Thank you for helping Malaysia’s riot victim, Britain
Images of a student being attacked shocked my country. But the public has made amends
Like countless other Muslims around the world, Ashraf Haziq set off on his bicycle one afternoon during the holy month of Ramadan to buy food with which to break his fast. He never got the chance to eat it. Instead, he unwittingly became the global face of the riots that rocked London and the British nation.
Across the globe, millions watched in disgust as a YouTube video revealed the horror of a young Malaysian student being robbed by thugs who initially pretended to help him. Only moments before, another group of criminals had left Ashraf bleeding by the roadside after breaking his jaw and then stealing his bike.
In Malaysia this incident — so senseless, so callous and so brutal — shocked us to the core. Many of us have spent time in your city and have a great affection for it. But this was a side to London that none of us had seen before, and we began to wonder if it had changed, if our memories had become tinted with nostalgia, or even if we were mistaken in the first place.
But in the days that followed Britain showed its true face to the world. First came the very public anger towards Ashraf’s attackers. Tens of thousands of you in Britain took to the internet to express your revulsion at what you had seen. This wave of anger was followed by a huge outpouring of concern, assistance and support.
In an age where some still try to drive wedges between races and religions, the ordinary people of Britain did not hesitate to open their hearts to a young Malaysian Muslim.
And Ashraf himself went on to make clear that the feeling was mutual, demonstrating an admirable refusal to judge as he told the world that he loved London, that nothing would persuade him to leave it early and that he even felt sorry for his attackers.
At the United Nations last year, I called on world leaders to fight extremism of all kinds by establishing a global “Movement of the Moderates” — ordinary people of all races, religions and political persuasions prepared to stand up to the extremists and to defend the values they believe in.
It is those values — an acceptance of others, a strong sense of right and wrong, and, above all, a rejection of extreme and violent behaviour — that have been defended so vigorously by the people of Britain in recent weeks. What we have seen has been a truly heartening example of the moderates finding their voice, and I want to say, quite simply — thank you.
Thank you for helping a young Malaysian in his hour of need. And thank you for proving once again that London is a city where outsiders are welcome but extremists are not.
Najib Razak is Prime Minister of Malaysia
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