Birmingham is the UK’s second biggest city with a population of just over a million people. Amazingly a quarter of that population is Muslim, so there were no surprises this weekend when over 100,000 people turned out for a fun-filled day to celebrate Eid.
Flocking to Small Heath Park in the south side of the city, the impressive crowd came together in prayer thanks to the efforts of Celebrate Eid – the country’s biggest festival for marking the end of Ramadan in the UK’s most Muslim city, and with the weather staying bright, it was a wonderful day enjoyed by everyone in attendance.
That’s not to say that organisers didn’t feel pangs of anxiety at being responsible for the welfare of such a big number of attendees though, as they were all too aware of the heavy armed-police presence, deemed necessary for the first time in the seven years the event has been running.
Over the past few weeks there has been a rise in Islamophobic crime all over the country. The despicable attacks in London and Manchester have meant that the far-right have been more vocal in their dissent, which culminated in the sickening attack on the Finsbury Park mosque last week.
Muslim women in particular have been vocal about their reluctance to use public transport on their own following the attack, while some schools have been forced to cancel trips out over safety concerns.
The tension over the past few weeks has been palpable, not just in the capital, but all over the country, meaning a visible police presence was a sad necessity.
But thankfully, the day couldn’t have gone better. The police stationed at the entrance of the park were untroubled and the additional security personnel inside weren’t needed for anything other than to reunite lost children with their parents after they’d become separated.
It was an important day to prove that we have strong community values and it was also important that 100,000 Muslim worshippers were able to congregate in a major metropolitan area like Birmingham and hold an event that went off without a hitch.
There may have been a large number of people who decided not to go, but for those who did it was an inspiring act of community to show what the true spirit of Islam is all about.
“This is the true face of Islam. We are sending a message to the whole world that we are united against terrorism, united against hate,” said local Lib Dem Councillor Zaker Choudhry before the prayer, and we couldn’t agree more.
At times of hardship, it can be easy to shut up shop and hide away, but this event should teach us that we are a stronger community than we’re often given credit for and that there will always be a great spirit running through us all.
The country is hurting at the moment, but it will only heal when terrorists of all kinds learn that we cannot be broken. Events like these go a long way towards proving this and it came at a time when we could all use a little more joy in our lives.