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."
There's no way to untwist this pretzel, but let's try. (A) The prosecutor rightly suspected Abu Hamza would defend himself against charges of incitement and hatred by claiming he was preaching from the Koran. (B) The prosecutor isn't criticizing the Koran, which Abu Hamza was preaching from. (C) He's just criticizing what Abu Hamza was saying.
If a circular argument is one that doesn't get anywhere, this prosecutor is chasing his tail. But he still can't get away from the Koran, not when the defense counsel is actually passing out copies to jurors. Mr. Fitzgerald's idea is, with their own Korans, jurors will be better able to follow the Koranic justifications for, as the London Times Online put it, "the words that had led to (Abu Hamza) being charged."
If these machinations -- now you see the Koran, now you don't -- makes your head hurt, that's a good thing, evidence that key mental functions still function independently of PC. This doesn't, however, make the tortuous thinking of the British barristers easier to follow. In essence, the prosecution is saying: It's preaching murder, so it's not the Koran. In sum, the defense is saying: It's the Koran, so it's not preaching murder. What are they talking about?
In a sense, nothing. And that's the way they like it. Both the prosecution and the defense have decided that Islam plays no animating role in the modern jihadist movement of which Abu Hamza is a part. When the prosecutor describes Abu Hamza's preaching -- "holy war in the cause of Allah" as a "religious obligation" that includes the killing of non-believers -- he is describing the classic jihad ideology that has driven Islamic history; but he attributes it to Abu Hamza's idiosyncratic version of Islam. The defense, meanwhile, takes the same preaching -- "the language of blood and retribution," Mr. Fitzgerald says -- and declares it no different from any other religion's language.
In other words, whether Abu Hamza does hard time, jihad gets a pass.