A lot seems to have been said about the issue of whether Islam is beyond criticism. Whilst I sighed at the Reading University student who labelled up a pineapple as the Muslim prophet Muhammad, I also felt a little uncomfortable at the repercussions this could have if the wrong people became involved. We have seen what happens when the prophet (pbuh) is represented in a rather uncomplimentary fashion.Censorship and Islam are a wider issue, but when violence rears its head there are certain questions worth asking. One bugs me more than others: how can this country allow freedom of speech and still clamp down on terrorist organisations?
Since the outrageous attacks in London in July 2005, it is perhaps understandable that British governments have been jumpy about access to materials which could aid an aspiring terrorist.
I think back to the websites I used to browse, bored and sleepless at the turn of the century, which contained some Usenet posts attributed to the quasi-mythical Anarchist’s Cookbook. Some of these concerned long outdated methods of phone hacking and explosives making. Whatever information it contained is now lost on me. Not, I imagine, reclusive men in combat fatigues, living alone on the edge of woodland and skinning rabbits. Or those sad goofy thirty somethings who flirted with the idea of causing chaos during their misunderstood, anarchist youth. That I can picture those stale-sweat reeking individuals tells me that those documents were never really intended for any particular group. Contrary to popular belief, anarchism does not necessarily equate to pipe bombs and attacking fast food restaurants.
Being something of an atheist-agnostic observer of world affairs I have also seen two issues of an online magazine I didn’t realise – until today – was illegal to possess on British shores. I saw them mentioned and pictured on mainstream press websites, your honour. Daily bloody Mail.
The demons of lunatic-fundamentalist Islam so say use this publication – not the Mail! – to radicalise young British and American people to take up arms against the great Satans of western imperialism. At first I thought it was a spoof with some questionable English, but a rapid read of a few choice extracts revealed some sinister stuff. The morals of targeting civilians and what I took to be gun related advice before I decided I’d seen enough.
I am no fan of British foreign policy by any means, but the thought of some radical fundamentalist attempting to kill me and my children in the name of Allah is quite chilling. It is also unacceptable and one of the major reasons why I find Islam more challenging to accept than other religions. The fundies do more than deliberate. Some take arms against their sea of troubles.
Unlike those old Usenet discussion pages these articles in the fundamentalist publication were clearly targeted at a specific audience: aspiring jihadists. The London terror attacks made it only too clear how the threat posed by the fundamental elements of Islam can originates on these very shores. Abu Hamsa and company can rot in ADX Florence for all I care.
So, which is worse … the pipe bomb making instructions or the jihadist resource?
Despite my attempts to brand one source of weapons making advice as worse than the other, I am having a philosophical issue in doing so. In both it is clear that life is but a commodity. Whether censorship or criminalizing the possession of such literature is acceptable remains open to debate. This is what the authorities in Britain would like to be considered as forbidden knowledge.
Once upon a time I was totally against the censorship of what is available on the internet. Now, with my own children, I am left wondering whether we really need open access to such destructive material.