Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Free the bomber-jacket guy

It’s been reported that the Omar Khayam, the man who dressed as a suicide bomber look-alike at the “Cartoon” protest in London last Friday has been sent back to prison for violating his parole conditions. Khayam is a convicted drug dealer.

Now, I think his stunt was ill-considered (for the reasons I gave in my previous post) and the chairman of his local mosque is probably spot on the mark when he describes him as “a bit of an idiot”.

For all I know, he may have been making an ironic statement by depicting himself as the very worst stereotype that Muslims are portrayed as. There is nothing wrong with that in principle, but it was a strategic blunder, chiefly because the memory of real suicide bombers is still fresh in London’s memory – so the image isn’t one that resonates exclusively as a stereotype at this moment in time. The strong reaction was almost certainly guaranteed to overshadow the political point.

On the other hand, (again, for all I know) he may have simply wanted to appear threatening and provocative. But this is neither here nor there.

But he has now apologised. So that should be the end of the matter.

But it isn’t, because Khayam now faces the prospect of having to serve out the rest of his drugs conviction sentence.

I now find myself agreeing with Anjem Choudary, formerly UK chairman of the radical Islamist group al-Muhajiroun. He told The Guardian:

"If it is correct that he was dealing drugs, he has already been punished, his character is changed and he is amending his life. He has not done anything that merits him being put back in jail."

I don’t know if his character has changed or whether he has amended his life, but that is irrelevant, nevertheless Choudary is absolutely correct that Khayam has done nothing that merits putting him back in jail.

If it isn’t a crime to protest – even so insensitively and provocatively – then it seems to me that the authorities are using his parole conditions as a convenience. If a person with no criminal record could get away with his actions (with or without a heart-felt apology), then so should Khayam. If he attempts to rob a bank, mugs and old lady or sells more crack – you know, something criminal – by all means send him back to the slammer.

But for being “a bit of an idiot”, I don’t think so! And it’s not doing the image of British justice any good. In fact, like Khayam, the British justice system is also acting out its worst stereotype. Is no-one learning anything?


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