The peacemaker who sets an example for us all
‘We have to father our own. Please take care of your own people. These young men are our responsibility. If you start, maybe you can change the world.” So said Ibn Ali Miller, the now-famous peacemaker from Atlantic City in New Jersey in the United States who stopped two children from fighting last month. It seemed like a simple act, but after a video of the incident was posted on Facebook, it went viral.
The circle of faith, family and community that surrounded those young men made them recognise their mistakes. This is what many young people worldwide are longing for: someone to take the time to rescue them from themselves, set them straight and teach them the best of manners. For Mr Miller, his mother was his best mentor and guide. She, too, was a great example.
The most important factor in this story is that Mr Miller comes from a tight-knit family of Muslims and is part of a mosque that works in the New Jersey community, providing education and charity.
It really does take a community to raise a child. Living in the UAE, it may seem difficult, but the key factor is intention. My purpose is to teach my children about community, faith and equality. These principles are the basis of Islam.
It is why I have lived in the same neighbourhood for nearly 15 years. Through help and friendship, my children learn responsibility.
“I have so many sisters and brothers,” my daughter proudly claims. It doesn’t matter that six of them are from Tanzania, another six are from Syria and Palestine and two are from Holland. Since she is the oldest of them all, it gives her a sense of responsibility – and the same goes for her little sister.
I guess that some people might be curious about all the languages that are spoken as they leave my door, but what I hope they take from it is that, as Muslims, family is what matters most. This is a bond, a love and a sincere desire to care for one another.
This may sound warm and fuzzy, but it is more hard work than anything. Keeping them on the straight path and making sure that they don’t mislead others is the toughest job.
“Who misled you?” Mr Miller asked Jamar Mobley and Sheldon Ward, the two boys who were about to punch each other’s lights out. Then, he steps in and exposes the devil’s game – and the whole world roared with approval. Why? Because people are looking for ordinary heroes; they want someone that they cannot only look up to, but they can also emulate.
“When we look at the heroes of the past, we feel like complete failures,” one person told me recently.
But it was Mr Miller’s tone, his almost lyrical style and his use of the language of youth, using repetition, poetic devices: “Don’t embarrass yourself nor your parents … don’t fall for the tricks of Shaytan.” This combination of the African-American tradition of taking care of those around you, combined with the knowledge of how easily we can all fall off the straight path, was what made this four-minute sliver of life so remarkable.
Before the days of social media, men and women like Mr Miller were always around. However, in this age of selfishness and self-aggrandisement taking a moment to help seems worthless compared to the excitement of seeing two boys grappling in the middle of the street, with onlookers sniggering and egging them on.
“Media is so powerful. I was just an ordinary guy to help two kids not to fight. It is unbelievable that this is seen as something special,” Mr Miller said.
Blessed are the peacemakers, wherever they are. May Allah reward them in this world and the next.
Maryam Ismail is a sociologist and teacher
Updated: April 5, 2017 04:00 AM