Tuesday, August 15, 2006

several voices and several names

I read with real interest today's article in the Guardian by a young man by the name of Kamran Siddique, who is a close friend of one of the suspects arrested under the Terrorism Act last week, Waheed Zaman. Zaman is 22, and, according to Siddique, not a likely terrorist.

"Waheed Zaman is a 22-year-old student who is well-known around the community of Walthamstow, where everyone knows everyone's business. He is 6ft 2in, broad-built and he's invariably got a cheeky smile.

Waheed lives round the corner from me, and we've known each other since childhood. As kids, we went to the same school, played football by the gates next to my house. We played knock-down ginger on the very streets that are now flooded with press. As teenagers, we'd spent hours on the sofa playing computer games, drinking cups of tea and emptying packets of cookies."
Siddique finishes his article by saying,

"Do I think there is any possibility in the world Waheed would be involved? Could he have kept a secret? Could there have been a side to him that someone who spent most of the day, every day, with him, could not see? My answer is no. I bet my life on it."
No idea whether the portrait Siddique paints of his friend is accurate or not, but it sounds it, for what it's worth. Drawing no conclusions from that, however. I was, though, interested enough by the article to idly enter first Zaman and then Siddique's names into Google to see if he had been interviewed elsewhere.

The first thing I found was interesting; an article on the BBC News site where a 24 year old student was interviewed about Zaman's arrest. Although the article states that the student was 'too scared to give his real name', and opted for the soubriquet 'Hanif', it is clearly Siddique. He relates the same story about being invited out for a burger hours before the raids. The article continues:

"I think they have got it wrong and Waheed has been picked up because he is involved in the student society at university," said Hanif.

"When he gets released, he is going to have a field day, an absolute field day - he's not like a lot of us - he is eloquent and intelligent and will speak out."

Why couldn't his friend be involved in a plot?

"Because if Waheed was involved I would know. Best friends tell each other things that you would never tell your mum and dad. If he had been radicalised, if he had got involved in some kind of extremism, he would have tried to take me with him surely?"
The Guardian article said nothing about Kamran Siddique being an assumed name so I imagine that, since the shock of the original arrest, he has been persuaded that there is nothing to be afraid of in giving his name. Unless The Guardian did use an assumed name, in which case it's interesting that "Kamran Siddique" was used, simply because when I next googled his name, the first result related to another Kamran Siddique, also interviewed recently by BBC News, expressing a strong interest in political and social matters. In April '05, in an article on Asian youth dissatisfaction on the streets of Bradford, the article begins:

"Twenty-one-year-old Kamran Siddique is a polite and mild-mannered young man, about to take his final exams to become a youth and community worker.

He says he was pretty liberal back in 2001, before the Bradford riots erupted.

But what he saw in the aftermath of the violence changed him. Three of his cousins and another three friends were each sentenced to several years in prison for throwing rocks during the riots.

Now he is more cynical."
Now, Siddique does no more than express (perhaps legitimate) concern about heavy handed police bias and what he calls "injustice in the justice system", but it's interesting to read that his community leader, who shares his surname, Haqueq Siddique, goes further and makes some familiar and depressing comments:

"Terrorists don't really want to hurt people," he explained.

"They want to get a message across."
Well, I'm not gonna dig into the subject, as it looks like the two Kamran Siddiques are different people - one based in London and one in Bradford, one 24 and one (now) 22. But it caught my eye and interested me, not least because it cautions against the idea of assuming that Muslims speak with one voice. The Guardian article, by the way, ends with Siddique stating that:

"Muslims condemn attacks on civilians wherever they are and work hard with the authorities to fight terrorism. But in return they see that their mosques and scholars are still criticised. The thought crosses the mind that the Qur'an itself may one day be called a terrorist book. But evil has no religion."

1 comment:

Stephen Newton said...

It's interesting that he concludes by complaining of criticism of mosques and scholars, as if such people should be above that. What if somebody did call the Koran a terrorist book?