In late January, an Islamic education centre in Newcastle was vandalised in a racially motivated attack.
The perpetrators broke into the centre overnight, trashing the interior and daubing swastikas and ‘moslem terrorists’—incorrectly spelt, obviously—on the walls.
In a show of unmatched grace and forgiveness, the leaders of the centre have said they do not want to punish those responsible. Instead, trustees of Bahr Academy hope the vandals will visit and get to know its members, as they believe open communication could help prevent further attacks.
“We want to say to them, whoever they are, come and speak to us, we want to inform you that we are not really what you might have thought we are,” Muhammad Abdulmuheet told the BBC.
“We want to speak to you, so you can find out what we are about and teach you what Islam actually says, so you have a correct understanding of what we are trying to do in these places.”
The response of the patrons gives a clear indication of their character and the values they hold. Unsurprisingly, the local community has come out in support of Bahr Academy.
Sunderland Unites, an anti-racism group, condemned the attack in a Facebook post, standing in solidarity with the centre while highlighting the incident’s proximity to Holocaust Memorial Day.
Elsewhere, a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the centre met its target only four days after launching. (FYI fans of 90s kids telly on the BBC, the gofundme was started by the cast and crew of Byker Grove, which used the grade II listed building to film much of the series.)
We are truly heartened by the kindness of the Bahr Academy trustees. If more people had this high capacity for good, we’d probably never see stories like this in the news.
But one last thing….discrimination can come in many forms. If you’ve been subjected to something that doesn’t seem forgivable, remember: it is not your responsibility to reason with the perpetrator.
If you’d rather report a racist than reach out to them, don’t feel bad.