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Selma Cook

A Proactive Member of the UK British Muslim Community

 

jamaal richards

Jamaal Richards was born in the UK and he converted to Islam 17 years ago. He is currently working in event management and helped organize a very successful occasion held in London in July 2008, ‘Bring Some Taqwa to Town’ which raised a great deal of money for the construction of Masjid Taqwa in London. He has indeed proven himself to be a major contributor to the UK Muslim community. Recently, he founded an organization called ‘Deen Riders’; the first Muslim Biker gang in the UK.

 

Being a man with a conscience, Richards sees that being apathetic is counter-productive. He recalls, “I have been involved in the Muslim community for years. A few years ago, there was a notorious and quite prominent sheikh called Abdullah Faisal. As part of the controversy surrounding him, the Qur’an actually went on trial in the Old Bailey. I believed this was unjust so I started an organization called ‘Concerned Muslim Citizens’ and covered the whole trial seeking to raise awareness and support. This was about seven years ago.” He notes that in his community he and his friends try to help out whenever they see injustices. For this reason he has been involved in the Masjid Taqwa project as this is important to provide a place for young Muslims, as well as breaking down the ethnic barriers that negatively affect many mosques around London.

 

While growing up Richards learned a lot about Black history and in his teens he studied the story of Malcolm X. It was this that put him on the path to find Islam. Then in his late teens, a few of his friends became Muslims and taught him about the religion. Since a young age, Richards has been interested in empowering people. Following the trend of his hero, Malcolm X, Richards finally realized that taking a radical approach is not necessary and has continually sought to be proactive and find ways to give back to society. He remembers with great feeling the story of Roots and how many African American and British people have discovered that their ancestors were Muslims. “It is important that we take pride in who we are,” observes Richards. It is this way of thinking that has led him to seek innovative ways to empower the Muslim community with faith and solidarity while integrating with the mainstream society and building bridges between the two.

 

 

Richards believes that the Muslim community is becoming more involved in the mainstream and that Muslims are reaching out to others to teach them about Islam.

 

Counteracting Loss of Muslim Identity

 

Richards is the founder and mastermind of Deen Riders, and seeks to round up Muslims and non-Muslims providing an outlet for young and old to travel together, learn about Islam and observe each other in everyday situations. “It’s all about raising awareness about Islam. We have many non-Muslims riding with us and there is a code of ethics for everyone,” Richards says. When the non-Muslims ride with Deen Riders they do not swear, or speak about women, alcohol, drugs and so on. Richards comments, “When non-Muslims are with us they respect us for what we are doing. We stop off to pray and they see that. We stop in scenic places, and they watch us and ask questions and we tell them about Islam. They see us laughing, having fun and also praying and being responsible and serious.”

Deen Riders has strict policies that include no speeding but they do have days at the race track so the riders can enjoy the thrill of speed and racing.

 

Sadly, he also observes that many Muslims are losing their identity. Developing Deen Riders is his attempt to counteract this and he hopes this will also be a way for Muslims and non-Muslims to get to know each other, learn more about Islam and share in the bond of the first Muslim biker gang in the UK.

 

 

Off to Hajj – By Bike!

 

jamaal richardsDeen Riders plans to ride to Hajj. The idea behind this journey is to create awareness. “We’re calling it ‘Enduring Hardship for Allah’s Pleasure’,’ says Richards. Indeed, it sounds like enjoyable hardship; it will be difficult but very exciting. Deen Riders needs sponsorship and as with all their activities, they help some of the charities they are affiliated with like Chariots for Children. “We believe we’ll attract world media attention,” comments Richards. “Traveling to Hajj these days is easy but in the olden days, getting to Hajj was always difficult. So on our way, we’ll deliver aid to wherever it’s needed and raise awareness about the needs of the orphans we sponsor and in doing this we’ll be teaching people about Islam in a practical way.”

 

They plan to take a route through Spain, particularly through old Muslim Spain, which is a very beautiful and historic place. The whole route has yet to be mapped out, but Richards has found that when people are aware of what they are doing they want to get involved. “We needed mechanics and doctors to be with us and now we have them. Our logo was done for free, and our website too was done by people who joined Deen Riders,” observes Richards. Currently, Deen Riders has thirty members and will officially launch in 2009. They expect five hundred members the first year.

More Than Just a Biker Gang

 

To become a member, the person does not need to have a motorbike, he or she can pillion ride. The organization is also known as ‘Riding for the Straight Path’ and people are encouraged to utilize their time in a constructive way. Deen Riders will travel to conferences in different parts of the UK. They also have camps, day trips and events for young people. “It’s about the youth and anyone with an interest in bikes and loves riding,” says Richards. Deen Riders has attracted great attention in a very short period of time.

 

“Girls can join to; not just guys. When riding long distances, the men will ride around the girls,” comments Richards. Even though it is still early days, they even have members in Dubai. “It’s a world-wide thing,” observes Richards, “everyone loves bikes! People see shiny bikes, and they love it. People see us as Muslims with bikes and are instantly curious.”

 

Jalaal ibn Sa’id, from Al Fitra is a biker and is on board with Deen Riders and he, among others, will deliver lectures to the members of Deen Riders.

Richards believes that Muslims need to be doing more to help themselves and that being apologetic about Islam and making excuses does not command people’s respect. He sees that we should live Islam and show by our actions that we are a people who seek to uphold good morals, interact with others and have fun as well.

He sees that it is vital that Muslims are a good example to others and make positive change wherever we are. “Our conduct should be positive, not apologetic,” he says. Richards sees that the events of 9/11 and 7/7 had nothing to do with Islam and that Muslims should speak out against such things. “We should show people that Islam is there for everyone. We have to do something and have to speak out in a positive way. Ironically, these sad events were somehow good for the Muslim community in the UK because it made us stand up more, speak out and be more positive,” says Richards.

 

In the words of the founder of Deen Riders, ‘we need to freshen up and feel a sense of freedom’. Deen Riders has no age limit, men and women are welcome, and it is open to people of all religions. Historically bikers have often been known to be the bad guys, but with Deen Riders, the good guys are coming to town.

 

 



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