Birmingham’s Cllr Salma Yaqoob spent the week before Christmas out carol singing and delivering hampers to the needy – and hopes it will inspire others to seek out new ways to create a more united community.
“I went out carol singing [18th Dec] to some of our local old people’s homes in the ward on Thursday evening! Some people may think it is odd as I am a Muslim so let me explain. Firstly, Muslims do believe in the Virgin Birth, and indeed view Jesus as a Messiah, so many of the carols are relevant, and I can genuinely share in some of the spiritual significance of Christmas. Theology aside, however, it was just a wonderful experience to see the genuine happiness that such a small act brought to some of our elderly residents.
“There was a group of us – some from Balsall Heath Forum, some from local churches, as well as some other Muslims. I took my eldest son Hamza with me, and really enjoyed seeing how he was touched by the responses of many of the residents who shook his hand and had tears in their eyes (although he did point out that could have been because of my bad singing!)
“I do have to point out though that as Muslims are strictly ‘monotheistic’ – believing in the Unity of God – I had the delicate job of ensuring Hamza and I avoided singing anything which contradicted this, resulting in some uneven singing! Upon such details are interfaith experiences built…
Overall though it was a lovely, genuinely uplifting evening, and I would highly recommend it!”
On the evening of 17th December, Cllr Yaqoob was invited to the Institute of Asian Businesses‘ End of Year dinner at Sher Khan’s in Star City, Birmingham, describing the event as “a good opportunity to network as well as to meet a few old friends”.
Salma explained she was struck by the number of businesses approaching her concerning raids on their shops in relation to the possible employment of illegal immigrants.
“They were concerned about the aggressive and frequent manner in which this was happening, saying they understood that the police have a job to do, but that they could do the same job in a more subtle way. For example, in one raid twenty officers turned up, and closed the shutters down just to check which staff worked there (nothing illegal was found). Observers may well have thought a terror raid was happening, and it could impact on the reputation of the business. I shall certainly be taking up this issue, as clearly it is causing a lot of distress,” she said.
Earlier thet day, Salma joined Balsall Heath Forum wardens who were delivering Christmas hampers for elderly people in the area. Over 100 vulnerable residents had been identified and were being visited over the Christmas period.
The food for the hampers was gathered by local schools, Ombersley Road Mosque and local church groups.
Of the effort, Salma explained: “One of the things I love about my job is seeing how the community comes together, and the difference being made. The banter and camaraderie in putting the hampers together, delivering, talking to residents is great!
“One elderly black lady questioned Abdullah, who works as a warden and is Asian; ‘Why are you giving me this when I’m not one of yours?’ He replied: ‘But you are one of ours!’ She broke down in tears and gave him a big hug. This simple exchange is not the kind of thing you see in the scaremongering headlines, but is certainly the stuff that makes me proud to me a Brummie!”