The Lyrical Terrorist
I am an antichrist I am an anarchist Don't know what I want but I know how to get it I wanna destroy the passer by cos i I wanna be anarchy! No dogsbody Anarchy for the u.k its coming sometime and maybe I give a wrong time stop a traffic line Your future dream is a shopping scheme cos i I wanna be anarchy ! In the city How many ways to get what you want I use the best I use the rest I use the enemy I use anarchy cos i I wanna be anarchy ! The only way to be ! Is this the M.P.L.A? Or is this the U.D.A? Or is this the I.R.A? I thought it was the U.K or just Another country Another council tenancy I wanna be an anarchist Oh what a name! Get pissed destroy !
( Lyrics to 'Anarchy in the UK' by the Sex Pistols, which reached number 28 in the charts in 1976.)
Hot on the heels of 'Britz', a drama about 2 British Muslim siblings, (rather an extraordinary tale - brother works for M15, sister becomes a suicide bomber, ) comes the strange story of the ''Lyrical Terrorist' ( BBC) .
Samina Malick, a 23 year old British woman who worked in WH Smiths at Heathrow is the first woman in the UK to be convicted under the Terrorism Act, being found guilty of 'owning terrorist manuals'.
She was earlier found NOT guilty of a violation of Article 57 of the Terrorism Act, which states:
A person commits an offence if he possesses an article in circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion that his possession is for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.
She was found guilty of a violation of Article 58 of the Terrorism Act:
Under that provision, a person is guilty if:
(a) he collects or makes a record of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or
(b) he possesses a document or record containing information of that kind.
So what do we know about young Samina?
According to the various reports, police found an ''extensive library'' of extremist material in her bedroom (where else?) including The Al-Qa'eda Manual and the Mujuhideen Poisons handbook, a sniper rifle manual, a firearms manual, and one on anti-tank weaponry, a document entitled How To Win Hand To Hand Fighting, and pictures of weapons, plus bomb-making manuals.
The court also heard she had written on the back of a WH Smith till receipt: "The desire within me increases every day to go for martyrdom." ( BBC).
Meanwhile the Mail says that she was ''a member of an extremist group linked to Omar Bakri Mohammed, a hate preacher who fled to Lebanon from Britain two years ago''. The Telegraph names this as ''Jihad Way''. The Mail reports that police traced her because an email from her was found on the computer of a ''terror suspect'' in October last year. On examination of her profile on hi-5, a social networking site, she was found to have called for the execution of ''depraved'' non-Muslims, and listed her interests as ''helping the Mujahideen in any way I can''. Under favourite TV shows, it said: "Watching videos by my Muslim brothers in Iraq, yep the beheading ones, watching video messages by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri [his deputy] and other videos which show massacres of the kaffirs." She referred to herself on websites as ''Stranger Awaiting Martyrdom'' and as ''Lyrical Terrorist''
So Samina is under house arrest awaiting sentence - interestingly, she wasn't remanded in custody.
When she was found guilty, she burst into tears and cried and cried. (So did two jurors.) Her mum, who doesn't wear a hijab, and was decribed as ''distraught'' sat in court watching her daughter and I wonder what she thought of it all, as she bit her lip.
This is the bit that resonates with me ( from the Telegraph )
Malik claimed she was only writing poetry for "fame and recognition" and to show off to men she hoped to marry.
In her defence, her lawyers claimed her poetry was no worse than the First World War poetry of Wilfred Owen.There are many things about this case which disturb me ( besides the appalling comparison of Owen's devastating poetry with Samina's ghastly scrawls). I think there are a great many Saminas in this country. In suburban bedrooms all over the UK, young men and women of all ages and religions and colours and shapes and sizes are writing bad poetry, listening to horrible lyrics, wearing black clothes, keeping diaries about how they hate the world and nobody understands, slamming the door and not coming down to eat their tea on time.
Things were ever thus.
What you have now though is the internet, and what was once scribbled in diaries and whispered in conversations with other disaffected suburban teenagers at the bus stop is now published and shared at the speed of thought. And you never know who is reading it, and what they will do when they read.
And what starts off as disaffected mutterings and rebellious posturings can escalate faster than it takes to write a self-pitying mis-spelled rant about running away to join the Foreign Legion/a jihadi training camp/some new age travellers, and who knows where you'll end up a few months later?
Perhaps you'll find yourself in trouble with your Mum after getting admiring emails from mysterious boys who think you are indeed, ''cool''. Perhaps you'll find yourself in someone's living room, getting instructions about flying to Pakistan to learn how to make detonators. Maybe you'll find yourself buying a lot of fertiliser to put in storage until the call comes through. Or weeping in a court room whilst journalists make notes about your glittery hijab and your tight jeans and your running mascara.
You just don't know, kids.
From the Telegraph again
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 trouble we have is that, silly as Samina in the dock may seem, you do not need to be especially clever or calculating to be useful to the terrorist cause. You need to be idealistic, angry, passionate, reckless, committed, useless at long-term thinking - and gullible and easily manipulated.
There are lots of people who fall into that category. (In fact, if you don't fall under that description at some stage between the ages of fifteen and twenty five, you're probably something of an odd fish, and may well grow up to be a professional politician.)
But, and this is the problem:
Germaine Lindsey, who killed 26 people on the Piccadilly line train carriage was only 19 when he died. Hasib Hussein, whose bomb killed 13 people on the No.30 bus was 18. Germaine was a teenage convert. Everything I have read indicates that an angry fatherless fifteen year old from Jamaica who was sporty and popular at school in his early teens later found meaning in an extremist, toxic cause that led him away from his school friends - and also led him away from the Mosques and local Muslim community life in the streets around him. He got sucked in, his wife said his mind was ''poisoned'' by ''radicals''.
People like Germaine make useful foot-soldiers for other people's causes. And how many angry young men and women are there now? How many people willing to turn nihilistic teenage rage into something deadlier? How easy are they to reach, to trick, to hold, to turn?
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, said: "Malik held violent extremist views which she shared with other like-minded people over the internet. She also tried to donate money to a terrorist group.
"She had the ideology, ability and determination to access and download material, which could have been useful to terrorists. Merely possessing this material is a serious criminal offence."
The Law says that a defendant may demonstrate a good excuse for possessing such materials, but Samina did not have a good enough excuse. Just a ''reasonable suspicion'' that you posses an article that could be used to ''instigate'' an act of terrorism is enough to get you convicted. A reasonable suspicion. How wide a net do you need? Even the US Patriot Act does not go that far.
Samina did not own any bombs, or guns, or quantities of fertiliser or peroxide, or detonators. She owned literature, and she wrote obnoxious lyrics and she seems to me to be as star-struck as the young girls and boys who wish they were ''with the band'', and who write letters and poetry expressing their admiration for the gangster rap thug, the death-metal anti-hero, the groupie-slapping rock star. If you can't drink, or smoke, or get a tattoo, or stay out late at gigs and hang about in trashy bars, then how do you express your rebellion? Samina wore a hijab, when her mother didn't. Samina wrote truly awful poetry. Samina, the shop girl, bored in WH Smiths beeping endless stuff through the tills to the endless airport crowds, then back home in her suburban bedroom, hoped to meet radical boys who thought she was ''cool''. Samina is the first woman to be convicted under the Terrorism Act.
''The book, in many respects, was a misguided product of my adolescent anger at the prospect of being drafted and sent to Vietnam to fight in a war that I did not believe in."
Meanwhile, dodgy lyrics are not hard to find, nor to write. Here's some...
I Am Hated lyrics
The whole world is my enemy - and I'm a walking target
Two times the devil with all the significance
Dragged and raped for the love of a mob
I can't stay - because I can't be stopped
Eat motherf*ckers alive who cross us
I know you're all tired of the same ol' bosses
Let me tell you how it's gonna be
I'm gonna kill anyone who steps up in front of me
Welcome to the same ol' f*cking scam
Same ol' sh*t in a dead fad
Everybody wants to be so hard
Are you real or a second rate sports card?
They all lost their dad or their wife just died
They never got to go outside - SHUT UP
Nobody gives a f*ck
it doesn't change the fact that you suck
(We are) The anti-cancer
(We are) The only answer
Stripped down, we want you dead
But what's inside of me, you'll never know
That's from Slipknot, a widely-mocked ''deathmetal'' band of white men in their thirties who wear ludicrous horror-masks, whose fanbase at its height a few years ago comprised millions of mainly white, middle-class suburban teenagers in Europe and America, boys and girls, with an average age of 13/14 years old. (They were even featured in Smash Hits.)
Now imagine those lyrics were written and performed by a young Muslim band.
If you want to make young Shamina, 23, into a martyr it's still probably easier to make her into a martyr for free speech than any other kind of martyr and I am sure there will be those who clutch her to their bosoms and do just that. Whether they would do the same if she was espousing neo-Nazi views and writing 'kill niggaz' poetry is debatable. ( What surprised me, actually, when I read some extremist Islamist literature is how paranoid, how anti-semitic and how racist and hateful it is - it really isn't much different to neo Nazi ravings and if more of it was freely published then people might see what a load of vile old bilge it is and not remotely ''cool'' at all).
Samina's views as expressed in her ''bad girl'' poetry about beheading are of course, repellent, and whether she adopted them to look cool, or to interest boys, or whether she really was capable of going through with ''martyrdom'', (highly unlikely in my opinion) they are still just that at the moment - obnoxious personal views. Views I expect she might well have grown out of, and still might, if she is not encouraged to view herself as a victim of a ''racist'' or ''Islamophobic'' State.
Unlike the 7/7 bombers, or the Crevice failed bombers, or the 21/7 failed bombers, she hadn't been to training camps, or bought explosives, or even got to ''attack-planning'' stage. She is, and was, what looks like a silly attention-seeker, getting into some nasty stuff on the internet. But the stuff she chose to write about was extra-sensitive, and extra-inflammatory, in these butt-clenchingly tense days, and so it brought about this prosecution under the Terrorism Act.
Whether thousands of bedroom gangstaz, wannabe hardnuts and lyrical criminalz are trembling in their trainers today as a result of Samina's foray into the world of hate-poems and extremist literature, I can't say. I doubt they'll even notice the news of her conviction. Whether this has put off anyone who genuinely dreams of blowing themselves into bits on a bus also seems unlikely. But there's political capital to be made out of this case and I'm waiting for the T shirts to go on sale.
I think there is a danger that this court case will become yet another episode in ''Young Muslims are Victimised'' litany of complaints, and when hundreds of thousands of young people indulge themselves daily with incendiary online witterings and peruse and download banned literature, yet remain unmolested by the State for it, those who talk of a particular, State-sanctioned unfair victimisation of young Muslims have a point. Again.
If you're worried about your mate, who's spending all his or her time on radical websites and is writing furious poetry about death and maiming, and who is talking darkly about ''meeting some guys in Pakistan who know the score'' are you more or less likely to tip off the police today, knowing what happened to Shamina?
Have we just made things a little bit worse with this prosecution? I rather think we might have done.
I am not in favour of heavy laws and sledgehammers being used to crack nuts. I am not in favour of 28+ days detention without charge. I have not yet seen anything to convince me that it will help with defeating terrorism, particularly with gathering intelligence.
I think an independent inquiry into the work of the security services and anti-terrorism police, and some accountability, and owning up to mistakes made, and a better, shared intelligence-led approach from a revitalised, more open security services who have won back peoples' trust, and who can be relied to act on leads without locking innocent people up for weeks without charge will do more to stop the angry ravings of the next Shamina, by helping to give the lie to the charge of victimisation.
Showing that the threat is real, but containable, and what the ideology of those preaching extremist jihad is really about, being more honest about the nature and background of the terrorist threat and not crimialising whole communities, or even misguided young idiots with unfair and heavy handed lawmaking and prosecutions would be better, and safer, I think, than where we are currently heading.
There is enough rage out there already. As Queen Elizabeth I knew, governing whilst carefully treading a tightrope of murderous religious fanaticism and febrile extremist domestic and foreign politics, it is better not to make ''windows into men's souls''. Better to look at acts, than opinions, and to remember that it is by their fruits, their actions, rather than their words, (and their dire poetry) do you truly know men.