My brother was beheaded by ISIS — but I refuse to allow hate to win

Murdered aid worker David Haines's sibling makes an impassioned plea for peace and understanding


I can tell you first hand about the destructiveness of hatred. In 2014, my brother David, a humanitarian worker, was taken hostage and beheaded by ISIS.

Held captive for 18 months in Syria, his death was filmed and broadcast for the world to see. He was one of 27 victims who died at the hands of a British gang of terrorists that has now become infamous.

Nothing can prepare you for the feelings of helplessness and uncertainty that are anchored to the burden of grief.

Hatred, too, felt like a natural response. But I soon realised that if I hate, they win and I made a national television appeal to ensure that people did not turn against the Muslim community.

Through creating fear and distrust, the terrorists wanted to turn us against each other and I had to stand against it.

While there is a risk, as each year passes, of feeling more distanced from events such as the Holocaust, there is no denying that prejudice and extremism still haunt us today.

Figures published at the end of last year paint a stark picture of just how far we still have to go: 2022 saw a 26 per cent increase in hate crimes across the UK, 23 per cent of them being anti-Jewish by nature.

This year’s Holocaust Memorial Day theme is “Ordinary People”, as it was ordinary innocent people that were victims of such a hideous crime. While through his aid work, David committed great deeds, my brother was also an ordinary man; just as ordinary people are capable of committing evil acts, it is ordinary people too who have the power to make a difference.

I am an ordinary Scottish man whose life was changed overnight, yet I have spoken to more than 100,000 students across the UK about my story of overcoming hatred through my anti-extremism charity, Global Acts of Unity.

Engaging and meeting young people, leaders of tomorrow, I champion messages of tolerance and understanding through education and dialogue as the tonic to achieve a more united society.

It was in David’s DNA to help anyone, regardless of colour, race, religion or politics. By speaking to our young people, those most vulnerable to extremism, I knew I’d keep his legacy alive.

I have visited many synagogues and talked to lots of Jewish communities over the past eight years to speak of my story, and to better understand what it means to be Jewish in the UK — the traditions and values, but also the hardships.

As ordinary people, we have choices. We have the choice to not hate and to challenge damaging stereotypes. Every single one of us can make that conscious decision to better educate ourselves about others and accept our differences.

Now, more than ever, with religiously aggravated hate crimes having risen over the past year, we must find common bonds that unite us and restore our commitment to respect one another.

The UK is a multicultural and diverse society, which is to be celebrated, enriching our communities. We have so much to learn from one another and so much to gain.

I overcame a tragedy caused by extremism. Every single day, I defy the aims of those who killed my brother. I invite you all on Holocaust Memorial Day, as fellow ordinary people, to come together to create a better future for us all.

Only through tolerance, compassion and understanding can we reject the hatred that seeks to divide us.

We often look to the past — as we are doing this week during Holocaust Remembrance Week — to learn about the horrifying consequences of hatred and to ensure the suffering felt by generations before us is not repeated.

Our words and our actions matter. Hatred should never be tolerated and it falls on all of us to ensure it doesn’t prevail.

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