Free Radical by Maajid Nawaz

Book: Radical by Maajid Nawaz Read Free Book Online
Authors: Maajid Nawaz
group. Because there was only one and a half years between us, Osman and I began merging our two groups of friends. From my lot, the younger crew, there was Chill, Moe, and Andre from Southend, Ricky, Paul, Ade, and Yusuf from Pitsea. Ricky’s older brother Rowan headed the older lot. Rowan rolled with Will and Aaron, and Osman would join them when he could. Rowan was renowned throughout Essex. He was dangerous, and people knew his name. Our bonds of friendship were particularly close, forged through a common love of hip-hop, mad times at parties, and standing up for each other in armed confrontations against racists. The younger ones, my crew, felt like my true brothers, and we believed nothing could ever divide us. Most of the wider posse was Afro-Caribbean, but Osman and I had introduced a couple of other South Asians, like our cousin Yasser and our Bangladeshi friend Ronnie.
    I was out late one evening with Osman and Ronnie, playing pool. Earlier that day, like many sixteen-year-old boys, Osman had been messing around with a plastic BB gun. Playing in open view, he hadn’t thought to conceal what he was doing. In those days terrorism was mainly associated with the IRA. But someone had called the police, convinced that he was going to commit an armed robbery. The police took this accusation seriously and mounted an all-day surveillance operation. So by the time I joined Osman and Ron later on, we were already being secretly staked out by a host of armed officers. We finished playing pool about two in the morning and got into Ron’s car to drive home. Our stereo was, as usual, testing the frame of Ron’s old car with the heavy bass line.
    â€œThat’s weird, man,” I quipped from my backseat. “I guess pigs can fly after all!” Police helicopters were hovering above us.
    â€œSomeone must be in deep shit, man,” Ron laughed. “I guess they’re lookin’ for some real heavyweights.”
    â€œYeah, man, someone’s not gonna get much sleep tonight,” I laughed back.
    â€œLook! It’s goin’ down,” Osman interjected as police cars sped past us at top speed with their sirens on.
    But were we in for a surprise!
    Suddenly the police cars up ahead skidded to a halt, horizontally blocking the road in front of us. More cars had appeared from behind, blocking our escape. Ron slammed the brakes on.
    â€œWhat the ffff . . .?” he muttered in disbelief as armed officers carrying submachine guns appeared from nowhere on either side of the car. “Stop the car!”
    â€œDo not move your hands, do not move your hands!”
    â€œStay absolutely still! Do not move!”
    We sat deathly still and in absolute silence. None of us found this even slightly funny anymore. As the helicopter spotlight lit us up, the armed officers rushed to the car doors and pulled Ron and Osman out of their seats, through their still-attached seatbelts, slammed them on the ground, and then held them in locked positions. As I watched police putting a gun to my brother’s head, my mind again focused on tangential details. The car was rolling forward slightly. That’s strange, why was it doing that?
    â€œThe brake!” I thought to myself. “Well done, Ron, you haven’t pulled your parking brake up!”
    Just then a hand grabbed my collar and lifted me out of my seat and down onto the ground with a violent thud and another gun greeted me. Of course, it was to Ron’s credit that he didn’t reach down for the parking brake; they would have thought he was reaching for a gun, and he would probably have been shot dead.
    None of this was making any sense to me. I hadn’t been with Osman in the daytime and didn’t know he had been playing with his plastic BB gun. But there was no time for thought, and certainly no time for questions.
    â€œYou,” the officer shouted in my ear, “are under arrest for suspicion of armed

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