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The 28 days debate is a red herring compared to this attack on free speech

Samina Malik may be cretinous, but shouldn’t be criminalised

21 November 2007

12:00 AM

21 November 2007

12:00 AM

Samina Malik may be cretinous, but shouldn’t be criminalised

Eeny meeny miny mo
Catch a kafir by the toe,
If he hollers, chop his head off,
And put the video on YouTube.

I’d better be quick, because I assume the Old Bill will be around any moment now. The little verse quoted above is my poetry debut for The Spectator and before you point out its many deficiencies of feet, metre, scansion, rhyme — not to mention its strictly limited breadth, semantically speaking — let me assure you it was intended as a pastiche. You shouldn’t take it at face value. With any luck, that will get me off the incitement to racial and religious hatred charges and also the solicitation of murder rap. It is a pastiche of the work of Samina Malik, the self-styled ‘Lyrical Terrorist’, who will be sentenced for her own poetical works on 6 December, having already been convicted by a British court. My verse is a sort of tribute to her, in a way — it’s a long time since we’ve banged someone up for writing a poem or two. The Americans tried to convict Ezra Pound and we incarcerated Oscar Wilde, of course. But in both of those cases it was for stuff they did in their spare time, when they weren’t writing poetry, i.e. treason and sodomising men respectively. So — Richard Lovelace, back in 1648, perhaps? But that was for a pro-royalist petition, rather than one of his vainglorious, starch-panted, gung-ho ballads. Stone walls do not a prison make? Well, they did an OK job in your case, mate.

Anyway, Malik was convicted because of her poems. Nothing else.


I think I’ve given a pretty good indication of the flavour of Samina Malik’s oeuvre, and indeed her ability. She writes about beheadings and waging war on the infidel, etc. She uses words like ‘cool’ a lot, usually in conjunction with words like ‘jihad’. Osama bin Laden, for example, is cool. She is an air-head. More than that, everything I’ve read about this 23-year-old woman from Southall suggests to me that she is an impressionable and objectionable cretin who harbours an intense dislike of the country in which she lives, allied to a sort of teenybopper fadulation, to coin a phrase, for the Islamic terrorists she has seen on videos. She used to work in the air-side branch of WH Smith’s at Heathrow; this will not come as a huge surprise — everyone who works at Heathrow seems infected with a gangrenous misanthropy. That’s why there are so many signs around begging the public not to hit them.

Malik was ‘caught’ because police found an email she’d sent to someone else they were investigating — just a typically air-headed piece of nonsense. It was the poems, the witless doggerel, for which she was convicted — on terrorism charges. According to the prosecution counsel, Jonathan Sharp, she was ‘devoted to Islamic extremism’ — and the poems proved it. And that’s it. Banged up. In terms of actions — she had done nothing whatsoever. ‘I didn’t think anyone would take me seriously,’ she told the court, in tears. And there’s no evidence that anyone did, apart from the Crown Prosecution Service.

What is quite remarkable about this whole business is the complete and utter lack of outrage which greeted the decision to prosecute Malik and the verdict. No outrage from anywhere — least of all the areas from which you might most expect it. The good old liberal Guardian sneered that she’d sort of got her comeuppance — send the ‘ho’ down. This is the newspaper which can employ the pompous IRA apologist (well, in truth, he hasn’t apologised that much) Ronan Bennett to spend 2,000 words eviscerating Martin Amis for his supposed ‘racism’ in attacking Muslims — but when a real and grotesque breach of civil liberties occurs in the courts — the brutal Bruddish courts, remember — the paper cheers from the sidelines. What a desperately confused little rag it has become. In its support for ‘mainstream’ Islam, whatever that might be (nobody seems able to define it; I don’t think it exists, as such), the Guardian and most white liberals feel compelled to join in the co-ordinated state persecution of anyone who might give Islam a ‘bad name’. And if that involves sending them to prison for having written a stupid poem, then so be it. In this they are supported by some of the ‘mainstream’ Muslim organisations, for reasons of self-evident self-interest.

There is great unease in liberal circles about the supposed need of the police to detain potential terror suspects for more than 28 days; this is the issue around which radicals coalesce, considering it an infringement of civil liberties, a step too far. They may well be right: I am not sure. I can see perfectly fine arguments on both sides of the debate. But an extension to the 28 days regimen is so obviously, palpably, less iniquitous and undemocratic than what is presently happening, week after week, to Muslims under the various new ‘incitement’ and ‘soliciting’ laws. The 28 days debate seems, by comparison, to be little more than a red herring.

Samina Malik’s case is perhaps the most absurd to have come before the courts, but it is far from being the only example. Mizanur Rahman and Umran Javed were sentenced to six years in prison for the usual horrible stuff they said during a rally, or for placards they were holding. Imagine that: a British court sentencing someone to six years in prison for shouting things, or for having them written down on a piece of cardboard. Again — no outcry, just a statement from the Muslim Labour MP Shahid Malik stating how absolutely delighted he was at the verdict and sentence. Or there’s our old friend Sheikh Abu Hamza — Captain Hook, old Hookie — incarcerated in Belmarsh, again, for things he said rather than things he has done. Now, let me be clear — if Hamza, Rahman, Javed, Malik and so on can be tied to some direct involvement in terrorism, then lock them up for life, or deport them, whatever fits the bill. But they haven’t. They’ve just said stuff. ‘I didn’t mean “bomb America” literally,’ Mizanur Rahman said during his case, ‘and I’m sorry I said it at all.’

You might be thinking to yourself: it’s a good job the Old Bill haven’t got around to checking on my more inflammatory emails, especially the one I wrote about Graham Norton the other day. Or overheard me explaining the fate I would wish to befall Patricia Hewitt. But you shouldn’t worry too much — and I shouldn’t worry, either, about that verse at the top of the page. These incitement laws are unique in British law — they are person-specific: they only count against you if you are a Muslim. Or maybe a member of the British National Party. On my bookshelves are countless incendiary tirades by Marxists and Fascists, revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries — but I am not about to be charged for possessing them and the writers, those still alive, will not be charged for having written them. These laws apply only to Muslims who diverge from the government’s view (the government being, of course, Koranic experts) of what is ‘good’ or ‘mainstream’ Islam. And that is why Hizb ut-Tahrir — a peaceable but somewhat, uh, right-wing organisation which wishes to see the green flag of Islam raised above Westminster Hall, etc — may soon be a proscribed organisation.

If you decide to enact legislation (supported all the while by ‘mainstream’ Muslim organisations and the liberal Left) to force us all to respect Islam, then the banging up of Samina Malik follows as surely as night follows day. Because the government has been forced into the untenable position of having to decide what Islam actually is and therefore, by process of elimination, what it is not. In effect, it tied itself to forcing us to respect only the tenets of that religion which it approved of — when it
should have asked of us merely to respect the right of everybody, Muslim or non-Muslim, to believe what the hell they liked.

I’m sure that Samina Malik is — like Hamza and the rest — an unpleasant human being. But there’s a crucial point at issue here. If our conflict with Islam is a battle of ideas, as Tony Blair once said it was, then we have to dredge through our memories to discover what our idea actually is. And, when you boil it down, it’s not much more than a belief in individual liberty, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech — that rather ectoplasmic sort of thing. And so every time we jail a Samina Malik for writing a horrible poem, we chip away at the very principle which sustains us. So, on 6 December, be outraged for Samina. She’s an objectionable cretin — but let her have her say.


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