Explorer Mikael Strandberg

Moss Side, Boxing And extremists

It has been more three years since I spent time in Moss Side. I am still in contact with people there and life moves on as usual with not any major changes. At least according to my friends. I do see that there continues to be less good news from the area through the rag and tabloid Manchester Evening News and obviously they have a half researched and hazy story or two on the latest issue, the one about Ronald Fiddler (a k a Jamal Al- Harith). Jamal Al Harith has gained a lot of negative press recently apperently being a suicide bomber. I came across this article this morning about the background of him growning up in Moss Side. I wasn´t surprised it turned out that he did come from Moss Side when I first read about him in the Guardian and saw his given birth name, since Moss Side is well known for its sprawling and active Carribean community. What caught my attention though was that Jamal Al Harith, who was also unlucky to end up at hell itself at Guantanamo Bay, and another one or two so called extremists from this area trained at the Boxing Gym which I visited a few times. For me a highlight of my early work with the documentary Man With A Pram since I went there to interview two impressive people, Maurice “Hard” Core, who runs the club today, and his business partner Ensley Bingham.

I talked to a few young men with their own history of problems during my visits and they all said that Maurice and Ensley had saved their lives. And I think in all this that is written about Moss Side extremists, there´s very seldom a question, why? Why did they decide to join an extremeist group? Or why did they end up on the wrong side of the law? Let me first say before I continue reasoning, I have to say that my time in Moss Side was one of the most important in my life and I made a lot of very good friends there, who I miss a lot. However, since I come from a part of Sweden which is dominated by forests, lakes, rivers and open spaces, Moss Side in itself as a society and suburb of Manchester, it was tough. And it does belong to one of the most deprived areas of the UK and there is a distinct air of distrust between the law and people living there. Or at least that was my feeling. However, I found it fantastic how well the area incorporated people from all over the world, my friends came from all walks of life and nations, but there´s no doubt that the big gaps of opportunities offered in the British society does cause a fair amount of these problems. Rasism was definitely there. Having said that, I really really liked the people there!

There´s always a reason for everything, and I believe it is important for us all to research every angle to fully understand why things happen. Basically, as I see it, if you have no opportunties, get treated differently in a negative sense and on top of this start dwelling into the meaning of life,things can well go badly wrong. I would ask anyone who is going to Manchester to take a bus to Moss Side and walk around, go to the local pub, visit a foodbank, have a giant Somaliland meal at Abu Belquisas restaurant and just talk to people and you will get a very broad perspective on many things. And, yes, I do remember some overzelous, yelling young wannabees of extremism there…..even back in 2013. They never liked my camera.

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