18 February 2006

Glorifying terrorism

It seems that Tony Blair is hell bent on making the glorifying of terrorism a criminal act. I find this a profoundly worrying attack on free speech; far more worrying than the recent intemperate response on the part of a small minority to the publication of certain cartoons.

It worries me because the definition of terrorism in the bill is disturbingly broad. We all think we know what terrorism is. How many of us would regard serious damage to property or electronic systems in order to advance a political, religious or ideological cause as acts of terrorism? But that is what the bill does. If it becomes law, peace campaigners who attack military installations, environmental activists who destroy fields of GM crops or socially concerned hackers could be labelled as terrorists.

I admire Daniel and Philip Berrigan. I think their attacks on American nuclear installations are a shining example of prophetic action. Furthermore, men and women who seek to emulate them are to be admired and encouraged. There you are, I have just glorified terrorism (at least, as defined by the Terrorism Bill).

Let’s go a bit further. One of my heroes is a man who found himself deeply out of sympathy with the democratically elected government of his country. Realizing that the government would not be swayed from what he regarded as its barbarous policies by reason, he became involved in a plot to murder the head of the government. I believe he was right to do so and I would encourage anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation to consider seriously his example. There you are, I have just glorified terrorism again. Oh, by the way, the man was Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the plot was against Adolf Hitler.

Perhaps I should just add, for the sake of clarification, that violence is never right. However, there are situations (such as in Nazi Germany) where it is the lesser evil.

Actually the Bonhoeffer example is not a good one. I read somewhere that the law won’t generally apply to acts of terror that took place more than twenty years ago. There will, however, be a list of older events the ‘glorification’ of which will still be an offence. It will be interesting to see what the Home Secretary puts on that!

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