The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Guilty of writing dodgy poetry

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.


Royal Pine said...

What are the laws regarding speech in England? The internet is full of trash talk. Are they trying to make an example of her?

Zazzy said...

We've been down this road before with the communist witch hunts of the McCarthy era. One of the differences is that we didn't have the internet on which to shout our dissident opinions. Young people, questioning the values of their parents and governments should be encouraged - but we have so much fear, again, that it seems safer to give up our rights to free thought and free speech in order to "protect" ourselves.

The Hangar Queen said...

Double Plus Ungood

savannah said...

makes sense...go after a 23 yr old bad poetry writing kid on the internet...get the easy know, that way it clears the path to the big guys...LIKE THE REAL TERRORISTS!

btw, love how you labeled this post, sugar, welcome to our brave new world!

Anonymous said...

it was terrible to see this.

and for the record i used to be a happy monday sort

Apex Zombie said...

NZ just got a new "anti-terrorism" act that's similar to the U.S.'s patriot act. I suspect something similar to what you're talking about will be coming to NZ sometime soon. It's a bloody shame.

Unknown said...

It is very worrying. I do blog about politics and have written about how frightening I find the current erosion of our rights and liberties. Sadly, too many people think this is an issue that doesn't apply to them because they aren't a part of the communities which are being targeted. The trouble is these laws do apply to everyone, and if we give up certain rights to protect ourselves from one form of danger we put ourselves at risk of something much worse.

Ironically, back when I was a teenager I was convinced Thatcher was a fascist, with hindsight she was a liberal compared to our current government.

Pat said...

The most terrifying thing to me is that young man shot dead whilst he was virtually in custody and no-one - apparently - is to blame.
ID cards soon. Orwell's Big Brother is alive and well and living in Britain.
In my youth I drank cider, wore a red tie at speech day and always felt out of the loop. When my younger son was a teenager he was stopped by the police because he was wearing an afghan coat given to him by his suspect mother.

Kim Ayres said...

Royal Pine - welcome to my ramblings and thank you for taking the time to comment.

Apparently the laws of free speech are considerably less than they used to be.

Zazzy - when you look throughout history and even across the world today, riots, rebellions and terrorism occur more frequently in countries where the laws are stricter and more draconian. We seem to be moving in that direction.

Hanger Queen - precisely!

Savannah - I was a bit concerned that after I posted this entry, every time I tried to access it on the computer, my Internet connection failed. Hopefully it was just a coincidence...

Michael - and you were still allowed to walk the streets?

FLG - of course, NZ is known as a worldwide hotbed of terrorism... er, isn't it?

Kate - it's amazing just how much our notions of both left and right wing have shifted so much farther to the right

Pat - I'm incensed at the lack of opposition to ID cards. A handful of MPs are muttering about it being a waste of taxpayers money and virtually no one is talking about the massive erosion of civil liberties.

I do my best to avoid becoming a grumpy old man, ranting impotently against an unjust world, but this one provokes large amounts of teeth gnashing.

Charlie said...

Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death.

Orwells world is alive and well.

Tom said...

Sounds a bit like the premise of The Minority Report.

When does interest become intent? Because she was interested in radical propaganda probably does not necessarily mean there was intent toward action on her part.

I'd have a hard time convicting based on what I read in the newspaper.

I think I'd be more concerned about people who listen to Motorhead...

Eryl Shields said...

Good on you for this post Kim. What's happening to us? We seem to be mad with fear.

Stella said...

Hmmm, Orwells 1984, scary stuff.

Dr Maroon said...

If like me, you own the 26 gigantic Morocco bound volumes (including index and atlas) of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, you may be interested to know that it tells you in minute detail how to make explosives, detonate them, make solid rocket fuel, nozzle design, poisons and their physiological effects, how to extract the toxin from plants chemicals etc., how to undermine shaky economies, the roots and objectives and credo of the islamic faith, the evolution of middle eastern boundaries, you name it it's all there, everything. I have probably broken the law by pointing this out to your worldwide readership.

Oh me miserum. My gas meter will be read now, (again) Men will come to "sort" the telephone, little knowing that THEY are the threat, not the crackpot religionists who believe in murder to spread peace and harmony.

Kim Ayres said...

Charlie - I find it hard to disagree

Tom - personally I think soccer fans are a much bigger threat to society...

Eryl - well depending on which conspiracy theory you prefer, one that I've always favoured is that the economy is based on the population being in a constant state of low-level anxiety. If people are unsettled, they go out and buy things - either to comfort themselves (food, alcohol, chocolate, gadgets etc) of because they are pessimistic about the future so don't bother saving for it. Thus it is in the interest of the Govt to have an enemy threat. Within a year of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Islamic fundamentalists replaced communists as the global threat.

Although personally I blame bloggers...

Stella - 'tis indeed.

Dr Maroon - considering all you require is an A level in Chemistry and/or Physics and access to half the contents stored under your kitchen sink, I would have thought a large chunk of the population fit the bill.

And I thought the government wanted more students to take up sciences, not less...

Tom said...

Touché :)

Phil said...

Hmm. Orwell's "1984", John Twelve Hawks "The Traveler", The grid, and The Foundation.

We all are being watched, and recorded.


Anonymous said...

Hi Kim ,

At 23 I was sorta over most of my teenage madness, more concerned with propagating the species and having a good time. Not everyone is a responsible and erudite blogger. There was a murder case here recently, man ( Joe O'Reilly ) found guilty of murdering wife. Circumstantial and subjective stuff put him down. No smoking gun.
But the whole country, in addition to a jury of his peers had him guilty. So he did it.

Recently, also here in our lill banana republic, terrorists have become freedom fighters, (as did those in South Africa not so long ago). There are some among these freedom fighters who specialised in torture during the troubles, who are now in Government.

My point is that " it depends ". Was she hanging out with a bunch of murderers, was she inclined to fly off the handle with access to semtex. Was she wrecking other heads with a doctrine which wanted to kill people. And I know that's not your point, cause you're pointing at the free speech thing.

But it depends Kim, there must room for " it depends " and then we have to trust our own laws, our judiciary and our elected officials to do the right thing, all the time holding them 100% accountable for their actions.

It's too easy and too sexy to be a freedom fighter. Jesus Christ man, Heathrow scares the shit out of me anytime I go through there, with the armed cops and the tension and the security announcements and the bloody security checks. I hate the place and she worked there, wasn't she scared at all ?

Kim Ayres said...

Phil - don't worry, the innocent have nothing to fear... ha bloody ha

Sniffle&cry - welcome to my ramblings and thank you for taking the time to comment

The difference in all the cases you mention is that a crime took place - someone was murdered, people were tortured - the only question is whether the guilty person is brought to trial.

In this case, the woman had actually done nothing beyond read and write. I'm not denying her choice of literature and the content of her writing were not to my taste or beliefs, but she is not convicted of killing anyone, toruturing anyone or even having bomb-making equipment in her home.

And it is that someone can be convicted for the pages they read and the words they utter - and those alone - that greatly distrubs me about this case.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kim ,

We never saw the book of evidence. We don't know the detail beyond the summary news report. I think there's more to this then we've seen reported on your posting. US and British foreign policy is evil and self-serving. That's a double truth, and it's easy now to be anti-establishment but anti-establishment is not where the war's at. The war is for the truth and for access to all the information. Not to labor the point, Heathrow is a tense frightful place with lots of security shit going down every day. What was she thinking ?

Thanks for listening, I'll shut up now. I loved the story telling site. Great invention, great idea.

MikeP said...

Is the Anarchist Cookbook available in the UK?

Mary Witzl said...

If all this girl did was write crap poetry and spout silly rhetoric, she hardly belongs in prison. If they incarcerated everyone who'd done this, I hate to think how full the prisons would be. Her case reminds me a little of what happened to Angela Davis back in the early seventies.

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...



Dr Maroon said...


Unknown said...

Great Post

I had occasion to stand up for a youngster in jr high who had written some pretty bad stuff in his journal. Stuff that could be scary if you had a child in the same school. Town Meeting was called. Being well respected in the community, I offered my input, was listened to and then shunted off to the corner. The family was run out of town on a rail. The younster never finished school. He calls me from time to time and we chat. So far he has done nothing illegal and he is 24. He no longer writes in a journal.

I do know that I understood the parents concern, but it seemed over the top.

Kim Ayres said...

Sniffle&cry - If you're constantly passing through Heathrow I can understand your feelings of concern.

For my part, I've always been anti-establishment and have a fundamental distrust of those in Power. I remember being profoundly affected by a throw-away comment in Douglas Adams' Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy where he wrote that anyone who wants power should never, under any circumstances, be allowed to have it.

The simple fact is I have no reason to trust those in power are weilding that power for MY good rather than their OWN. Consequently I shudder at the idea that I should not be given the full facts and instead "Trust" that they know what they are doing.

By the way, if you're interested in contributing to the Storytellers Blog, send me an email (which you can find on my profile)

MikeP - there's debate about that.

Mary - Other than the fact that Angela Davis was acquitted...

Sam - the swallows fly low when priest's hat is tilted.

Dr Maroon - I think you'll find it's Donny Bay...

Carole - I guess the big problem now is that instead of angst-ridden, alientated youths (or midlife crisis-ridden adults) writing it in their journals, they now post it on the Internet.

But it crosses over what we were discussing recently - that we all have dark thoughts - it's part of being human - but that doesn't mean we would act them out.

You cannot convict someone on the basis of their thoughts, only their actions, otherwise you would have to convict everyone with human DNA.

Anonymous said...

So basicaly they are saying that there is certain information that you are not allowed by law to have?? If that's not the untimate terrorism I don't know what is

The Birdwatcher said...

The really sad thing is that she was convicted by a jury. The Law is an ass we all know that, but the failsafe in the system is the jury. They have the ability to cut through the nonsense and find the accused not guilty.

Dr Maroon said...

If you do not FIX your back button I shall SCREAM

Kim Ayres said...

NLA - once we start restricting the flow of information, we start down the road of becoming like the very regimes we criticise

Birdwatcher - let's just hope copies of the Daily Express weren't "accidentally" left lying around the jury room...

Dr Maroon - what back button? What are you talking about? Please be more specific - I haven't a clue what you mean.

Conan Drumm said...

When I was but a slip of a lad I was on the streets shouting "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh".
Doubtless my picture is in some yellowing file, recently digitised and shared with intel agencies in the UK and the US. Hold on, there's someone at the door

Kim Ayres said...

Don't answer it!


Rus Bowden said...

If Malik is having this kind of crisis coming out of adolescence, think of what her midlife crisis will be like.

Nice blog you have here.

On Clattery MacHinery on Poetry, there is a call for poetic license, for freedom:

World Samina Malik Day December 6th


جبهة التهييس الشعبية said...

Join the campaing

Kim Ayres said...

Thank you for your contributions Rus Bowden and جبهة التهييس الشعبية

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