making your monthly gift today.

Help us bring clean water, safety, and support to women all over the world. Make a monthly gift to CARE by January 31. You can enter to win a trip to see our work in action!

The support of donors changes lives. We’ve seen it again and again, but it never feels less miraculous.

This is why we’re giving you a chance to visit a CARE project and meet the men, women, and children whose lives you’ve touched.

See the official rules for details, but I can tell you it’s a truly inspiring experience. I’ve never once returned home without feeling inspired by the strength of the people I’ve met.

As a CARE supporter, I know that you’re committed to building a better world, where girls can go to school, women can start a small business, and families have enough food. In Haiti alone, the generosity of CARE’s donors has done incredible work. With a Food Voucher program, vulnerable families get nutritionally balanced food that helps support the local economy by relying on food produced in the area. Last June, we launched a 5-year program to protect vulnerable girls and women, prevent abuse, and help survivors of violence. We work in communities to help identify infrastructure needs, move public works projects forward, build family latrines and showers, and prevent cholera.

Our work in Haiti isn’t finished – our work all over the world isn’t complete – but we rely on your support to keep moving forward.

I can think of no more meaningful way to help build a better world than becoming a Partner for Change. Our monthly donors are truly at the forefront of our work in over 70 countries around the world, fighting poverty and empowering people to change their own lives.

If you want to see the world change, let’s start now: together. Become a Partner for Change by Thursday and you can enter to win a trip to a CARE project!

Sincerely,

Helene D. Gayle, MD, MPH
President and CEO, CARE

Rape In Delhi India

Concerning a petition about the gang-rape of a 23-year-old student in Delhi.

Dear Gabriel,

This message is from Namita Bhandare who started the petition “President, CJI: Stop Rape Now!,” which you signed on Change.org.

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On Monday morning a small group of us took our petition with 109,000+ signatures to the Justice J.S. Verma Commission at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi. We presented the three-volume petition, along with your signatures and suggestions. In case you’d like to write directly to Justice Verma directly his email is: justice.verma@nic.in. The commission will be receiving suggestions and recommendations until January 5.

Meanwhile, we will continue with this campaign and keep it updated. As next steps we are writing to various MPs asking them to put pressure on the Government to give priority to the pending bills relating to women safety.

I wish you all a very happy and safe new year.
Thank you for your support.

Namita Bhandare

View the petition

Making Cities Bike Friendly

From Nation of Change and Yes! Magazine
28 July 2012
by Jay Walljasper

How Cities Can Get Drivers Biking

You can glimpse the future right now in forward-looking American cities—a few blocks here, a mile there, where people riding bicycles are protected from rushing cars and trucks.

Chicago’s Kinzie Street, just north of downtown, offers a good picture of this transportation transformation. New bike lanes are marked with bright green paint and separated from motor traffic by a series of plastic posts. This means bicyclists glide through the busy area in the safety of their own space on the road. Pedestrians are thankful that bikes no longer seek refuge on the sidewalks, and many drivers appreciate the clear, orderly delineation about where bikes and cars belong.

“Most of all this is a safety project,” notes Chicago’s Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein. “We saw bikes go up from a 22 percent share of traffic to 52 percent of traffic on the street with only a negligible change in motorists’ time, but a drop in their speeds. That makes everyone safer.”

Klein heralds this new style of bike lane as one way to improve urban mobility in an era of budget shortfalls. “They’re dirt cheap to build compared to road projects.”

“The Kinzie project was discombobulating to the public when it first went in,” notes Alderman Margaret Laurino, chair of the city council’s Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Committee. “Business owners had questions. But now people understand it and we’re ready to do more.”

“Protected bike lanes are not just for diehard bicyclists—they offer a level of safety and confidence for less experienced riders,” adds Rey Colón, a Chicago alderman who first saw how well these innovations work on a trip to Seville, Spain.

Mayor Rahm Emmanuel campaigned on the promise of building 100 miles of these “green lanes” over the next four years to heighten the city’s appeal to new businesses. After the protected bike lane opened on Kinzie Street last year, more were installed on Jackson Boulevard and 18th Street on the city’s Near West Side. Thirteen more miles are planned this summer throughout the city. (The Chicago suburb of Evanston just announced plans to install protected bike lanes on one of its busy streets.)

Green Lanes Mean Go

People on bikes everywhere feel more safe and comfortable on busy streets with a physical barrier between them and motor vehicles. In some places it’s a plastic post or line of parked cars. In others it’s a curb, planter or slightly elevated bike lanes. But no matter what separates people on bikes from people in cars, the results are hefty increases in the number and variety of people bicycling.

“We’ve seen biking almost triple on parts of 15th Street NW since installing a protected bike lane last year,” reports Jim Sebastian, Active Transportation Project Manager for the District of Columbia. “And we’re seeing different kinds of cyclists beyond the Lycra crowd. People in business suits, high heels, families out for a ride, more younger and older people.”

This particular bike lane—one of more than 50 protected bikeways built recently in at least 20 cities from New York to Minneapolis to Long Beach, Calif.—is richly symbolic for Americans. It follows 15th Sreet NW to the White House.

“This is what cities of the future are doing to attract businesses and young people,” notes Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists. “People don’t want to drive all the time; they want a choice.”

The Greening of America’s Streets

The Green Lane Project, an initiative to showcase these next-generation transportation improvements, was launched on May 31 in six U.S. cities: Chicago, Washington, D.C., Memphis, Austin, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. The effort is coordinated by the Bikes Belong Foundation. Advisors to the project include New York City Department of Transportation (which has already pioneered 5 miles of protected lanes on six streets), the National Association of City Transportation Officials and the League of American Bicyclists. Major funders include Volkswagen of America, SRAM, Interbike, the Taiwan Bicycle Exporters Association and the Bikes Belong Coalition.

The name “green lane” was chosen not only to draw attention to the typical color of protected bike lanes but also to highlight their potential in improving the urban environment and saving on transportation costs. “Green lanes are not just a color on the street. They are paths to better cities,” the project’s website explains, adding that more people on bikes eases congestion and boosts residents’ health, sense of community, and economic opportunities.

The project will connect elected officials, city planners, traffic engineers, bike advocates and citizens in these six cities to share experiences, trade data, and swap ideas, says Project Director Martha Roskowski. Until this year she ran GO Boulder, the alternative transportation effort at the city of Boulder, Colorado, which built its first protected bike lane in the early 1990s.

“For cities, green lanes are like finding a whole new drawer of tools in your toolbox,” Roskowski notes. “Our mission is to expand the knowledge on how to use these tools. How to get them on the ground. How to fine tune them. How to make them work best.”

Five years ago, these designs were barely on the horizon in the U.S. although they’ve been standard in Europe for decades. “Today, cities across the country are looking to green lanes to tame busy streets and connect missing links in the bicycling network,” she says. She points to the 2011 publication of a design guide by the National Association of City Transportation Officials as a key factor creating momentum for green lanes. “The guide shows cities how to combine existing, approved design elements in new ways to create these spaces,” says Roskowski

“The idea is to create the kind of bike networks that will attract the 60 percent of all Americans who say they would bike more if they felt safer,” says Randy Neufeld, a longtime bike advocate in Chicago who as Director of the SRAM Cycling Fund helped start the Green Lane Project. “It’s about helping people from 8 to 80 to feel safe biking on city streets.”

The six Green Lane Project cities will receive technical assistance and support, backed by targeted grants to help carry out their plans. Other cities around the country will soon be able to tap into a comprehensive resource center of data, documentation and best practices compiled by the project.

Protected bike lanes are often accompanied by other safety improvements—paint that marks bicyclists’ path through intersections; designated spaces at stoplights that give two-wheel traffic a slight head start; and traffic signals dedicated to people on bikes. All these measures reduce car/bike collisions by making people on bikes more visible and clearly assigning priority at intersections. In addition, many cities around the country are also building buffered bike lanes, where wide patches of paint rather than physical barriers separate bicyclists from cars and trucks.

The proliferation of new bike sharing systems—where people can conveniently rent bikes at on-street stations with a credit card and return them to another station near their destination—creates new demand for green lanes by getting more riders on the streets. Bike share is now running full board in Washington, Denver, Boston, Minneapolis, Chattanooga, and Miami Beach—and coming soon to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other cities. Roskowski notes that the recent rise of bike sharing and protected bike lanes are linked. “Bike share puts new people on bikes who want safer, more comfortable place to ride.”

Bikes—Not Just for Ultra Fit Athletes

The United States has witnessed a boom in bicycling over the past 15 years, proving that bikes aren’t just for kids and recreational riders anymore. They are an essential component of 21st-century transportation systems that can cut congestion on crowded streets, save money in transportation budgets, improve traffic safety, and reduce pollution.

The number of Americans commuting to work by bike has climbed 43 percent since 2000, according to census figures. And numbers are even higher in places making their streets more accommodating for bicyclists. New York City, Boston, Seattle, and Minneapolis-St. Paul have all doubled the number of people on bikes over the past five years. In Portland, Oregon, 6 percent of all commuters travel to work by bike—an achievement matched by smaller cities such as Gainesville, Florida; Madison, Wisconsin; and Cambridge, Massachusetts—and surpassed in Boulder, Colorado (10 percent) and Davis, California (22 percent).

Yet overall, America still lags behind many Western nations in embracing bikes as a form of transportation. Only one percent of all trips nationally are made by people on bicycles today (up from 0.43 percent a few years ago). There are many explanations—some practical, some philosophical—for why most Americans bike infrequently.

The sprawling layout of many cities and suburbs is one obvious cause. The decline of physical activity among many Americans, even kids, is a likely contributing factor. Some observers point to automobiles’ long reign as a status symbol. Others suggest that many Americans view bicycling as a white, upper-middle class hobby, not as a form of transportation for average families. However, a recent study found that 21 percent of all bike trips in the U.S. are made by people of color.

Many cities are paying particular attention to make sure that low-income and minority communities—where many families don’t own cars and others are financially strapped by the rising costs of operating one—have access to state-of-the-art biking facilities. With a 63 percent African-American population, Memphis was selected as one of the six Green Lane cities in part because of Mayor AC Wharton Jr.’s strong support for biking as essential—not a frill—for a city with one of the highest diabetes rates in the country and where 15 percent of households have no access to a car.

Danny Solis—a Latino alderman representing a district on Chicago’s West Side with a high percentage of Mexican Americans, African Americans and Asian Americans—says good bike lanes are important to improving public safety and economic vitality in lower-income communities: “It increases interaction between neighbors, which is a boost for businesses and keeps the gang bangers away.”

Encouraging more people to ride bikes offers substantial rewards for all Americans, whether they ride a bike or not, by using streets more efficiently to move people and offering an economical choices in transportation as well as addressing looming problems such as the obesity epidemic and volatile fuel prices. And it gets even better from there—the more people ride, the more benefits we’ll all see.

Read entire article at Nation of Change or Yes! Magazine.

Muslims Help Stop Riots

Excerpt from story by Robert Lambert on 12 Aug 2011 in AlJazeera.

Muslims tackle looters and bigots

British Muslims’ reaction to the riots should dispel any continued demonisation in the media.

There is a lively debate taking place in the UK media between left and right wing commentators as to the causes of the English riots, in which hundreds of shops and businesses have been looted. However, both sides agree that the looting has been inexcusable. I hope both sides will also agree with me that Muslims have played an important role in helping to tackle the looting and preserve public safety. This would be an especially important acknowledgment if it came from those Islamophobic commentators who consistently denigrate Muslims.

“When accused of terrorism we are Muslims, when killed by looters, we become Asian”, a Muslim student explained to me. He was commenting on the media reportingof the death of three young Muslims in Birmingham on Tuesday night. Like many other Muslims, they were bravely defending shops and communities as rioters went on a violent rampage of looting.

In recent days Muslim Londoners, Muslims from Birmingham, and Muslims in towns and cities around England have been at the forefront of protecting small businesses and vulnerable communities from looting. Having worked closely with Muslim Londoners, first as a police officer and more recently as a researcher, for the last ten years this commendable bravery comes as no surprise to me. But their example of outstanding civic duty in support of neighbors is worth highlighting – especially when sections of the UK media are so quick to print negative headlines about Muslims on the flimsiest of pretexts.
Pro-active response

On Monday evening when London suffered its worst looting in living memory I watched as a well marshaled team of volunteers wearing green fluorescent security vests marked ‘East London Mosque’ took to the streets of Tower Hamlets to help protect shops and communities from gangs of looters. This was the most visible manifestation of their pro-active response to fast moving and well co-ordinated teams of looters. Less visible was the superb work of Muslim youth workers from Islamic Forum Europe who used the same communication tools as the looters to outwit and pre-empt them on the streets.

While senior Westminster politicians started to pack and rush back to London from foreign holidays I watched Lutfur Rahman, the Muslim mayor of Tower Hamlets, offering calm leadership and support in the street as gangs of looters were intercepted and prevented from stealing goods in his presence.

Most important to emphasize is the extent to which everyone in Tower Hamlets was a beneficiary of streetwise, smart Muslims acting swiftly to protect shops, businesses and communities against looters. It is often wrongly alleged that Muslims lack any sense of civic duty towards non-Muslims and especially towards the LGBT Community. I wish peddlers of that negative anti-Muslim message had been present to see how all citizens in Tower Hamlets were beneficiaries of Muslim civic spirit and bravery on Monday night.

I am not sure if the Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan was robbed of his bike by looters in Tower Hamlets or in another part of London as he cycled home from Hackney to Greenwich on Monday night, but even his incessant negative reporting of Muslims associated with the East London Mosque would not have excluded him from their neighbourly support had they been in the immediate vicinity to help him.

Gilligan reports that police were unable to offer him any advice other than to go home when he finally received an answer to his 999 call as a victim of a violent street robbery. London policing on Monday night was stretched as never before and Gilligan was one amongst hundreds of victims who had to fend for themselves as looters ran amok around the capital city. In these unique circumstances the street skills of Muslim youth workers, who are routinely helping police to tackle violent gang crime and anti-social behaviour in Tower Hamlets, Walthamstow, Brixton and in other deprived neighbourhoods, were a key ingredient in filling the vacuum created by insufficient police numbers.

I first saw East London Mosque and Islamic Forum Europe street skills in action in 2005 when they robustly dispatched extremists from Al Muhajiroun who were in Whitechapel attempting to recruit youngsters into their hate filled group. I saw the same skills in action in the same year when volunteers from the Muslim Association of Britain and Muslim Welfare House ousted violent supporters of Abu Hamza from the Finsbury Park Mosque. More recently, Muslim bravery has been seen in Brixton when extremists spouting the latest manifestation of Al Muhajroun hatred were sent packing out of town. In all these instances, and so many more, the brave Muslims involved have received no praise for their outstanding bravery and good citizenship, and instead faced a never ending barrage of denigration from journalists such as Gilligan, Melanie Phillips, Martin Bright…. sorry I won’t go on, it’s a long list!

Sadly, many of the brave Muslims helping to keep their cities safe have not only grown used to denigration from media pundits but also faced cuts in government funding for their youth outreach work with violent gangs. This is not as a result of widespread economic cuts caused by the recession, but because the government adopts the media view that they are ‘extremist’. Street in Brixton is a case in point. Yesterday Dr Abdul Haqq Baker director of Street was forced to close a Street youth centre in Brixton as his reduced team of youth of workers struggled to keep pace with the task of tackling gang violence and its role in rioting and looting.

READ ENTIRE ARTICLE AT: ALJAZEERA

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