Friday, July 07, 2006
Muslim soldier's family condemn 'terrorist' claims
· He was doing worthwhile job, brother responds
· Parents not told of mission 'to avoid undue worry'Riazatt Butt and Sandra LavilleWednesday
July 5, 2006
GuardianThe family of the first British Muslim soldier to be killed in the "war on terror" were forced to hit back yesterday against extremist claims that he was a "home-grown terrorist".
Within hours of news of the death of Lance Corporal Jabron Hashmi, 24, in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, a website run by the extremist group al-Ghurabaa posted a picture of the young soldier surrounded by flames.
The group condemned L/Cpl Hashmi, who was in the Intelligence Corps, as a home-grown terrorist for serving with the British army in Afghanistan, adding: "Unlike members of al-Qaida, he took a salary for his terror."
In Birmingham, near the Hashmi family's home in Bordesley Green, some young Muslim men also spoke out.
"I don't see how any Muslim can be in the British army, not with all the shit that's happening in Muslim countries. It doesn't make sense. It's not right. There's no space for Muslims in the army," said a 25-year-old who would only give his name as Saleem. "Of course it's a tragedy and I feel for them [his family]. But what was he doing over there? He was an Asian dude fighting a white man's war. Basically, we can't be like the goreh [white people] and they can't be like us."
But in the front room of the family home in Bordesley Green yesterday there was no doubting the pride in which L/Cpl Hashmi's relatives held him.
Pictures of the young serviceman, born in Peshawar, 40 minutes from the Afghan border with Pakistan, in full regalia took pride of place on the sideboard, by a rolled prayer mat and copies of the Qur'an.
Well-wishers have flocked to the terrace house since news broke that L/Cpl Hashmi had been killed in a Taliban attack on his base in Sangin, in Helmand province, on Saturday. He died alongside Corporal Peter Thorpe, 27, from Barrow in Furness, Cumbria.
L/Cpl Hashmi's brother, Zeeshan, said: "My brother went in [to Afghanistan] in a peacekeeping role.He was doing a job that was worthwhile."
He condemned those Muslims who were criticising the young soldier.
"These Muslim brothers who are willing to carry out suicide bombings and sell drugs to fellow Muslims, they still think they have the ability to criticise people who want to do things differently," he said. "With the anniversary of the July 7 bombings approaching, it is important to try and break down the barriers in society. You can be proud to be Muslim and British - the two don't have to be separate."
Mr Hashmi, who has also served in the army, revealed that his brother kept the news he was going to Afghanistan from his mother, to stop her from worrying.
"As far as my mother and father were aware, Jabron was in Germany," said Mr Hashmi. "They knew he was in the armed forces, but we told them he was doing a language course. All of us brothers and sisters knew, but we felt there was no need to worry our parents unduly."
L/Cpl Hashmi was one of about 300 Muslims in the British armed forces. Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said whatever measures the armed forces took, the numbers of Muslim recruits would remain low while Britain was engaged in conflicts such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But he added: "It would be entirely wrong ... to smear him [Hashmi] as being a supporter of the war. When you are a soldier, you have no choice about where you are sent."
In Afghanistan yesterday 12 members of the Taliban were killed in clashes near Kandahar in the south. In another incident, five Afghan labourers working at a US military base in the east were killed on their way home, police said.
More than 60 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan since January and yesterday the commander of the Helmand taskforce, Brigadier Ed Butler, said that he was confident London would listen to any requests for additional troops.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006
Posted by Editor at 3:52 AM