The cavalier fashion in which Samira Adamu was smothered with a pillow by Belgian police on a plane at Brussels airport in full view of crew and passengers illustrates how expendable Muslims have become nowadays. And the recent decision by British prosecutors not to indict the policemen who murdered Ibrahim Sey in police custody in an equally offhand manner two years ago confirms that the experience is continentwide - if, indeed, any confirmation were needed.
Since both Samira’s murder and the decision not to prosecute Ibrahim’s killers have come in the wake of the bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania last August, there is an obvious concern that this may represent a further tightening of the screw on Muslims in West Europe. The raid on the embassies were immediately used to demonize Muslims as terrorists worldwide. Islamic activists were arrested in several countries and extradited to the US or charged locally; Britain rushed an ‘emergency’ law on terrorism on to the Statute Book and the European Union put forward its plans for a police agency, Europol, to grapple with terrorism, among other things.
Samira, a 20-year-old Nigerian asylum seeker, died on September 22 after two policemen smothered her with a pillow to keep her quiet while awaiting takeoff on a Belgiam Sabena airline flight to Lom, the capital of Togo. A video taken by a third policeman showed one officer pressing the woman’s head into a pillow across his knees, while his colleague pushed her from behind. Her ordeal lasted 20 minutes while the two policemen chatted and laughed.
The video showed that Samira offered no resistance because her hands were tightly manacled behind her back and she was also chained at the ankles. Apart from the horror of the physical attack by male strangers on a Muslimah (or for that matter on a non-Muslimah), Samira should not have been tied up as international airline regulations require that passengers are free to reach emergency exits unaided. Sabena offered no explanation why its crew had allowed her to be shackled in violation of the regulations.
Amazingly, the Nigerian Muslimah had been subjected to a similar experience two months earlier but she had been saved by the intervention of passengers on the plane.
Samira, who had been held in the high security detention camp at Steenokkerzeel since March, was woken up by guards at dawn on July 21, Belgium’s national holiday. Then she was shackled in handcuffs and leg irons and bundled into an armoured car bound for the airport to be deported to Lom on a Sabena flight. On that occasion, passengers intervened as policemen tried to silence her with a cushion, and the airline captain, afraid there would be a riot, refused to take off with her on board. She was returned to her detention centre.
But during the second attempt she was not that lucky: no one intervened as the policemen set upon her and she was snuffed out in less than 20 minutes. Samira was buried in Belgium four days after her murder, indicating that while Muslim asylum seekers may not remain on Belgian soil, they may lie in it.
The men who murdered her are only being charged with involuntary manslaughter. If they are convicted - and that is a big if - they will almost certainly get away with a fine. After all, one of the policemen who assaulted her had been disciplined earlier this year for kicking a handcuffed prisoner but was allowed to remain in the force.
The minister of interior, Louis Tobback, also resigned after the incident. But a closer look at his resignation statement shows that he did not resign as a result of Samira’s murder, but because of the involvement of the disciplined officer. He said the fact that one of two officers had been disciplined earlier in the year made his resignation necessary, since he was directly responsible for the national gendarmerie.
Tobback, 60, who served as interior minister from 1988 to 1994, was brought into the cabinet to clean up the corrupt and inefficient national gendarmerie after the resignation of his predecessor, John Vande Lanotte, following serious police scandals. By resigning, he was acknowledging his failure to reform the police force rather than mourning Samira’s death.
The British authorities do not emerge any better from their treatment of Ibrahim Sey, who was killed at Illford police station, East London, in 1996 after police sprayed him with CS gas, although he was surrounded by officers and his hands were chained. Ibrahimi, 29, who had two children and was mentally ill, posed no threat to the officers. An inquest at the time recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.
Yet, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) recently decided that no officer would be charged as a result of the unlawful killing. The CPS said in October that it would be very difficult to prove any wrongdoing. It did not explain why it had to wait for two years before making such demonstrably false statement.
Interestingly, the decision not to prosecute coincided with reports that the CPS is riven with corruption. The authorities were finally forced to take note and take action after media reports that members of the agency had passed on the names of 33 police informers to the criminal underworld.
A major corruption inquiry has now been launched into the CPS, and the organization’s London headquarters has been raided by detectives from the National Crime Squad (And who can guarantee the NCS is not equally corrupt?). Attempts in the High Court by the attorney general, John Morris, to stop details of the corruption allegations being published have failed, with justice Gage saying that publication ‘is in the public interest.’
But the CPS is not the only British institution recently shown to be corrupt or racist. In fact the last three months have seen several reports demonstrating that the British home office (interior ministry), which overseas the police forces, is deeply racist, and that the British police are both corrupt and racist.
Sir Paul Condon, the chief commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, is on record as admitting publicly that the force is racist, ‘though not institutionally.’ And for sometime now, he has been campaigning publicly for additional legal powers enabling him to root out what he calls extensive corruption in the force.
Significantly, it is on this demonstrably corrupt and racist force that the new legislation on terrorism confers additional powers. According to this law - which is primarily directed against Muslims, as a recent article in Muslimedia International (Septemper 16-30) argued - it is sufficient for a court of law to convict a person accused of terrorist-related offence on the strength of the uncorroborated evidence of a police officer.
The new European Union police agency, Europol, based in The Hague, is an additional arrow to Europe’s anti-Islamic bow. Next January, the agency will expand its current limited operations to co-ordinate intelligence on ‘terrorist organizations.’
Will European Muslims co-ordinate their own plans in time to weather the gathering storm?
Muslimedia: November 1-15, 1998