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Every crisis has its heroes and this week Britain's ethnic minorities working together to defend their livelihoods and communities shine an uncomfortable spotlight on what native Britons have lost.

While the West has become increasingly materialistic many Asians and other immigrants living in Britain have not lost sight of the importance of family, community and religion.

One Asian shop keeper interviewed by ITV, on Tuesday, said he had amassed 15 friends and family to sit inside his shop all night to protect it; without sleep.

Another told how he and all the shop keepers along his row were standing together to see off any trouble, knowing well that the cowardly looters will only attack the weak and vulnerable.

With the high level of business tax and rates, these men have every right to point the finger of blame at police and politicians and feckless parents. And in private I'm sure they do.

But what they are doing is getting on with the job.

In Southall, more than 200 Sikh men guarded their temple against attack.

It is an attitude the British once had: the Dunkirk spirit. People coming together in the face of adversity.


The most tragic story to emerge from these dark times is that of the three young Asian men mown down and killed in an apparently racist murder as they tried to defend their car wash business. Two of them, Haroon Jahan, 21, and Shazad Ali, 25, were half brothers. It would have been understandable if Tariq Jahan, 45, the father of Haroon had called for an "eye for an eye". Instead he appealed for calm saying: "I don't blame the police, I don't blame the government, I don't blame nobody." And he asked the mob to "go home" in order to restore peace to the streets of his battered community.

I once spent two months travelling through India by train, north from Mumbai through the hustle and bustle of Gujarat to the baking sand cities of Rajasthan and up to the cool marijuana clouded peaks of the Himalayas. I wore the cloak of guilt that is the uniform of the modern Briton abroad. Ashamed of the violent past of Britain's empire-building taught to me during history lessons at school.

But on the train from Ahmedabad to Jaipur a ticket inspector asked where I was from. On learning I was from Britain, his friendly face broke into an even wider smile as he told me how grateful he was to the British for building the railways in his country. He invited me into his private cabin to share a whisky, a great show of friendship and trust in the dry state of Gujerat.

There too I met Sadhus — Hindu high priests — who had been bankers and salesmen but had given everything away to live off the kindness of strangers and prostate themselves before their God.
Sadhus come from the richest families and dispose of all their worldly possessions to beg on the streets as a way of showing God they have no wish to become a god themselves. They are worshipped as the highest order of people. In India it is common knowledge that materialism brings with it an egoism that makes men and women believe that they do not need God; that they themselves are gods.

In the last few days we have seen lots of stupid people with god complexes, who have lived their lives without ever feeling the pain of hunger or cold, ignoring all the rules of society because as one teenage girl told BBC News 'we're showing them we can do what we want'.

They are so far in the clouds, so far removed from the society which props them up, that they cannot see that it is the taxes paid by the businesses and communities they are smashing up which is funding their sedentary lives. Lives of which the same degree of idleness could not be achieved for the last 3,000 years until 60 years ago – except for by the very richest.

In their greed, they can only see those richer than themselves, but of course they refuse to see or acknowledge the elbow grease that earned that wealth.

In India there is real grinding poverty and deprivations which I would wish on no-one and daily suffering which makes one's heart cry in anguish.

But despite that poverty India had the feel of a country that was happy and content with its lot precisely because so many knew what a false profit Mammon is.

One female rioter interviewed by the BBC in Croydon, on Tuesday, said shops were being looted because business owners were 'rich'.

They are indeed immeasurably better off than she is. But it is not in the way she thinks.

The interviewer did not ask her if she would be willing to work 14 hours a day as many Asian shop keepers do to acquire the riches she feels she so deserved of but I suspect the answer would be a bored-already: 'Nah'.

For the real wealth of these Asians comes from a strong family and community and a belief in their duty before God.

It is a strength that will stand together to defend what is theirs against a marauding mob who know the price of everything and value of nothing.

Other communities too came together, Turks in North London defended their shops, and groups of young people gathered to patrol and protect their neighbourhoods in Enfield and Eltham. Youngsters of varied races joined the clean up efforts in Liverpool, Brixton and Clapham.

But what was striking was that so few of the looters were Asian – unlike so many of those standing up to them. Of course there is something in that so many shops are Asian owned but if any part of Britain's rich cultural tapestry manifests the Dunkirk spirit it is that of the Asian shop keeper. Napoleon Bonapart once said disparagingly said England is a nation of shop keepers. If she is then they show her greatest spirit today.

India was once the jewel in the crown of the British empire. Britain gave India a rail infrastructure and a world class legal and administration system. At the time Britons were known for their sense of decency, strength in the face of adversary and self sufficiency.

Today we see huge swathes of Britain burnt to ash by youths who will blame their own circumstances on anybody but themselves despite such massive spending over the past decade on education, health and social care that we are on the brink of bankruptcy.

Inevitably some are pointing to poverty and a lack of opportunities as a cause of the recent riots. But thousands of people every year risk their lives for the opportunities Britain presents as many of the Asian shop keepers today once did.

Rather than poverty it is a life lived without ever experiencing want that has led us to the position we are in today. Britain's youth have been born with a silver spoon in their mouths when compared to average of the billions of souls that dot the globe today and the billions of humans who lived before this current age of excess.

But of course they have been taught to only look in one direction. They can be anything they want they have been taught without the two large IFs being hammered home: IF they have the talent required and IF they work hard through every obstacle that they meet on the way.

There is strength in looking to others and learning. Britain is a different place today than when it was empire building but today it shares a cultural heritage with India: our favourite dish Chicken Tika Masala is Indian, Indian-run shops sit at the heart of our communities and Indian doctors bring us back to health when we are sick.

Instead of looking for blame Britain must now look to the jewels living within its own shores to learn afresh the qualities we have lost and the things that truly make life worth living.

97 comments for: Hector George: These riots have shown us that immigrants are the jewels in the crown of Britain today

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