17 January 2008

Lyrical terrorism and arbitrary powers

In response to my post on Samina Malik, a reader commented as follows.

Samina Malik was arrested with Sohail Qureshi, a man who has since admitted to being a terrorist. Malik was employed at an airport before her arrest, during which time she gave Sohail Qureshi information regarding airport security. Samina Malik is not being persecuted, Samina Malik is not "potty" nor is Samina Malik a "loon", Samina Malik is a terrorist actively aiding those who plan to commit mass murder according to the transcendant tenets of Islam. There is no equivalence between Lionheart and Samina Malik inspite of Tony Bennets comments, Samina Malik is an aggressor and her ilk, according to the transcendant tenets of Islam, have victimised Lionheart. Part of this victimisation includes a kind of "lawyer Jihad" for repressive legislation contrary to free speech (i.e. the "Religious Hatred Bill").

Malik may or may not have intended to commit terrorist acts herself. It wasn't obvious from her trial. The additional information about her given in the BBC item linked to above seems circumstantial at best.

"The jury found her not guilty of possessing articles for terrorist purposes. But they did convict of the lesser terror charge of collecting articles 'likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism'."

I don't think we should have laws as vague as this. If we have to have a law relating to possession of literature at all, it should be very specific which items it's illegal to possess — like the Catholic Church's Index. Otherwise we are all dependent on the judgment of state officials as to whether something is "likely to be useful for preparing for terrorism".

I suppose the theory is: give the police and courts as much leeway as possible, so they can convict people who they 'really know' are guilty. Also known as arbitrary powers, as distinct from the rule of law. (See also here.)

Having written the above in response to the comment, I then came across an article (via Tim) which reminded me that the contemporary theme of increasing arbitrary powers is much wider than this. Indeed, it could be regarded as one of the key themes of mediocracy. "Society shall have the right to decide what it thinks best, unfettered by unnecessary restrictions on its behaviour designed purely to protect the individual."

In this latest instance of making the law more flexible and convenient for agents of the state, appeal judges are to stop taking into account that rules of procedure had been breached, if they are pretty sure that the accused is guilty.

Clause 42 of the criminal justice and immigration bill, which comes before the House of Lords next week, provides that appeal court judges must not rule that a conviction is unsafe if they think "there is no reasonable doubt about the appellant's guilt".

The government keeps chipping away at basic civil liberties and other protections. This process is not confined to the current incumbents but started with the last Conservative administration, though New Labour have adopted it with even greater enthusiasm than the Tories. A large state — i.e. one which takes up nearly half of total economic activity — will perhaps tend to move automatically in this direction. But the relentless dissemination of an ideology which (a) demands that 'we' arrange society in the way 'we' think best, and which (b) degrades the concept of the individual, clearly doesn't help.