I’ve never been in a mosque, but I’ve never been in a synagogue either. Although I was raised in a secular household, I am familiar with one branch of the House of God on account of having to attend endless childhood weddings and christenings; these were churches of the austere Protestant variety, however, rather than the camp Catholic model. I’ve no idea if the ambience is as chilly and, frankly, boring in the showrooms of other denominations, but with all my C-of-E education coming via the dullest lessons at school, I think my agnostic outlook was sealed from an early age. Drawing a picture of Pinky and Perky at the Crucifixion in the infants was probably a telling indication that I recognised a fairy tale when I heard one.

On last night’s edition of ‘Question Time’, a member of the audience brandished a leaflet he swore blind he’d been handed at an open day at Didsbury Mosque, at which the father of Salman Ramadan Abedi, the Manchester bomber, was once a regular. What he read from the leaflet sounded like classic Radical Islamic propaganda, denouncing western immorality in a language that implied such immorality was deserving of severe punishment. A veteran of the same mosque sitting a few rows down denied he could have received such literature at Didsbury, but the man was adamant.

The general impression given is that there does seem to be something of an ‘It weren’t me, guv; I weren’t even there’ culture prevailing through many of the mosques that have harboured the hate preachers and fundamentalist shit-stirrers in the UK over recent years. Either nobody saw or heard anything or their eyes turned blind through choice; however, not knowing the interior structure of mosques, I’ve no idea if the guilty parties retreat into special recruitment rooms. But the climate of fear when it comes to informing in many Muslim communities seems almost reminiscent of Sicily or even Belfast during the Troubles; events in Rotherham and Rochdale appear to back up this Mafia-like control the worst offenders have over the populace and why the police steer clear.

Then again, it has emerged that Salman Ramadan Abedi’s extremist views and support for ISIS had aroused enough suspicion within his own community that he had been reported to an anti-terrorism hotline, something I imagine would put those who reported him at considerable risk should they be identified. As a result of these calls, Abedi was known to the security services; but police manpower being deployed to keep an eye on potential Jihadists would severely stretch the police manpower required for historic fishing parties into the sex lives of dead celebrities and politicians, so it’s no wonder the likes of Salman Ramadan Abedi could further his ambitions free from surveillance. Many police officers may have been laid off in the wake of Government cuts to the country’s forces, but deciding the priorities for those that remain is something the police themselves have to answer for.

The internet has also resurfaced in the blame game this week. Online outlets such as Facebook and Twitter certainly operate on curious moral grounds. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine had her FB account suspended after posting a photo of herself holding a Supertramp LP over her chest; the sleeve of said album featured nothing but a pair of tits on it. Similarly, the entertaining Twitter ‘Whores of Yore’ account initially had a profile pic which was a portrait of Nell Gwyn showing a nipple; the painting hangs in the National Gallery for all age-groups to see, but was evidently too outrageous for cyberspace, and the offending nipple had to be removed for the account to continue. On the other hand, Facebook and Twitter don’t appear to have similar problems with inflammatory language or violent videos promoting opinions that somewhat contradict the Utopian New Age worldview shared by Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow visionaries.

So, yes, mosques and websites have been under the spotlight yet again this week, though few have mentioned HM prisons, which seem to be the real recruitment centres when it comes to home-grown terrorists. The escalating convictions for those planning terrorist attacks since 7/7 means many prisons have a far higher Muslim population today than has been the case in the past, and the brutally alienating regime behind bars means birds of a feather naturally flock together.

A young Muslim prisoner who may be serving a sentence that has no Radical Islamic element to it is befriended by another Muslim prisoner who recommends one way to stay safe from the psychos, the druggies and those who take a shine to a pretty face is to spend his time exclusively with other Muslim prisoners. Segregation and indoctrination ensue, and said prisoner is released with a head pumped full of Paradise and those oh-so alluring virgins.

Armed police and even bloody soldiers – both of whom have had their numbers severely depleted by the same Government that now requires their services to enhance ‘Project Fear’ for the public – are currently highly visible on the streets of Britain; but they’re guarding the stable door when the proverbial horse has already bolted. No wannabe Jihadist would contemplate an ‘incident’ when there’s such a show of force; better to strike when nobody is looking. No matter how heavy an armed presence Bobby and Tommy present this weekend, the only strike I expect to see at Wembley tomorrow will emanate from the foot of Diego Costa.

© The Editor


SoldierSide-effects are one of the prices paid for the positive outcome of any prescribed medication; indeed, many of these are specified in small print via the folded-up leaflets that accompany the packages. Some are as long as shopping lists; every unwelcome addition to daily hang-ups over physical appearance seem to be possibilities – weight-gain, mood swings, spots, insomnia, loss of appetite, drowsiness, dehydration etc.; you name it, it’s a potential side-effect. In fact, the roll-call of probable side-effects is so ridiculously varied and vague that it does often make one wonder if the drugs companies are either utterly clueless or simply hedging their bets when it comes to future litigation on the part of the consumer.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that medication intended to combat a disease as serious as malaria is bound to contain its fair share of side-effects; and Lariam appears to boast an abundance of the worst kind. However, it is its regular use by the Ministry of Defence for immunising troops dispatched to parts of the world where malaria tends to strike that has hit the headlines today – particularly with the admission by former head of the British Army Lord Dannatt that, though he was running the show whilst soldiers were being given Lariam, he himself wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole.

To justify his aversion, Dannatt cites the negative experience of his own son with the drug after taking it as a precaution prior to an African holiday in the 90s; Dannatt says the side-effects made his son withdrawn and depressed, common side-effects where Lariam is concerned, along with suicidal thoughts and violent outbursts. Although Lariam isn’t the sole drug deployed to combat malaria, it was the standard anti-malarial drug given by the MoD to troops from 2007-15 – upwards of 17,000 soldiers. Lord Dannatt was in overall charge of the British Army from 2006-9, at a time when Lariam was being used, yet despite his awareness of the damage it could do, he said nothing.

Bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan during Dannatt’s tenure as head of the British Army, the issue of anti-malarial drugs was pushed on the backburner due to the troops largely engaged in conflict in areas where malaria wasn’t prominent. One ex-soldier who has gone public was dispatched to Sierra Leone in 2000, though, and such precautions were necessary in that case. He claims Lariam had an immediate impact, turning him into an ‘ogre’; it’s not an especially comforting image to realise trained armed men were on a foreign field in a precarious mental condition, though in response the MoD says that Lariam has only been given to troops after ‘individual risk assessments’ since 2013.

Dannatt has tentatively apologised for any damage done by the drug to British soldiers on his watch, though it obviously didn’t damage every troop exposed to it; the vagueness of potential side-effects as listed in the leaflets that are included in every box of prescribed medication cover all eventualities, though as a regular user of prescribed medication myself I recognise that few of the myriad side-effects conjured up in print have surfaced whenever I’ve been following the recommended course. Both the World Health Organisation and Public Health England endorse Lariam as an effective aid against malaria, and the company that manufactures it has issued a statement reinforcing its faith in the MoD to prescribe the drug with due care. This doesn’t detract from the fact that some of the more disturbing side-effects in the case of Lariam have indeed ruined lives, and Lord Dannatt’s belated public acknowledgment of this will probably be little comfort to its sufferers. Mind you, the military does have a history of caring for their cannon-fodder with somewhat casual nonchalance – particularly when it comes to chemical-related matters.

The original 1962 movie of ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ reflected the concurrent experimental tests by the CIA that sprang from a sordid little project known as Operation Paperclip, whereby their response to alleged Soviet mind-control was to hire scientists who were actually Nazi war criminals and use unknowing military personnel as guinea pigs. The film depicts a character played by Laurence Harvey as an ex-US Marine captured by the enemy during the Korean War and brainwashed into becoming a sleeper assassin, triggered into action years later. It’s all Cold War paranoia, of course, but Operation Paperclip and its various illegal offshoots that contradicted the Nuremberg Code agreed to by the US in the aftermath of the Second World War were all-too real. Long before its elevation to compulsory recreation by the hippies, LSD was a regular drug of choice for such experiments, though the thought of attempting to issue orders to anyone tripping off their tits on Acid does seem like an exceptionally futile exercise.

Whilst the use of Lariam by the British Army pales next to the appalling operations indulged in by the CIA in the 50s, that Lord Dannatt has waited until now to come clean about his reservations is perhaps more indicative of the mindset within the MoD that sent British troops into war-zones ill-quipped and under-funded. If a country asks young men to lay down their lives for it, the least that country can do is to safeguard against that likelihood as best it can. In so many cases, those running the British Army have come up short too many times. And that’s simply not good enough.

© The Editor