Spent last night at Edgware Road where many were celebrating Eid Al Fitr, the end of the fasting period for Muslims. There were many people who had come to celebrate and there were many young people hanging around the streets laughing, smiling and greeting one another – far from the ASBO generation promoted by some sections of the press.
The sheer diversity of Muslims and Islam is positive and something that is wonderful to see and what was also exhilarating to see was the sheer vibrancy that comes out from such religious events. The vibrancy is something that I also feel when I attend Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, Buddhist and Christian celebrations since I am one of those who believes that spirituality can be felt within all faiths and especially where many people congregate to praise.
However, last night I was also struck by something else. The levels of poverty within communities like the Somali community! It is clear that this community is one that has been hit particularly hard and integration has been difficult. High levels of poverty, family breakdowns and a gang culture has hit the community head-on and more needs to be done to assist in giving young Somalis a vision of hope and inclusion.
The Somali community nationally and internationally is a hard working one; it always has been and it has survived through some of the toughest periods of its nations history. No doubt, it will be able to play a strong pro-active role in London’s development, though it needs local authorities to look at solutions of what works well with other such communities and implement it with young people. That is why I am suggesting that new innovative approaches be taken in policing in London for example.
One of these bold innovative approaches is to place seconded detached youth workers with Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNT’s). What a difference this would make to the work of these teams. It would help penetrate youth groups and reduce the juncture between the Police, Community Support Officers (CSO’s) and young people. It will also help to tackle the causes of crime as well as criminal incidents. Together we must think about integrated approaches and one that will build for the future through simple common sense solutions. Detached workers with SNT’s is one of those common sense solutions.