I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
There are many things wrong with me, the top three being that I’m young, foolish and not as clever as I think I am. I have not posted for two days because I spent all of Saturday on a balcony somewhere in the depths of Haringey, being pumped full of dubious substances and ranting to anyone who would listen about how George Eliot was a disgrace to the revolution. I then spent all of Sunday sipping weak tea, watching Doctor Who, nursing a thoroughly deserved hangover and trying not to move my hands, as the sound of skin on blankets was upsetting me.
I am 21-and-almost-a-quarter years old. This sort of behaviour might not be clever, nor might it be setting me up for a glittering career in industry; it is, however, allowed, even expected, that young people in their early twenties do do thoroughly silly things from time to time. Drink too much, say, or take too many drugs; hurt themselves and other people through ignorance or cowardice or naivety or panic or sudden lust. In a fit of pique, one or two errant young things have even been known to vote Tory, although I’ve heard that you can now get pills for that on the NHS.
The point is that this sort of weird, destructive, fucked-up behaviour is not unexpected for bewildered, thrill-seeking young people in their early twenties. Really, deep down, most of us just want to look cool in front of our friends. Thankfully, most of us are also able to get away with a few indiscretions as we ramble our sticky, sordid way towards adulthood.
No such leniency for the Lyrical Terrorist, though. At the end of this week, Miss Samina Malik, 23, became the first woman to be convicted under the UK terrorism act. Malik had been working at a branch of WHSmiths at Heathrow airport, and spent her spare time writing really terrible poetry praising Osama Bin Laden, scribbling cryptic messages to herself on the backs of till receipts, and possessing a copy of the Al-Quaeda manual. At no point do any press releases give details of firm evidence that Malik is linked to any terrorist group whatsoever; she simply claims to have called herself ‘The Lyrical Terrorist’ because ‘it sounded cool’.
Malik remains under house arrest until her sentencing on the 6th of December.
Probablyblonde has pointed out, quite rightly, that Malik has been convicted for thoughtcrime, pure and simple. In the abscence of concrete underground activity or rebellion, merely the idea of such activities constitutes crime. Oh dear. Looking through my bookshelves, I possess the following seditious texts: The Scum Manifesto, by Valerie Solanas; Intercourse, by Andrea Dworkin; 1984, by George Orwell; The Female Man, by Janet Russ …and many more, actually. I’ve written some really shocking poetry in my time, too, mostly to a boy called Ian Waples who was two years older and had dreadlocks. Moreover, whilst bimbling around the house cleaning things, I can often be heard singing punk songs alarmingly out of tune (one of the many reasons I like punk: it’s forgiving to the anarchically passionate, yet musically average participant). Some of these songs even contain anti-establishment sentiment. I like folk music, my god – most folk songs are about rape, murder, rape-and-murder, or political insurrection. Do I have no shame? Does this mean that I, personally, am about to storm Dublin with a backpack full of nailbombs? Does owning ‘The Scum Manifesto’ make me a potential muderous man-killer, just drooling to aid and abet bio-terrorists in their ceasing struggle against our male overlords?
Of course it bloody well doesn’t. Why, then, is a naive, rather stupid, politically curious, quite possibly mentally disturbed young woman – probably dissatisfied with a boring job and with her disenfranchised status as an Islamic young woman of colour in the UK – now under house arrest? Why is she being convicted for possessing material ‘likely to be useful for a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’, when what’s really useful to people preparing terrorists acts are not volumes of childish dogma but, say, phone-numbers. Any contacts at all. Weapons, or materials for making weapons. All of these would constitute potential evidence of planned terrorist activity: the ramblings of an addled young woman with delusions of grandeur, scribbling on the back of a stationary receipt, are not.
That Malik is being treated in this way because she is Muslim, of Middle-Eastern origin and female, is not up for debate. What this young woman needs is some compassion, and perhaps a few days off work and a decent therapist to listen to her problems. What she’s got, however, is a slap-down conviction for nothing more than thoughtcrime, a conviction that will no doubt prevent her from securing decent employment for a significant period of her young life.
Something is deeply, deeply wrong here.