Guest columnist Nadeem Murtuja: Compassion should have no boundaries

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A lot has happened since my last column: from being challenged by the council’s CEO on whether a multi-million pound infrastructure programme is a good thing for Doncaster; receiving confirmation that the Black and Ethnic Minorities health-needs assessment is indeed more than 10 years out of date and convincing Sheffield Council to change some of its procedures when providing care for the elderly.

However, all of that pales into insignificance given the number of innocent lives lost due to terror attacks in places like Ankara, Lahore, Brussels, Iskanderia, Maiduguri, Istanbul, Grand Bassam, Peshawar and the list goes on – not well known places are they? Many of the people from these areas did not receive the media coverage; a campaign to change Facebook profiles, a minute’s silence, or even a high profile brother in arms stance in a capital somewhere – literally nothing. It raises important questions about our mainstream media and our politicians, why do they have the power to select whose suffering and pain we should share in, and those we shouldn’t?

Not only is this incredibly irresponsible it goes against every value that makes us British. As a British Doncastrian Muslim, born in the UK, and an active member of the local community, I often wonder why do all of us have no problems in condemning these evil crimes, yet our compassion has boundaries to particular shores? As someone who participates in many mainstream media programmes responding to questions whether I condemn these evil attacks, I have got to a point where I have to say if you’re asking me as a British citizen of course I condemn the attacks, but if you’re only asking me specifically because I’m a Muslim, then you should know that in your ignorance you unknowingly associate me to the perpetrators, you potentially dehumanise me; and worst of all you give rise to a fear amongst communities that impacts on us all, whether you look like me, have a faith like mine, or not. I would be delighted to participate in a debate about British values, if only someone could facilitate such a debate. The only problem is that even our Prime Minister struggles to explain what these are. Finally, in response to the infrastructure programmes question, of course it will create jobs for ‘those who can’. The real challenge is, as Gandhi would put it: “judge our democracy and decisions not by the way we support the majority, judge us by the way we supported the most vulnerable and minorities”. That is why I want to see a real programme targeted and co-produced with those poorer neighbourhoods that since forever have not experienced any change despite the millions spent. In other words, focus on transforming lives - not services.