|Olympics – Muslims
Come Under Scrutiny
by SHAHED SADULLAH
The apprehension shared by many that security (read terrorism) would be a major concern in the run up to and during the London Olympics is, sadly, being proved true. A few days ago, anti-terror police in London arrested seven men in connection with what was described as a "significant" plot after finding guns hidden in a car. The day before these seven arrests, six people were held in London during a major anti-terrorism operation.
The discovery of the cache of arms hidden in the boot of a car came about, we are told, by accident. During a routine check, the car in question was impounded because it did not have a valid insurance. The car was not searched to begin with and the driver therefore was released at the time. However, when a subsequent search of the car revealed the cache of guns and other "offensive weapons", a huge manhunt was launched for the driver and seven arrests followed this manhunt. The names of those detained have not been revealed but they came from the Sparkhill area of Birmingham and other areas of the city. Sparkhill has a very substantial Asian population.
The six earlier arrests in London included that of a former police department employee and a white British convert to Islam by the name of Richard Dart who, after his conversion, had rather dramatically changed his name to Salahuddin al-Britani. On the same day three men who are believed to be members of the same Bangladeshi family, were arrested in a raid on their home in the Stratford area of east London, the site of the Olympic Stadium. Why that particular area was chosen to be the Olympic venue, thus guaranteeing a traffic snarl throughout the city for the duration of the Games, nobody will ever know. But officialdom in all countries moves in mysterious ways its wonders to perform.
The case of Richard Dart highlights the increasing involvement of white British converts to Islam in terror activities. In another case which happened only weeks before the arrests mentioned above, a "white widow" was being hunted in Kenya for a grenade attack on a bar that had killed three people, including a young boy. The white widow is said to be Samantha Lewthwaite, whose husband Jermaine Lindsay blew up the Picadilly Line train during the 7/7 attacks in London. A daughter of a white British soldier, Ms Lewthwaite has been on the run since last December following a foiled plot to blow up western hotels in Mombasa.
The lives of many of these converts shows a completely mixed up sense of values. Ms Lewthwaite herself was born in Northern Ireland where her father was serving as an army officer. Her parents separated when she was 11, and it is said that this was one of the things that drove her to seek solace in Islam. She converted at the age of 15 and married the Jamaican born carpet fitter Jermaine Lindsay in an Islamic ceremony in 2004. When her 19-year-old husband blew himself up in July 2005, killing 26 people, she was eight months pregnant with their second child. She then went on to have a second son by an unknown father in 2009 – but adheres strictly to Islamic dress codes!
Ms Lewthwaite's case does not have anything to do with the London Olympics but it shows why Muslims of all sizes, shapes and colours are under special scrutiny as security for the Games reaches enhanced levels – although recent news reports suggest that there is considerable doubt over just how far enhanced these levels will be. In what has been described as a problem of crisis proportions, it has been revealed that the security firm contracted to provide security for the Games, has not been able to hire as many guards as were needed – this in a country with more than two and a half million unemployed people roaming the streets, where one in every four persons below the age of 25 does not have a job! A panic-stricken government has therefore decided to pull in some 3,500 personnel from the armed forces to lend a hand at a time when army commanders in Afghanistan have been constantly wailing that they do not have enough people to do the job in hand. Many soldiers have had their leave delayed or cancelled as a result of this latest assignment and they are not exactly overjoyed at the prospect. As a backdrop to all this, a section of a flyover connecting Heathrow airport to the city, a route that will be taken by tens of thousands of Olympic officials and sportspersons, showed cracks and the entire road has had to be closed down as essential repairs are carried out. The work has not been completed in the scheduled time. And to crown it all, the British weather has continued at its spiteful worst with no sign of the much vaunted summer visible anywhere.
A Refreshing Change To A Depressing Image
While in Britain the mention of Muslims almost inevitably makes one fear that some terror related news is coming, a story from Canada has provided a refreshing change to this depressing image. The story centres around Wafa Dabbagh, the first Canadian citizen to have served in the armed forces in a hijab. Serving as a lieutenant commander in the Canadian naval reserves, Ms Dabbagh was presented a Diamond Jubilee medal, a new award to mark Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee. She won the award for her commitment and dedication to duty, for being an effervescent team player and a trailblazer in the Muslim and military communities. The award, however, had to be presented to Ms Dabbagh in hospital where she was in the final stages of lung cancer. The detachment that went to present the award were at first apprehensive about seeing a colleague in the last stages of life, but her commanding officer, Rear Admiral Lloyd said afterwards: "Despite going to see someone who might never come out, we all left buoyed by her fighting spirit, her infectious good nature and her overall enthusiastic approach to life."
A few days after receiving her award, Wafa Dabbagh passed away. She was 50. She faced all the standard prejudices that a Muslim woman who dresses according to her religious beliefs faces in the west. It is said that immediately after her selection, the officer in charge of her training programme admitted quite honestly that he did not know what to do with her. Equally honestly, Ms Dabbagh said to him: "What you see is what you get, sir. I don't drink alcohol, I don't eat pork, but I can do everything else."
And she proved that she could. She was certified to shoot a C7 rifle and a 9mm pistol, and was studying to qualify for promotion to a command position when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2010.
Muslims living in the west could do with a few more like her.