Abu Hamza al-Masri, hook-handed imam of the notorious Finsbury Park Mosque -- spiritual home to "shoe bomber" Richard Reid and "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui -- is on trial this month at the Old Bailey. Charges include nine counts of soliciting to murder, four counts of stirring up racial hatred, and two counts of possession of material related to the other charges, including the 10-volume Encyclopedia of the Afghani Jihad -- a terrorism how-to guide now immortalized in London tabloidese as "Hook's 'Bomb Big Ben' Book."
Jurors in the case will be listening very carefully to nine audio and video recordings of sermons by Abu Hamza seized by police from the mosque, which, not at all incidentally, has also yielded a trove of weapons, hundreds of suspected forged or stolen passports, even a few hazmat suits. Also seized was a box rather helpfully labeled "jihad."
On the one hand, these jurors got off easy. Police hauled away nearly 3,000 taped sermons by Abu Hamza, so boning up on only nine of them isn't too bad. On the other hand, these sermons aren't exactly uplifting -- unless, that is, "uplifting" means skin-crawling exhortations to murder Jews and Christians and "apostate" Muslims, and maniacal calls for a world caliphate based on Sharia law.
But even after mastering the heinous evidence, the jurors' task will be harder still. They will then have to make sense of the illogically contorted, politically correct legal arguments being mounted both for and against the defendant in order to exempt the role of Islam in modern-day jihad, or holy war.
For the prosecution, David Perry says: "This is nothing more or less than preaching hatred and murder," which, he makes clear, has nothing to do with Islam.
For the defense, Edward Fitzgerald says: "It is said he was preaching murder. But he was actually preaching from the Koran itself."
Well, which is it, gentlemen? He's preaching murder that has nothing to do with Islam; or he's preaching the Koran that has nothing to do with murder. For people trying to fend off jihad in their midst, the question becomes a distracting conundrum.
At the onset of the trial, prosecutor Perry predicted the defense would likely argue that Abu Hamza "was speaking as a follower of Islam and he was speaking the words of the holy Koran." This, Mr. Perry explained, was not the prosecution's contention. "This prosecution is not brought to criticize Islam or criticize the teachings of the Koran.
It is brought because of what the defendant says."