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by WaylandCybersmith



One of the most controversial of the Wild Olive Shoot leaders is Aref Wahid. The following comes from an interview with him and articles appearing in the press at the time of the Silver’s Nightclub bombing trial.

Aref Wahid was born in 1969 and grew up in Albert Park, Birmingham.

My family are Muslim, but it was hardly more than a box on a form to be ticked. I went to a mainly white school. I had mainly white friends. My father went to the pub with his work mates. Mum wore western clothes. In fact, the only way you could tell we were Muslim was the Qu’ran that was kept at the top of our bookcase. No-one in the family actually read it.

I loved sport. Loved it. PE (Physical Education) and Games were my favorite lessons. I was in the school athletics and Rugby teams. In fact, I was selected to play Rugby at county level. My greatest dream at the time was to play for England.”

Wahid had a close relationship with his father.

My father’s game was cricket. He took me to county games and internationals. When I developed my love for Rugby, he took me to those matches. Even if there was a cricket match at the same time. He was always there for me. His love and wisdom guided me throughout my early years.”

Wahid’s world changed on May 5, 1985. His father was walking back home from work, when a car knocked him over and killed him.

When he died, life lost it’s meaning for me. I wanted answers, and looked for them in the local Mosque. The Imam, Anis al Tayyib, welcomed me and taught me the Qu’ran. I started going to the meetings, praying, the whole lot.

Then I met the Iranians. I won’t say their names. At first they made fun of me. They mocked my western clothes, my English accent, my ignorance of the Qu’ran. They were soldiers. They were spreading the word of the UK’s support for Iraq. This was the time of the Iran/Iraq war, you understand. They said that the UK government had to be punished.”

The Imam told the Iranian militants that they were not welcome at his mosque because of their extremist views. Wahid spent more and more time with them. He grew increasingly angry at what was happening between Iran and Iraq. He wanted to join the fight, but he kept this hidden from his family, afraid that they would betray him to the authorities.

One day, they (the Iranians) told me that I could help them. They arranged for me to go to a training camp in Iran. I told my mother I was going to France with some friends. I was away a month. When I came back, I had a full beard, and I wore traditional Islamic robes. My mother and sister were horrified.”

Wahid’s mother told how she and her daughter became afraid of him. He forced them to follow Muslim customs, even threatening to kill them on more than one occasion if they did not. They began wearing the chador in public.

When Wahid was eighteen, he joined the Iranian Defense Force. The IDF had been denounced by every mosque in the Birmingham area, but that did not stop them.

I felt a part of something. The cell had taken the place of my father. The anger over the war that grew in me stopped me feeling the pain of my grief.”

Wahid became part of the cell that bombed Silver’s Nightclub in Birmingham. Because the club was below ground level, it made escape all but impossible. 160 people died, with a further 59 severely injured.

Wahid was arrested and jailed for thirty years. Life in prison was hard from the outset. Many prisoners took opportunities to “teach a lesson” to the Muslim terrorists. Wahid would often find his food had been contaminated. He was often in fights that he did not start. The Muslim prisoners tried to stick together to protect one another, but the authorities always split them up.

Three years into his sentence, he had a visitor. It was a man called Scott Ferguson. Ferguson told Wahid that he had been at Silver’s the night of the bombing. Five of his friends had been killed. Ferguson himself had been injured so badly, that doctors had to amputate part of his left leg.

Scott said something that shook me. He told me that he forgave me. I was responsible for the death of his friends, for his disability, and he forgave me.”

Ferguson was making his own spiritual journey. Just as Wahid went to Islam to find answers after the loss of his father, Ferguson went to Christianity. He joined the Blaze Community, where he was told that he had to forgive everyone involved in the bombing. It took a long time for him to do it, but he did.

Wahid and Ferguson stopped seeing one another as monsters, but as people. Now away from the militants, Wahid’s anger diminished. Wahid and Ferguson helped each other through their grieving. They became firm friends.

While in prison, Wahid became a Christian, and joined the Blaze Community. This did not make life any easier for him. Now, not only did the non-Muslim prisoners attack him, so did his former Muslim brothers. He was moved to an open prison.

When Wahid approached the end of his sentence in 2017, there was a concerted press campaign to keep him locked up. There were protests outside of the prison by relatives and friends of those that had been killed at Silver’s.

On the day of his release, it was Ferguson who collected him and took him to the Birmingham house of the Blaze Community. Once there, he demonstrated that his conversion was not a sham, and was selected as a senior leader. According to the traditions of the community, he was given a virtue name. He was now known as Aref Wise.


© WaylandCybersmith 2011


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