The Ealing Times never really reports things that are that newsworthy. It’s a free rag that people normally consult to see how much their house has accumulated in price. However today’s issue has the 23 year old with the dubious distinction of being the first woman charged under new anti-terror laws all over the cover. Various blogposts have been genreated by this shop assistant (chatroom username”lyrical babe” turned “lyrical terrorist”) facing a stretch inside for her loopy jihadist poems and anti-western bile scribbed on the back of WHSmiths receipts that were uncovered at her Southall bedroom. Though clearly this was a very misguided individual with abhorrent views, I think a custodial sentence seems rather disproportionate seeing as she hadn’t actually committed any terrorist activity in any developed fashion.
Yaha Birt sees it as an example of the thought police in action. The MCB are advancing the “erosion of civil liberties line”. David Osler also points out that lots of young people harbour rebellious/weird ideas in their youth which are normally transitory fads. Hell the late Ian Curtis of Joy Division has become martyred since a film came out on him notwithstanding the fact that he had a morbid fascination for Nazi paraphenelia in his youth. He didn’t actually do anything to advance the far right cause (apart from voting Tory in 1979 and a garbled utterance on the Electric Circuit EP). Curtis, like Malik, was hardly in the same category as, say the Brixton/Brick Lane/Admiral Duncan nailbomber. Osler writes that one-time talkboard poster Malik “will live for the rest of her life with the consequences of a terrorism conviction simply for being a suburban shopgirl who committed her fantasies on the internet” .
What needs to be done is to dispel the prevailing but quite erroneous perception amongst people like Malik that the UK is at war with Muslims. It may be simplistic to say so but extremism thrives in a vacuum amongst people who feel they have no stake in society and seek scapegoats. They need to be brought back from the margins to mainstream. It applies to the extreme right as well as Muslim fundamentalists.
Interestingly the case of Queen-obsessed Barry Bulsara has been thrown into doubt with a retrial on the horizon. His original conviction now deemed unsafe always seemed to be a convenient instance of the “lock up the local nutter” principle. Apparently Malik was/is a Tupac fan. Birt quotes Boyd Tonkin who writes “From Homer to 50 Cent, lonely and frustrated youngsters have sought to compensate for the limitations of their lives via the vicarious thrill of spoken or written violence” – he’s not referring to Bart Simpson’s dad either. And while Malik’s much-quoted poetry is not for the faint-hearted, this could have been dealt with a whole lot better and nipped in the bud through education. However the way that people seem to be queuing up to condemn the severity of her sentencing decision means that by the law of unintended consequences the too-harshly punished Malik may become a martyr anyway whilst simultaneously fuelling Islamophobia and Muslim-victimhood sentiments: the worst possible outcome of this whole affair.