Zinah Al-Rashid, The Missing Activist and the need for attention

Zinah Al-Rashid, The Missing Activist and the need for attention

Zinah knew the tack to take and used it. She welcomed the teen with smiling eyes.

‘Hello, Amirah.’ The adopted name.

‘The name means princess or leader.’ Zinah had read it right. The girl flushed pink. She was more excited by her new persona than Islam.

Amirah was now in with the ‘in crowd’.

‘A person’s name says something special about them and their character,’ Zinah enthused. ‘It’s how people interact with you.’

‘And when I call myself Amirah they see straight away I’m a Muslim.’

​While Zinah could call up a show of empathy in an instant, it took time to develop real influence over these girls. You can’t hurry things. So when Amirah fiddled endlessly with her hijab, Zinah stopped herself saying, ‘Leave it alone.’

Don’t nag.

Amirah was the same as the others she’d converted in this respect. Her first rush of passion for the Caliphate was more to do with the ‘look at me’ factor than anything else.

The above is an excerpt from my book “The Missing Activist”.  Zinah Al-Rashid is a major character, a bi-polar personality. When she’s not cruising Harrods for her fix of consumerism, Zinah is recruiting vulnerable teenagers to join the Islamic State. And she does so by manipulating their need for attention.

When I grew up in the middle east, it was inconceivable any teenage girl would swop a Bardot hairdo for the burqa. But that’s no longer the case. And not just for younger women either.

The former rock star and singer Sinead O’Connor (Nothing Compares 2U) announced she had converted. She now calls herself Shuhada’ Davitt which means martyrs. In late October, the 51-year-old mother-of-four who was ordained as a Catholic priest in the 1990s, wrote: ‘This is to announce that I am proud to have become a Muslim.’ She then posted images of herself wearing a hijab and a video of her reciting the call to prayer.

Humans are naturally wired for attention. From our earliest childhood experiences to our ongoing well-being, we depend on being noticed by others to fulfil needs central to our survival and our mental health. In fact, many of our everyday actions are subconsciously driven by the desire to stand out.  It’s the opposite of being overlooked or invisible.

A study published last year, for example, reported that being ignored at work was even more damaging than being actively harassed.

Other research has found that societal exclusion “increases anger, depression, jealousy, and sadness,” while also compromising sleep quality and immune function.

As highly adaptable social creatures, we guard against isolation and neglect by seeking out attention from those around us. It’s a primal need.

But there’s also a syndrome now defined by the American Psychiatric Association known as histrionic personality disorder. It’s diagnosed four times as frequently in women as men, which will not please the feminist lobby.

As cited on Wikipedia, associated features of HPD include “egocentrism, self-indulgence, continuous longing for appreciation, and persistent manipulative behavior to achieve their own needs.”  It’s likely that the rise of online activity is fuelling this type of behaviour.

It’s a theme covered in The Missing Activist.

the Missing Activist by Louise Burfitt-Dons ISBN 9780953852284

Acid Attacks Rise in UK

Acid Attacks Rise in UK

Nala is a thirty something Somalian who is murdered in London while over at a conference raising awareness of acid attacks on women. Her compelling backstory is what brought her to the City. How her attacker had scarred her as a teenager because she’d backed out of an arranged marriage. ‘I always look over my shoulder. My life is in constant danger.’

‘Even as the innocent victim I was shunned. Not one person spoke to me or took my side. Not my friends, not my relatives. Not one.’

‘Because nobody wanted to know me anymore, I didn’t want to live. I stayed indoors for eight years. My attacker could leave his house. But not me. No, no. I was the prisoner.’

Her attacker returned to normal day-to-day life after just six weeks, married someone else and had a family.

“At this, a Somalian stepped up to the platform. Horrific acid scars had left her skin looking like parchment. She began before the applause had faded, drowning out her words.”
― Louise Burfitt-DonsThe Missing Activist

In fact Nala is a fictitious character from my political thriller The Missing Activist.  But there are many like her in real life.

Up until a few years ago the UK public assumed this type of crime was confined to parts of the world such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and India and mostly only acted out against women who said “No”.

But not any more.  The sentencing yesterday of 19 year old Zeneral Webster for the death of Joanne Rand has served to highlight the spike in cases here. An innocent bystander, it was likely the 47 year old care worker was caught in the way of a mugging attack while sitting on a park bench reflecting on the visit she’d just made to her daughter’s grave.

According to the Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI), the  UK now has one of the highest rates of acid attacks per capita in the world. The number of recorded incidents has increased nearly three-fold from 228  in 2012 to 601 in 2016. Last year 400 were reported in the six months to April 2017 alone. The difference here is intended targets. In the  UK most victims are men, whereas elsewhere it is  80 per cent against women.

According to Jaf Shah of ACTI, the organsation campaigning for tighter control on acid sales and a review of sentencing,  it can be stopped. ‘The UK does not have legislation specific to acid attacks.’

Are we missing action?

It is sad to see our once green and pleasant land scarred in this way.

James Harrington MP, FOBT and the Tory Rebels

James Harrington MP, FOBT and the Tory Rebels

Having worked in the casino business, the cause of his stress could be a betting thing. James served on a cross-party committee. The gambling lobby in Gibraltar wasn’t too thrilled about the Referendum result as it would mean the country would leave the EU. Most of their staff travelled in daily from Spain. So this crowd were giving James plenty of stick for his vote in favour of Brexit. But they’d talked about that often enough between them. Couldn’t be the gaming bunch.’

The above is from my book. James Harrington MP is a character in The Missing Activist and his wife Bea is trying to find the reason for his sudden moodiness and withdrawal from her.  The gambling lobby is a powerful set. It’s fiction. But in real life something similar is going on. The current row over Fixed Odds Betting.

Sports minister Tracey Crouch has just resigned over what she sees as a deliberate delay to bring forward a crackdown on maximum stakes for fixed-odds betting machines.

Gambling — whether it be the lottery, scratch cards, casino games, bingo, slot machines, Internet poker, or sports betting — is more acceptable and accessible than ever before. Dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling.

An FOBT is a touch-screen machine that allows players to bet on the outcome of various games such as roulette. They are said to be dangerously addictive and currently allow punters to stake up to £100 every 20 seconds – and theoretically gamble away £18,000 an hour. Campaigners and several MPs have been calling for ages for this limit to be reduced to £2. The Gambling Commission wanted it set to £30 (which allows punters to gamble £5,400 an hour). Their side of it is that it’s entertainment and terminals generate more than £1.8bn in tax revenue (which goes towards public services required to treat the fallout of the addictions which are in the minority.)

But what is the cross over between entering a competition on the back of a cereal box to win a free plastic beaker and a FOBT? Everything. Start with involvement, anticipation, expectation. A little gambling is a satisfying recreational activity. It feels good to win. Anything! Getting something in the department store you expect to pay full price for at an unexpected discount gives a thrill. It’s the same sensation as finding something you’ve lost for years, like a pair of leather gloves buried deep in an old coat pocket. This is because it involves the ventral striatum, located deep inside the brain, which has been termed the brain’s reward centre.

Ditto having a play on a slot machine and having it pay out. But the problem begins with repetition. There are only so many pairs of gloves or house keys to lose, but there are endless bets you can place. And so quickly.  FOBTs don’t produce an evening’s entertainment (like winning in a pub quiz over several hours). They strip you in seconds. (Where did that go?) Or the opposite. In minutes you can be loaded. Then the more times you win £10, the less buzz you get from it. Only £20 feels great.  So you increase the stakes. And then there’s the loss factor.  If you start to lose, that “high” won’t come back until you’ve got every bit of it back. And more some!  And on and on, so it goes. Soon you are numbing the reward processing centre that made you feel so good only minutes ago and now you feel nothing at all. Speed is the problem. It’s not surprising that for somewhat starts out as a five minute play can result in a serious psychiatric disorder.  And even suicide.

Nothing tests a politician like their views on issues like this and it is unsurprising conservative minister Tracy Crouch has earned an outpouring of public respect for her principled decision to step down from office.  For more on what happens to James Harrington MP, read The Missing Activist.

The Missing Activist published by New Century is available at bookshops and online. Price £9.99. Ebook £2.99.