Somali:Democracy in action-Protest against khat ban takes place in Harlesden

Mareeg.com-Members of the Somali community in Willesden have divided over new laws which will make the use of khat illegal in the UK. Supporters and opposers of the controversial ban were separated only by a pedestrian crossing as scores of residents gathered Church Lane to contest the decision to outlaw the plant stimulant. From Tuesday, khat will officially be classified as a class C drug under British law. Those caught in possession could face a fine of up to £60 while suppliers face a lengthily prison term of up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited financial penalty or both. Critics have panned the drug, which is already prohibited in most other European, as well as America and Canada, claiming it is addictive and has been link to insomnia and other health problems. Abukar Awale, who has vehemently campaigned against the use of khat, after overcoming a seven years addiction, has marked the ban as a victory. “The best way I can describe it is like England winning the World Cup. This is the end of domestic violence, this is the end of segregation, this is the beginning of integration.” “As an ex-addict I feel over the moon. Police offiers were on hand to answer questions about the khat ban which will be enforced from Tuesday He continued: “It was the lowest point of my live. It took me being stabbed four times to knock some sense into my head.” However the ban would have a dire impact on people who make a living supplying the plant, according to Mahaud Riraash, who has been using khat for 41 years. “Business will close and people will be forced to live on the streets because they will not know what to do with themselves as their only income came from selling khat.” Hussein Hersi, who runs an advice and support programme for the Somali community said: “They should regulate the amount of khat that is used first. “Drinking is not in our culture but there is a worry now that many will turn to the bottle.” Police officers turn out in force to educate members of the Somalian community, distributing leaflets and answering any questions they have about the ban. Det Supt Simon Rose said: “We want to avoid criminalising the community. The worst thing that can happen is after the ban comes in, someone goes on holiday to Somali and other countries where it is legal and bring it back and get stopped in customs, because technically they are importing a controlled drug, and get a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.” He continued: “We are also quite keen to prevent a breakdown in the Somali community. What Job Centre Plus has been doing is providing help to the individuals involved in khat distribution to change their business models. “These people already have the skills but unfortunately they will be delivering something that is legal now but will be illegal next week.” Source: Brent & Kilburn Times – By Myron Jobson, ReporterSunday, June 22, 2014