Foreign language student Mohammed Al-Majed, 16, died just two days after being attacked by racist drunken youths in Hastings, East Sussex, on August 22. A group of baying brutes attacked Mohammed in a racist frenzy as he left Kebab Hut & Pizza USA Fried in Claremont, Hastings, with fellow students at a language school. He was called “Saddam Hussein” and “Osama Bin Laden” during the shocking attack.
The Qatari teen suffered from severe head injuries, as a result of falling and knocking his head on the pavement. But it was the attendance of the far-right party British National Party (BNP) at a memorial held for the murdered student that angered many.
Al-Majed’s family, friends, hundreds of shoppers, locals and political leaders alike gathered outside the Town Hall to observe a two-minute silence in memory of the lost student. They were joined by a BNP member sent to voice his views.
Chris Barnett, a BNP activist took photographs of the mourners, laid flowers and prayed. He also spoke to mourners about how the Government was to blame for the incident, not the attackers. At this point, Barnett took the liberty of informing a journalist that Al-Majed had been escorted to hospital via a taxi, not an ambulance, a claim utterly refuted by local health authorities.
Fellow campaigner, Nick Prince, used the sombre occasion to publicise the BNP’s credentials stating that if his right wing-party was in charge, the assailants would be given the death penalty, and strict curfews would be imposed on students visiting the town.
He further said, “We did send a representative to the two minutes silence…and on behalf of all of the members and supporters of the British National Party in Hastings and Rother, I wish to send our deepest sympathy to the family of Mohammad Al-Majed. We will continue to increase our presence in Hastings.”
Gerry Gable, publisher of anti-fascist magazine Searchlight told The Muslim News, “This is the latest piece of hypocrisy from a political party that abuses and maligns people of the Muslim faith day in day out.”
Owner of the takeaway where the trouble began, Remzi Tanriverdi, said jealousy was one motivation behind the attacks. “They are layabouts and are jealous of the money that these Arab kids have. The foreign students are polite people. They are shocked by what they find in England. Many from the Middle East do not have a drinking culture and they are not used to this violence. Now there must be a big question mark over the future of Hastings as a place to come and study,” he said.
Peter Henworth, a Nigerian student described the horrific events in details. “The white gang walked out of the kebab house and came up to me and Mohammed and said, ‘What’s your problem.’ We tried to move away, we didn’t want any grief. They were swearing and aggressive.”
As the youths began to push them backwards, Al-Majed and Henworth turned and ran. Al-Majed made his way towards a pub 50 yards away whilst Henworth raced over the road to the promenade. The gang chose to follow Al-Majed...
According to Henworth, “I kept on running and then, from the promenade, watched what was happening to Mohammed over on the other side of the road. The gang caught up with him and he fell to the ground. They kicked him again and again until he stopped moving altogether. I crossed over from the promenade and went back to the kebab house. When I got there the gang arrived leaving Mohammed where he was along the road. They went up to one of his friends; a 15-year-old boy from Saudi Arabia called Mojeb, and hit him over the head with a glass. He needed six stitches.”
Al-Majed was admitted to the local Conquest Hospital for his head injuries at 1am, on August 23.
By the time it became apparent that the teenager required treatment in a neurological hospital; there were no beds available at the local specialist unit. It took a total of 15 hours for Al-Majed to receive the proper, specialist treatment he required. His father, Abdullah, criticised the NHS for taking too long to find the teenager a bed. Mohammed Al-Majed died just 24 hours after being admitted to Kings College Hospital; however it is unclear whether more efficient treatment would’ve saved his life.
Speaking to The Times, Ahmed Othman, 16, Al-Majed’s friend and eye-witness said, “I won’t come back here again. Students don’t want to return to this area, especially Hastings. Here we have fights and we go home scared.”
Councillor Peter Pragnell tried to dispel accusations that Hastings is becoming lawless. He told The Muslim News, “Despite the mass hysteria, knee jerk reactions and downright inaccurate reporting from some sections of the media might suggest, we are not a violent town.”
However police confirmed that three other Arab students had been attacked in Hastings a fortnight before the attacks and Mohammed’s friend Sultan Al-Dossary, 15, said other foreign students studying at Hastings’ language schools had been abused in the street and were now too frightened to go out. In fact police stats revealed that over the past three years, there have been 41 attacks on foreign students.
In response to accusations that the police were not efficient enough, DCI Graham Pitt told The Muslim News, “When Mohammed fell to the ground, officers immediately offered assistance and placed him in a police van awaiting an ambulance, which took a matter of minutes to arrive. He was then taken to the Conquest Hospital.”
Three men, aged 17, 18 and 20, have been arrested and released on bail following the attack.