May 22, 2008

Support Shiv Malik's book

On August 1, 2006, the then U.K. Prime Minister, Tony Blair, delivered a major foreign policy speech on the Middle East to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. In the speech he called for a “complete renaissance” on foreign policy to combat reactionary Islam. “Whatever the outward manifestation at any one time,” he said,

it is a global fight about global values; it is about modernization, within Islam and outside of it; it is about whether our value system can be shown to be sufficiently robust, true, principled and appealing that it beats theirs. Islamist extremism’s whole strategy is based on a presumed sense of grievance that can motivate people to divide against each other. Our answer has to be a set of values strong enough to unite people with each other.
This is not just about security or military tactics. It is about hearts and minds about inspiring people, persuading them, showing them what our values at their best stand for.
[italics mine]

Why to recall that speech now? Because what Tony Blair meant, in a way, is illustrated in the book—only just published by Constable and Robinson—freelance journalist Shiv Malik has been writing on former jihadi, Hassan Butt, who renounced radical Islamism two years ago and has since been working (and putting his life on the line) to pull Muslim youth out of the British terrorist network. All good, you’d think? Well, it was, until at 7:50 am, March 19, 2008 … What happened?

This is how Karrie and Mimi—respectively Shiv’s best friend and wife—tell the story in a page set up on Facebook (Support Shiv Malik's book):

[T]he Greater Manchester Police came to Shiv’s London flat, and served him with a production order for the research materials related to his book, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The Manchester Crown Court has upheld the police order, but Shiv is appealing the decision. The week of 19th May, he will stand before the High Court in London, where the Attorney General herself will be asked to explain why it is that terrorism law is drafted in a way that so blatantly conflicts with our basic civil rights.

This hearing is incredibly important in protecting journalist’s and writers integrity, freedom of speech and the confidentiality of their sources. Thus it is no surprise that the journalistic community has rallied in support of Shiv (Hurrah!). The Sunday Times, The New Statesman, The Observer, The BBC, English PEN, Index on Censorship, and the National Union of Journalists have all given their advice and financial support and he is eternally grateful for their help.

The plea now is this – thanks to everyone’s support, the legal fees, which are lofty, are almost paid. But Shiv had to act quickly to fend off the police and the fees added up before financial help could arrive. We are looking to raise a few thousand pounds so that he can pay his lawyers in full, and get this book out to the public, where it needs to be!

We are planning a fundraising party as it is well known that in times of need, booze and boogying always helps. Hopefully we’ll have it organised in the next few weeks before his hearing on the 19th May, and we’d love you all to come. In the mean time please join this group and have a read of the articles attached below. Send this to anyone and everyone who you think would be interested.

Thanks Everyone, we really appreciate your support.

Karrie and Mimi.

Today, the judges of the Manchester Crown Court said they expected to make a decision by mid June. Despite press freedom fears (see here and here), according to Andrew Edis, QC, counsel for Greater Manchester police, “the force was not asking Shiv Malik to reveal confidential sources” but “wanted material on Hassan Butt,” and Shiv Malik should hand over his notes connected to the police investigation.

Perhaps this is not the best way to fight the battle of which Tony Blair was talking about on August 1, 2006, at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.

Un nuovo inizio

Sul primo Consiglio dei ministri, tenutosi ieri a Napoli, altro da dire, forse, non c’è. Massimo Franco, sul Corriere, è stato quasi esaustivo. Si può parlare di “rottura con il passato,” come appunto recita il titolo dell’editoriale, ma io preferirei dire—e questo giustifica quel forse e quel quasi—che si tratta di un nuovo inizio, che cioè siamo di fronte al primo annuncio di una fase storica che lascerà il segno e sarà ricordata a lungo. Ed era ora, maledizione, era ora …

Il segnale di forza non è arrivato tanto dal governo di Silvio Berlusconi, ma dallo Stato. E questo forse rappresenta il miglior risultato che il presidente del Consiglio si potesse augurare nel suo esordio di ieri a Napoli. La vergogna della capitale del Sud sfregiata dai rifiuti ha fatto il miracolo di riunire la maggioranza di centrodestra insieme col resto del Paese. Davanti all’opinione pubblica si è presentato non il solito Cavaliere solitario, ma un esecutivo che ha offerto un’immagine di coesione piuttosto irrituale. Forse faticherà a risolvere i problemi. Eppure ha mostrato di essere consapevole della sfida proibitiva: il che non è poco.

Il messaggio è fortemente, anche se, c’è da sperare, non soltanto, simbolico. Come sono parzialmente simboliche le misure prese in materia di sicurezza e la stessa riunione del Consiglio dei ministri a Napoli, promessa da Berlusconi in campagna elettorale. Ridurre quanto è successo ieri ad una passerella, tuttavia, sarebbe ingeneroso e fuorviante. Lo sforzo è stato quello di prendere decisioni capaci di trasmettere l’impressione di una rottura netta col passato; ed il tentativo sembra riuscito. A renderlo più credibile sono state l’assenza di promesse avventate, ed una certa parsimonia perfino nelle critiche agli avversari.
Berlusconi ed i suoi alleati indovinano una voglia di Stato che per ora si affida a soluzioni drastiche, e non ammette neppure l’apparenza di cedimenti. L’inizio, dunque, non poteva essere diverso. Una durezza non confortata dal successo, tuttavia, colpirebbe la credibilità delle istituzioni quasi quanto l’assenza di governo.