In the late afternoon of Monday 27 November 2000, a 10-year old schoolboy made his way home from his local library. In one writer’s words, he was simply “a happy smiling schoolboy hopping and skipping” home.
15 minutes later Damilola Taylor bled to death in a concrete stairwell after being stabbed in the leg with a broken glass bottle by teenage brothers Danny and Ricky Preddie.
The other day I delivered a workshop at my local mosque for teenage boys on the dangers of knife crime. It was titled, “Bad Boyz and Knives.”
Most of the audience was 10-13 year olds. There were a few older boys, but most of the 14-17 year old “Bad Boyz” didn’t attend because they think already know it all.
But if they know it all, why do UK Home Office statistics state that teenagers aged between 13 and 20 are 80% more likely to fall victim to knife crime than any other age group?
At the start of the workshop, I asked the boys, again, mainly 10-13 year olds, to raise their hands if they knew someone who had been stabbed or slashed. I was surprised at the number of hands that went up.
I then asked them to raise their hands if they knew someone who carried a knife. I made it clear that I do not work for the police so I am not looking for names, but for a solution.
Again, I was surprised at the number of hands that went up.
During the 11 years I spent in the toughest prisons of the UK and US I witnessed multiple stabbings and slashings with improvised knives or “shanks” as they are known.
I witnessed prisoners being slashed across the face, stabbed in the neck. While in isolation in a US Supermax prison my fellow prisoners included several who stabbed their cellmates to death.
I spent years with people who had killed others with a bladed object, either on the street or in prison. I learned their stories and, for those that had them, their regrets.
Knife crime in the UK is at epidemic levels. There were 4000 more incidents of knife crime in the UK last year compared to the year before.
In London alone there were 1100 more knife crime incidents last year than the year before. That’s four more stabbings and slashings every day compared to the year before.
About 60% of the critical injuries attended to by London’s Air Ambulance service now include stabbing victims and road traffic accidents account for the remaining 40%.
So is there anything you can do to reduce the chances of your child from falling victim to knife crime?
There are three things that I suggest can reduce the chances of your child becoming another victim of knife crime.
Many parents spend money and time and effort in sending their children to tuition centres, Quran memorisation classes and sports clubs but attach low priority when it comes to teaching their child how to protect him or herself.
It’s commendable having a child who gets all As in his exams and will help to fulfil your dream of him becoming a doctor or lawyer or whatever.
Sorry to be blunt, but if your child is stabbed to death at the age of 12, God forbid, he is not going to become anything except a statistic and a memory.
If your child is stabbed to death at the age of 15, he is not going to do anything with the Quran that he has memorised.
And if your child is stabbed to death before he reaches the age of 18, he isn’t going to university.
Martial arts, whatever it is, whether it is boxing, judo, karate, kung fu, teaches your child discipline.
People mistakenly think that martial arts teaches people to fight. It doesn’t. It teaches you not to fight.
It teaches you self-discipline and how to control your ego so you can walk away from a conflict situation before it turns physical.
My Wing Chun kung fu master used to tell me stories of how he would frequently walk away from conflict situations His logic was simple…
“When you know that you can hospitalise someone with one strike, you have nothing to prove so you find it easier to walk away.”
So martial arts doesn’t just teach your child how to defend himself. It teaches him or her how to walk away from a conflict situation.
It doesn’t matter what the martial art it as long as it is done regularly.
Educate your child about knife crime, show them photos of knife crime injuries and videos of how you are more likely to be stabbed if you carry a knife.
There are many many resources on the internet available for free that you can use. I give some links at the bottom of this article.
The less attention and love children receive at home, the more likely they are to seek it elsewhere, whether that be in a gang, older boys or drug dealers.
There are fathers who spend most of their week saving the world, or the ummah, while losing their children because they don’t have time for them.
Give your child friendship, love and attention so they know they can always speak to you about everything and anything.
And before all these practical steps, getting yourself and your children into the habit of saying the supplications of the morning and evening regularly will ensure that whenever your child leaves the house, they will return safe and sound.
Knifecrimes.org – perhaps the most comprehensive website about knife crime
Choose A Different Ending – a series of short, interactive videos whereby you can choose what happens next in the story
Stabbed – The Truth About Knife Crime – a short emotive video clip about how 40 seconds changed the life of a man and his family forever
My story and why I spent 11 years in prison can be read here.
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