abu hamza al masri 298.8.
(photo credit: AP)
Abu Hamza is the most famous of Britain's many incendiary imams, a household name thanks to the tabloids anointing him as "Hooky" - he lost his hands in a, er, "accident" in Afghanistan in 1991. Recently on trial in London for nine counts of soliciting to murder plus various other charges, he retained the services of the eminent Queen's Counsel Edward Fitzgerald.
Mr. Fitzgerald opened the case for the defense by arguing, according to The Daily Telegraph, that "Hamza was urging his followers not to murder British people but to fight in holy wars where Muslims were being killed in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bosnia, Kosovo and Palestine." Asked if he had ever intended to urge or incite murder, Hamza replied: "In the context of murder, no. In the context of fighting, yes."
Hmm. Mr. Hamza wants to see a caliph installed in Downing Street and to have Muslims "control the whole Earth."
And, of course, wanting Muslims to control the whole Earth is not against the law, nor, as his counsel argued, is advocating the more robust methods of bringing it about. As The Times of London reported:
"Edward Fitzgerald, QC, for the defense, said that Abu Hamza's interpretation of the Koran was that it imposed an obligation on Muslims to do jihad and fight in the defense of their religion. He said that the Crown case against the former imam of Finsbury Park Mosque was 'simplistic in the extreme.' He added: 'It is said he was preaching murder, but he was actually preaching from the Koran itself.'"
WELL, IT'S ingenious, and, though Mr. Hamza was sadly found guilty, who's to say it won't work for the next A-list jihadi? If Koran permit, you must acquit. To convict would be multiculturally disrespectful. If the holy book of the religion of peace recommends killing infidels, who are we to judge?
Indeed, much of the developed world seems to have already internalized that rationale: Islamic mobs riot, loot, burn embassies and kill people around the world, and the fury of Western elites is reserved for those hapless Danish cartoonists for being so "insensitive."
Likewise, Nick Griffin, leader of the highly non-multicultural British National Party, is also on trial, "accused of using words or behavior likely to stir up racial hatred" - and, unlike Mr. Hamza, he's unable to avail himself of the but-I-got-it-straight-from-the-Koran defense.
The English jury was sternly reminded that its role was not to consider the truth or otherwise of Mr. Griffin's remarks: The criminality thereof was not mitigated by factual accuracy. One of the offending observations was this, made a year before the July 7 bombings at a meeting in Leeds:
"We all know that sooner or later there's going to be Islamic terrorists letting off bombs in major cities, and it might not be London, it could just as easily be the White Rose Centre" - which is in Leeds. Mr. Griffin ventured that the bombers would prove to be asylum seekers or second-generation Pakistanis "living somewhere like Bradford."
CLOSE ENOUGH. Well, closer than MI5 got. The July 7 bombers, in fact, were second-generation Pakistanis from Leeds - a mere stone's throw or bomb blast from where Mr. Griffin was speaking.
Tony Blair has for years been predicting terrorist devastation raining down on Britain, but very shrewdly he usually avoids hazarding too specific a guess at the likely identity of the perpetrators; which is why he's not on trial and Nick Griffin is.
Go back four years. On September 11, the Bush administration had to choose whether to regard the events of that morning as a matter for law enforcement, or an act of war. At one o'clock that afternoon, as the Pentagon still burned and after he'd helped pull the injured from the rubble, Donald Rumsfeld told the president, "This is not a criminal action. This is war."
That's still the distinction that matters: Part of the reason John Kerry lost in 2004 and why the Democrats will lose again this November is that they view this business as a law-enforcement matter - all warrants and due process. And, as we see in almost every case that comes up, to fight the jihad in the courtroom means you'll lose.
IMAGINE IF, during the London Blitz, you'd had Germans with British passports giving speeches advocating the United Kingdom's incorporation within the Third Reich and demanding the Swastika fly over Buckingham Palace, and you had to prosecute them individually and most Nazis were acquitted on technicalities but a few got 18 months to two years. To be sure, one can argue (as many British and Americans do) that the jihad does not pose the same kind of existential threat, but at what point do you cross the line?
Three hundred dead in a Tube blast? Thousands in a skyscraper bombing? Why aren't the dead of September 11 and July 7 already enough?
There are local factors at play in these court cases, and the defendants know them very well.
Under onerous British reporting restrictions I couldn't even write about the Hamza case in a Fleet Street paper lest it prejudice his trial. In cases like that of, say, Sami al-Arian or Zac Moussaoui, you're free to talk about them, but the nature of the US justice system means there are years and years between the arrest and even the prospect of justice.
Thus, the net effect in both jurisdictions is to limit or defer public awareness of these men's activities.
A court of law is not meant to be a field of battle, and the enemy should not be upgraded to a defendant. The question is not "Why do they hate us?" but "Why do they despise us?"
Putting Abu Hamza in the dock at the Old Bailey is a good example why.
The writer is senior North American columnist for Britain's Telegraph Group.