By Zahid Maqbool
Walking down the street it is no longer enough to speak in rap. The gold rings mean nothing. Nor do the chains. There are two types of people out there. Those that carry and those that are dead. Bang bang.
La pistola. The Ultimate Badge of Honour. It says more than anything else. Who cares about the police? I own the streets and people fear me. And they should. I am the law. Disrespect me at your own peril. Bang bang.
I have the feeling of power. I am indestructible. No one will cross my way. I am packing a heavy punch. This is a badge that has to be earned. Bang bang.
Gun crime has been sharply brought into focus by crimes committed up and down the country. This year we have seen in our news reports on the TV, and heard on the radio about the rise and rise of gun crime. The story of yet another person losing their life to the gun.
There seems no letting go of the fact that gun crime is here on the streets of the UK and it’s here to stay. The statistics are stacking up as yet another loved one is dispatched to the morgue. Another number in the book of death as the victim of gun violence.
New figures reveal that half of all firearm incidents in Manchester are committed by men aged between fifteen and twenty, and there are an average of five firearm offences every two days. In London, shootings are running at almost one a day and there are about two fatalities every month. A new generation of British-born gunmen, who have developed a notion of 'disrespect', justify shooting over the smallest squabble. Offenders are using firearms over trivial disputes such as arguments over spilt drinks, bumping into one another or even the smoking ban .
More than thirty firearms offences occur every day, according to latest Home Office figures, with a record 10,990 incidents a year in England and Wales - more than double the total at the end of the Nineties .
So what’s the fascination about guns?
Let’s take a look: The bang bang slang:
Glok, piece, gauge, shooter, Purdy, oozy, or just simply packing heat.
"Guns Are Cool"
Everyone knows guns are cool to have and be seen with coz even 007 Bond has one. Check out the baddest rappers on the planet and they are all packed with gloks and oozies. Believe me when I tell ya that it’s all about what you got. If MTV Base shows the hippest new joints on the block and those slammin' tunes are rammed to the maxi million of major hefty fire power then it shows how glamorous, slick and cool having a piece is.
So you have got your designer glad rags on, you're dressed in black and ready to roll. Your chain is thicker than the anchor chain of the Titanic and you got more ice than the iceberg that sunk it. You've got a phat whip parked outside your yard. But what’s missing? You might say 'nothing at all, pal'. Sadly you're wrong because some of the O.G’s hustlers, enforcers, drug dealers and even plain Joe homies wanna be carrying a gun too. It’s a fashion accessory. There are lads around town who brag about not leaving home without it and I am not referring to an American Express.
The image of a gun conjures up lots of ideas, at a basic level you think of it as your Ultimate Tool of Justice, so that you can protect your family. But rappers in the USA first started “gangsta rap” with the likes of NWA who glamorised the use of guns and created a new genre of music. Then of course there were the tit-for-tat gunning-downs of Biggie and Tupac.
In the USA gun crime sells records: Notorious BIG wrote a song called 'You're Nobody 'til Somebody Kills You.' Take a look at the bling and you see chains with guns around them. Here in the UK they're following the Americans. Sway says in one of his songs: "When you're doin' rapping, it seems to take a shooting or stabbing to go platinum."
Crews such as So Solid have had members arrested for carrying a gun and even served prison sentences. Recently Ja Rule and Lil Wayne have been sent down for possession of a firearm. Has this slowed down gun crime? Well no, it’s seen more fatalities in the capital city.
So okay dokey music is to blame for glamorising guns?
Well not quite, look at any list of top ten films and I bet Scarface, The Godfather Trilogy or Goodfellas is somewhere there. So who can resist saying “say hello to my little friend” or “make me an offer I can’t refuse” as long as we don’t get “whacked”. Let’s get spicy and think of our Bolly or Lolly friends who tote guns like a Rolex, flashing it to everyone and they are so very proud. Shah Rukh can walk about with two guns at a time, even the Bolly babes are packed. Big fat slob Sanjay “my eyes are like lady Penelope's Butler” Dhutt from Thunderbirds has been sentenced to six years in the tin.
With our ears and our eyes we are being conditioned to accept oozies and gloks as a norm. So we accept this and are only brought back down to reality when we see the victims of gun crime and stand up to pay your respects at the next funeral.
But what’s all this gotta do with Muslims?
Teenagers have resorted to arming themselves with guns in cities such as Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, London, Manchester and Reading. They buy shotguns for as little as £50 from Asian and white illegal dealers in London and Birmingham – with some splashing out £40 on a bullet-proof vest.
Saeed Irfan was a former member of a Thames Valley gang made up of Bangladeshi's. Mr Irfan is now a volunteer for a group that offers advice to ethnic minority gang members. He said:
"There are insecurities and a need to protect yourself. I am Muslim and live on a council estate and feel the neighbours might do something and the police can’t or won’t protect me."
Ali is a British Pakistani from Birmingham who carries a handgun. He said:
"It’s been a hard trek to get a bit of respect here. I mean, all we have is the way people treat us on the street. Where we gonna get a job? I mean, they all think we are terrorists."
Gang member Az, a 15-year-old from Lozells in Birmingham, said:
"This is all we have got for our protection. If we haven’t got street cred, we will get done over."(3)
Leave the gun- stick to Islam
There is no room for crime and violence in Islam. If you really want respect, power and success then it’s not through the gun or crime. It’s through Islam. Listen to the words of the Prophet (pbuh):
"Faith is a restraint against all violence, let no Muslim commit violence."
Some people asked Allah’s messenger (pbuh):
"Who is a good Muslim?"
"One who avoids harming the people with his tongue and hands."
"A believer remains within the scope of his religion as long as he doesn’t kill another person illegally."
The Qur’an sums it up by saying:
"Anyone who has killed another person it is as if he has killed the whole of mankind and anyone who saves one life, it is as if he has saved the whole of mankind."(Chapter 5, Verse 32)
A personal account: From Crime to Islam
We spoke to a revert brother who wishes not to be named due in part because of his own set of street rules of respect and his fear of appraisals from his ex crew.
So let’s call him Bilal. He was a member of one of the most notorious gangs in the UK the notorious Gooch Boys. He started gang life as a runner on his bike shunting gear for his dealer around town. Almost everyone he met liked him, so Bilal grew in confidence and popularity.
He thought life was good because his crew gave him respect ruled by fear. As he became more exposed to the Manchester gang scene he became aware of how people only feared the bigger gang bosses and felt he wanted extra respect.
So he took it to the next level and became an enforcer. The first thing he had to prove was his loyalty and so he was given a name and told to dish out some ruff respect. This involved the use of a metal bar and ambush to the victim. Piece of cake. Suddenly, doors opened for him: at night clubs the bouncers paid him respect and shop owners seemed extra polite. Life was good.
He then felt the need to go to spot. Getting a piece is easier than getting road tax, he told me, and cheaper too. So he walked around proud, packed and ready to gun someone down, on the strength of a text message or over a none payment of a couple of hundred quid.
Bilal says a hit to teach shows your hefty rep, and is a daily occurrence. He noted that while sitting in a club most of his crew openly displayed the wearing of kelver jackets and vests: a clear confidence sign coz of their ownership of a gun. And when someone got “popped”, “clipped” or “wasted” there would be the double standard of attending the funeral wearing a trench coat so that in the open face of friend or foe, you can still show your might.
"So if crime pays, why did you change then Bilal?" I ask. Not through choice but coz of reality. As Brother Bilal was doing a drive by in someone else’s pit, his younger brother who had been steered by his doting Grandmother had six cartridges removed from his bullet riddled body lying on a slab in the morgue.
As Timberlake eloquently voices “what goes around comes all the back around”. Bilal felt physically sick. Frightened, not for his own safety, but what would his Mum think of him? How will Grandmother take the loss? Is he next? What shocked him most was the attitude of mistrust. Paranoia and disrespect from the very people who he looked up to. Bilal felt that his own guys had set his brother up so that Bilal would retaliate and get to become a lifer to the street of Gunchester.
"How did you get out?" I asked. "Got myself arrested and got sent down for carrying the oozy. Got 7 years so the gang could not use me as a mule. While in the klink you think and realise who you mates are. Also met a revert brother from the Congo who had real respect. Told me of a code of the warrior who was undefeated in battle, of a sword that was mythical. This drew me in; this was the Hadrat Ali effect on me. The Congo brother was a smart cookie he knew what made me tick."
I asked him what message does he have for the new era of gunslingers, who may think its either fashionable to be packed or want to rule with the power of the gun?
“Well bro, there is a thing that does not discriminate against race, creed or even colour. It is not bothered who, this thing does not bother why. This thing has no feelings, it does not think for its self. It does not feel guilt, remorse or a sense of shame. If you are a man or a woman it does not bother it. If you are young or old it makes no difference. Not even your status can effect it, no matter how wadded you are or if you are a doley. Believe me brethren, it does not have a religion. It gets straight to the point quick. Who is it? What is it? Well the answer is of course a bullet. A bullet is all of the above and then some, innit. Bullets have no discretion or choice. But Allah (swt) has given us the choice and we should use our discretion not to use them.”
What happens if I’m caught with a gun?
To tackle the problem of gun-related crime, sentences for people convicted of crimes involving a gun or other firearm have been made a lot tougher:
Anyone who is found guilty of illegally possessing a prohibited firearm faces a minimum sentence of five years in prison. Also, you now have to be at least 17 years old before you can buy an air rifle. There are plans to make the sale of realistic imitation guns illegal, even if they could never be turned into weapons that fire real ammunition .
If you or any of your family are victims of gun crime or violence help is available. You can contact:
Gun Crime Team
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
If you experience any gun crime contact your local police force or phone
Crime stoppers on 0800 555 111
If you really want to carry something heavy, which has ultimate power that no force can stop or resist, something that will keep you and your family protected and never runs out of ammunition, then try the pocket size Holy Quran with an English translation.