Friday, November 09, 2007

Fantasy or reality?

A Heathrow shop assistant who dubbed herself the "Lyrical Terrorist" has became the first Muslim woman in Britain to be found guilty of terrorism offences. Samina Malik, who worked air-side for WH Smith, posted a series of poems on websites across the internet about killing non-believers, pursuing martyrdom and raising children to be holy fighters.

She burst into tears in the dock at the Old Bailey as a jury found her guilty of possessing records likely to be used for terrorism by a majority of 10 to one. Police were alerted after finding an email from her on another person’s computer.

She started writing love poetry while at Villiers High School in Southall, Middlesex and in early 2002 began writing "rap poems" in the style of US rappers Tupac Shakur and 50 Cent, using the name Lyrical Babe. In 2004 she became more interested in religion and started wearing a hijab, changing her writing name from Lyrical Babe to Lyrical Terrorist because she thought it was "cool."

... The jury was out deliberating for 19 hours in this case yesterday. The comments on the Daily Mail website are what you would expect from Daily Mail readers. This real life trial links in nicely with the drama I watched on television the other week called Britz on Channel 4.

The television drama was good entertainment, you could poke holes in the story but it dealt sympathetically with the issues involved. This was a work of fiction and the television company was not taken to court. The programme included jihad and terrorist training, you could make a case for it to be considered impressionable to Muslims. Thankfully we have a right to the freedom of expression in this country and programmes of that type can be made and broadcast.

Is Samina Malik really a terrorist or simply somebody writing as a hobby? All she has done is write some poetry and downloaded some material from the internet. I write this blog and I will download and read material from the internet - this does not make me a terrorist. It should never be a crime to read and write and we all should have the right to freedom of expression. The internet is there and we should all be allowed to view whatever material we wish in the privacy of our own homes. There is no harm in that if we live in a free society.

To give Samina Malik a custodial sentence for reading and writing is silly. To give Samina Malik a custodial sentence for having a fantasy life at home writing poems on the internet is an over-reaction. Young people can have fantasy lives where they imagine they are super heroes, rebels, celebrities, even poets. This does not make them terrorists. Look at the hoards of people auditioning for television shows like the X Factor, these are innocent people voicing there fantasies. They will not become major musical recording artists but cause society no harm or threats. There are even 49 year olds who fantasize about being a journalist and simply write a blog. All these people do not become martyrs and blow themselves up. Was the Terrorism Act 2000 designed to protect us from terrorists, or is it to restrict free speech and to frighten everyone? Who will be the next target of this law because Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command warned "Merely possessing this material is a serious criminal offence."

There is a big difference between fantasy and reality. One is made of dreams and even poems, the other ends in a big bang. Do not confuse the two.
Hi Stephen,

On Clattery MacHinery on Poetry, there is a call for poetic license, for freedom:

World Samina Malik Day December 6th

Join the campaing
Thanks for the link Rus, I was surprised at how much interest this story has generated amongst bloggers and that my blog was listed by a poetry blogger.

Thanks for the links Pakinam to the campaign blog and the petition. I hope the petition helps and I am the 396th person to sign.

Government is supposed to protect it's citizens not frighten people into silence.
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