Omar Khayam (protester)
Omar Khayam (born Bedford, 1983) is a British Muslim and convicted drug dealer who achieved a considerable degree of notoriety following a protest in which he dressed like a suicide bomber. In February 2006 he attended protests in London against the Muhammad cartoons.
Khayam was brought up in the Bedford area of Bedfordshire, which is home to a small number of Asian descendants, as well as a few other ethnic minorities. The area has a "growing" drugs and gangs problem and when Khayam was 16 he was charged with throwing 2oz bag of crack cocaine from a car window to try to avoid detection from the pursuing police. He got eight years in 2002 for possession of a class A drug with intent to supply and a fine for having a small amount of heroin, but his sentence was cut to five-and-a-half years on appeal. He was released on parole in 2005, having served half of his sentence. According to a report in the Daily Mirror, he had been a significant local drug dealer in Bedford, known on the street as Skinner. The report stated that he became increasingly radicalised in prison, mixing with extremist Islamists, and promising to sell drugs to aid their cause
In 2006 the Danish Muhammad cartoons were republished in many newspapers across Europe. Of them, Khayam said "I found the pictures deeply offensive as a Muslim and I felt the Danish newspaper had been provocative and controversial, deeply offensive and insensitive."
In response, at a protest over their publication, Khayam dressed in the style of a suicide bomber. Although there were no direct disturbances or arrest as a result of his outfit, photographs of Khayam became public after the event. As this was less than a year after the lethal 7 July 2005 London bombings, his actions were prominently featured in news reports, such as on the front page of The Sun which expressed outrage against his protest endorsing the deaths in London.
When newspapers traced his whereabouts, he initially refused to apologise, saying his protest was justifiable. However, he later appeared publicly alongside his local Labour MP of the time Patrick Hall to apologise, declaring his actions "wrong, unjustified and insensitive", adding "by me dressing the way I did, I did just that, exactly the same as the Danish newspaper, if not worse. My method of protest has offended many people, especially the families of the victims of the July bombings. This was not my intention." Hall said "He acted on impulse - couple of friends, they got on the train and got to London, and I believe this was an impulsive, foolish reaction to what he saw was the offence of the publication of those cartoons."
On 7 February 2006, following heavy publicity, he was arrested by Bedfordshire Police and returned to prison for unspecified parole violations. His arrest for parole violation was at the direct request of the Home Office in the wake of these news reports, although it is not known if it was directly related to his protest activity. Following his release, more controversy followed Omar Khayam after his appointment as a train cleaner for First Capital Connect in Cambridge, UK.
- Building a Safer South Bedfordshire - South Beds Community Safety Partnership
- Mock suicide bomber back in jail for breaching parole - The Guardian - February 8, 2006
- The Mirror.
- Protester is returned to prison - BBC News. Tuesday, 7 February 2006
- The Sun
- 'Suicide bomber' protester apologises - The Guardian - February 6, 2006
- The Times
- Cambridge News: Train job for bomb stunt man. February 17, 2007.