14 February 2008

Illegality of ideas

Appeal judges clear Muslims of terror charges

Britain's overzealous terror laws have been in the news again. Unlike last time people are getting out of jail rather than being put in.

Five young Muslim men yesterday had their terrorism convictions quashed after judges concluded that reading Islamist material was not illegal unless there was "direct" proof it was to be used to inspire violent extremism.
They were prosecuted under section 57 of the Terrorism act 2000, which makes it an offence to have books or items useful for a terrorist. Striking down the convictions, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips said: "[Section 57] must be interpreted in a way that requires a direct connection between the object possessed and the act of terrorism."

This position is closer to what I was talking about when I discussed the case of Samina Malik. The ideas, the information, is not what should be illegal; it is the action that should be illegal. What is strange is what one of the defendant's lawyers said.

Malik's solicitor, Saghir Hussein, said: "The judgment means there must be a direct connection between possession [of material] and acts of terrorism. A book about how to make bombs would come under section 57, not a book that contains ideological material. It's just like reading Mein Kampf does not make you a Nazi."

A book with bomb directions would be illegal? A bomb isn't hard, its all about making pressure in a confined space that breaks when the pressure reaches a certain point. The concept isn't hard, but successful construction without premature explosion or arrest is the hard part. Making it is the hard part, as it should be.

Maybe there is something in British culture that I'm missing. There is probably something about there experience with terrorism as practiced by the IRA that is coloring this. There may be a larger percentage of the population that could be described as radical Islamicist. I'm not sure, but I know that I don't like the idea that possesion of knowledge is a punishable offence.

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