There is something rather dark and nasty about the Government’s decision to call for a ban on a leafy plant called khat, writes Yvonne Ridley.
It’s a mild stimulant causing around the same effect as an Espresso coffee but you have to spend an inordinate amount of time chewing it to feel the difference.
The leaf is traditionally bought and chewed – you don’t swallow – by those from the Somali, Ethiopian, Kenyan and Yemeni communities – its import brings in a tax revenue of around £12.8 million annually.
But by turning it into a Class C drug it will cost the taxpayer in excess of £100 million to police and enforce the ban.
So since it’s not addictive, provides as much of a stimulant as anything you could buy over the counter at a Café Nero or Starbucks, why is Theresa May, the Home Secretary proposing its ban?
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which advises the British government on such matters, says such a ban would be “inappropriate” and the influential cross-party home affairs select committee headed by Keith Vaz recently produced report which unanimously opposed such a ban.
Could this be yet another petty way of trying to criminalise sections of the Muslim community by making it an offence to sell, buy or chew khat?
Of course Theresa May will deny the move is yet another Islamaphobic-driven policy by the government. She will tell the House of Commons on Monday that banning khat will improve peoples’ lives … well on that basis so would outlawing tobacco which is a proven cancer-producing drug which costs the National Health Service millions of pounds in treatments and care.
Smoking kills – chewing khat doesn’t!
What about banning alcohol which is far more dangerous and is a drug which attacks every single organ in the body, destroys families and increases crime?
Unlike cannabis or other banned drugs, the selling of khat is perfectly legal which is why organised crime gangs are not involved in its distribution from its point of export or delivery to the UK.
By banning its use in the UK criminal gangs in the Horn of Africa will move in to the market and criminal networks in the UK will also benefit.
The reality is that Muslims will be targeted as police go about enforcing the ban which will be resented by minority groups living in Britain.
The only people it will play well with are racists and UKIP voters … perhaps Mrs May should be more transparent about the government’s true intentions as she and her Tory colleagues look towards next year’s General Election.
This is nothing more than a cheap election stunt, and one laced with the rank whiff of Islamophobia and racism.