Two things have encouraged me this week.
I know that Obsolete isn't so sure about whether it's a cause for celebration. I can see that; and the fact is these lads were looking at stuff that I would probably find as unpleasant as the Daily Express, perhaps even more so. But did they intend to commit crimes? I don't think there was the evidence, and in a 'free' and 'liberal' 'democracy', that's the top and bottom of it.
No-one thinks I'm going to kill Muslims if I read the Daily Express - so why should Muslims be accused of wanting to kill me if they read extremist literature from another angle, simply because it's not called a newspaper?
It's the assumption of intent, in the absence of proof. We have free speech in this country, but it is only seemingly Muslims who are likely to commit crimes on the back of what they read and download; good old whites, it is assumed by the state and security services, are more intelligent and can read things without being corrupted by them. No-one thinks whites are going to burn down Mosques after reading lie upon lie upon lie about Muslims in the Daily Express; and it's true: I read the damned thing every day and the hate-filled anti-Muslim poison that has appeare over the past couple of years has only entrenched my pre-existing views still further.
(So if I don't believe the Express influences its readers in that way, why do I always bang on about it? My argument against the Express has always been that it is lies masquerading as investigation and journalism; if it wants to start a campaign against Muslims, then it should be open about it. If it wants to pretend to be a newspaper, it should do real news stuff. That means examining evidence and finding out the facts from the source material. The Mail, likewise, contends that it merely wants an 'open and honest debate' about immigration, while skewing statistics, ignoring conflicting evidence and reporting stuff from only one side: the side that happens to be against immigration and people of other cultures and backgrounds. It pretends to be presenting the cold, hard facts, but it isn't. It is not giving the full picture, all the while giving the impression it is struggling to be the only true source of news and that somehow the mythical 'PC Brigade' are stifling debate - as opposed to multi-million-pound corporations, all of whom are saying the same thing, managing to somehow doggedly find the facts. It's a bonkers worldview whereby the massively rich companies are claiming to be standing up for the little guy, yet in reality they are smearing minorities, who often don't have a strong voice in the media. They are pretending that whites, frequently middle-class whites (= 'taxpayers' in their view, the only real taxpayers, by implication, we're led to believe), are on the wrong end of hegemony. Is there a Muslim Daily Mail attacking white folk? Is there a Muslim Daily Express spreading lies about whites? No there isn't.)
Cor, that's a clumsy old paragraph, isn't it? Dreadful. But still. I'll press on as time is short today.
If I, for example, wanted to go to Pakistan, I wouldn't be bothered by the security services. No-one would give a monkey's about a middle-class white travelling over there. But if I have a Muslim name, if I'm a young man, and buy an airline ticket to Pakistan, little bells start ringing. Little flags go up. I start raising interest. The five students at the heart of this week's case were as aware of this as anyone; they considered how to get tickets without causing suspicion - this was used as a plank of the prosecution case, as if it showed they had something to hide.
But I'd have done the same if I were them. Would that be proof of guilt, or proof that Muslims are treated differently from other people in this country? Would it be proof of my intent to go to Pakistan, go to a training camp, come back to Britain and commit terrorist acts, or proof that I am afraid about racism and having red lights go up on my passport for the rest of my life every time I try and cross a border?
I fear that the anti-terror laws in use at the moment are increasing division in society. But what, you might argue, if British Muslim lads go over to Pakistan, come back and blow people up - what then? Wasn't it worth it stopping a few innocent people and giving a deterrent to others instead? Well, it is a difficult question, I know - the politicians say they take these difficult decisions on our behalf in the interests of national security. But I think what they do makes security less likely. Security doesn't mean putting people in jail for what they think or for what we're worried they might do, even if we have no evidence they're going to do it. Indeed, that is insecurity.
We do have freedom of speech, of a sort, and that must mean freedom of speech and thought for everyone, regardless of how unpleasant those speeches or thoughts might be, otherwise it is worthless. And that means freedom for Muslims not to have assumptions made about their intentions that wouldn't be made about non-Muslims. To accept that attitude in our crime and justice system - detention without trial, surveillance, monitoring of communications, bugging of MPs and people in jail, thought crimes... all are aimed at one group of people. You have to ask yourself why, and what that says about the state's attitude towards its citizens.
So, a glimmer of hope against that attitude with this week's legal decision. The judiciary are clearly not as gung-ho as politicians about convicting on the basis of assumed intent rather than proof.
The second glimmer: the joyous face of Lotfi Raissi as he emerged triumphant from the Court of Appeal this week. Again, the assumption of guilt, the assumption of intent, the assumption that because he ticked a few ethnic boxes that he must be guilty - that's what put Raissi in trouble, along with the usual duff 'intelligence' we've come to expect from Team Taxpayer at MI5.
And still, no apology despite the smears. No 'we got the wrong man'. The implication, then, is that there wasn't enough evidence, but there was some. But I say there was no evidence, just rubbish intelligence based on a racist profiling, and that Raissi has been vindicated. If there is evidence, let it be shown and let us see it. Do whatever you must do in the name of 'security' to conceal the shortcomings of the security services and protect their identities. But either put up or shut up.
I'll leave the last word to Raissi, whose internment, while not on the scale of the Guantanamo inmates, is still a disgrace on this country. I find it rather moving.
"I have tremendous respect for this country, for the people here and for this society... and I have no regrets living here or living the rest of my life here."
What dignity. What decency. Towards a country whose leaders have shown him none.
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