When care workers come into their own

A fter the chaos and images of shell-shocked faces and horrific
injuries, came the official warnings of the danger of a backlash
against Muslim communities.

By the time this is published, it will be clear whether that threat
has been contained. Or, better still, it failed to materialise
because the majority of the public have come to realise, after
decades of urban terrorism, that the very few are not
representative of the many.

The day after the IRA’s bombing of packed Birmingham pubs just over
30 years ago, I met a group of Irish-born Brummies in a local
community centre to film a discussion about the aftermath of the

As they talked, stones were thrown through the window and the crowd
outside became threatening enough for the police to intervene. The
angry and grieving had forgotten that the people they were
attacking only two days before had been friends, neighbours and
colleagues, many in the vanguard of care – health visitors, social
workers, doctors, youth workers.

On July 7, two of the 10 doctors who rushed from the British
Medical Association to help those wounded in the bus explosion were
Muslims. In a letter to The Guardian, another doctor wrote
of his multiple identities. He is British, Muslim and a Londoner,
and wrote: “I truly hope that nobody has the gall to say that this
was done in the name of Islam.”

Many in the field of social care also embrace multiple identities.
Some may have been victims of the bombs themselves or have become
involved in helping to treat the post-traumatic stress experienced
by a number of those involved in the events of that day.

What they don’t deserve is to have their offers of help swept aside
by intolerance, racism and bigotry. Compassion and the ethics of
care were the powerful themes demonstrated again and again by
ordinary individuals both underground and on the streets, as well
as in the actions of the support services throughout that terrible

Those who are in the business of care are not sufficiently rewarded
or valued during more humdrum times. Witnessing on the television
their superlative team efforts, many ordinary members of the public
must have had a moment of reflection, as I did.
Those who follow vocations dedicated to the welfare of others –
irrespective of creed – have earned a right to respect, esteem and,
a gratitude the rest of us too rarely express.

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