Were you ever a Punk Rocker when you were younger? Headbanger? New Romantic? Hippy? Skinhead? Did you ever dye your hair an odd colour, or cut or grow it in a non-conventional way? Did you ever have a piercing in some place other than your ear? Did you ever experiment with an illegal drug, or drink alcohol underage?
Did you ever feel alienated from the mainstream? Did you ever find that embracing a dress code or music style or language that your parents and the elder generation would have disapproved of, actually empowered you? Did you ever get a thrill out of shocking people by being/ dressing/ behaving/ saying something outrageous?
Did you ever get together with other people who dressed like you, or listened to your music, or shared your religious or political outlook, and slag off the rest of the world and sneer at the brainwashed masses who were too stupid to question their conventionality, because they just didn’t “get it”?
When I was a teenager, I felt like an outsider; I grew my hair long and wore a leather jacket; I listened to Motorhead, ACDC and anything with screaming guitars; I first drank alcohol in a nightclub 2 weeks before my 14th birthday; in my later teens and early 20s I experimented with substances of questionable legality; I also went on to read many books that questioned society and even the fabric of the universe.
Here in the UK, Samina Malik at the age of 23 has become the first woman in the UK to be convicted under the Terrorism Act, being found guilty of owning terrorist manuals.
The jury heard Malik had written extremist poems praising Osama Bin Laden, supporting martyrdom and discussing beheading... She had posted her poems on websites under the screen name the Lyrical Terrorist, prosecutors said.
Did she blow anything up? No.
Did the police find her with a stack of bombs ready to strap around herself? No.
Did they find her with any bomb making equipment? No.
She was convicted of having articles "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism".
Given that what we’re really talking about here is someone who is young, feels alienated by her culture, writes obnoxious poetry, has visited and downloaded stuff from a few dodgy websites, and thought that a name like The Lyrical Terrorist “sounded cool” what we’ve really got is a profile that would fit half the people who’ve ever been a teenager.
Don’t get me wrong, I completely and utterly disagree with her sentiments, but if she hasn’t actually committed a crime then she has been convicted for her thoughts and what she has read, and that sounds like an horrific abuse of the Justice system to me.
Was she a suicide bomber waiting to happen? Does your typical terrorist come across as a disaffected youth who likes to post poetry on the Web?
I usually steer clear of politics on this blog, but this case has deeply unsettled me.
Maybe it’s enhanced by the fact that I recently read George Orwell’s 1984, but this has all the classic marks of the Thought Police.