By William Mills
A Brighton language school host recounts how a visit from a Middle Eastern student changed his views on radicalisation.
My daughter and I have, for many years, shared our home with visitors from a nearby language school and have encountered many different personalities.
One such was Ahmed. It transpired this smiling 25 year old was a sergeant in the Oman’s Air Force.
He cheerfully told us he was the leader of a twelve strong group who had arrived to learn English and so better understand the instruction manuals of the Rapier anti-aircraft missiles which the RAF were supplying to Oman.
My daughter, aged 20 at the time, did her best to distract him with the joys of western living. Alas, no sooner than he’d settled in than he was required to spend a weekend at RAF Cranwell.
He dressed smartly in suit and tie with his small beard freshly shaved.
Yet when he returned his demeanour was totally changed. He’d been transformed. At the time a conflict had broken out between Hezbollah and Israel. On the night after his return, the news reported a helicopter had been shot down.
Ahmed danced around our living room in his flowing robes shouting down his mobile in ecstatic delight.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to be selling them guns,” whispered my daughter shaking her head with doubt.
After I’d encouraged him to calm down Ahmed explained that in the Arab countries needed to unite in order to drive the Israeli crusaders into the sea, as had happened in Saladin’s time back in the 12th century.
“Every time the Arab nations find a leader, Israel kills him. This is what happened to Abdul Nasser [Egypt’s 1960’s president] and Saddam Hussein,” Ahmed said.
“However we now have Hassan Nasrallah [Hezbollah’s leader] and he will lead us to victory over the Israelis and we will sweep across the world because only when the whole world is Muslim can Paradise on earth be achieved,” he continued.
I pointed out that since 1948 Arab armies had fought several wars with Israel and had been defeated each time.
“The Arabs only had stones before. Now we have modern weapons we shall win,” Ahmed was adamant.
Ahmed went on to explain that after the British were forced to quit Aden in 1970 they focused their attentions on Oman.
Up until then his country had been a little explored desert kingdom where its citizens had a daily fight for survival.
Girls were expected to marry at the earliest possible age in order to give birth a dozen or more times before dying young themselves.
Everything changed with the coming of the British.
Modern medicine had arrived! Infant morality rates fell. But their culture struggled to keep pace.
Girls still had as many pregnancies as possible, but most children now survived to adulthood. The population soared.
Ahmed’s grandparents who had originally expected to have a small family, were now confronted with 100 plus grandchildren.
They were a complete tribe with nurses, bankers, merchants, and over 40 members in the armed forces or the Police.
Ahmed explained the difference between an NCO and officer was the later were allowed to take guns home at the weekend!
He candidly explained his tribal customs.
Whilst he would love to be our friends, if we became an enemy of one of his tribe then, sadly, he would be our enemy too.
So if one of his cousins went to Syria and was killed, instead of their being one less radicalised fighter, there would be lots of new ones.
Ahmed also expressed strong views on other subjects. His visit co-in sided with Brighton’s Gay Pride Weekend.
I remember his chilling words.
“Sodom and Gomorrah!” he declared. “This must be expunged with fire!”
He even went as far as giving me an emblem to put in my window so when the fighters came to cleanse my neighbourhood I would be safe.
Did this affect me? Well, every summer since I’ve been away from home during Gay Pride.
Israelis seem to have split into two, with some advocating closer ties with their Palestinian Arab neighbours.
However others believe all Muslims will eventually become radicalised due to tribal loyalties, and therefore a separation barrier is the only long term solution.
In England we need to face the prospect that every time UK forces attack in Syria it will act as a call to arms to some in the UK.
Wasting tax payers money on ‘community liaison projects’ is unlikely to help.
Surely, far better the Police make it clear that those who live within our shores must obey our laws or face the consequences.