Abu Hamza extradition: a good thing. Probably

“David Cameron has praised a decision by the European court of human rights in Strasbourg.”

Funny sentence, that. He hated its very existence earlier this year. 

The ECHR has decided everyone’s least profitable one-armed bandit, the Radical Cleric™ Abu Hamza, and four other terrorist suspects can be extradited to face terrorism charges in the US. And there was much rejoicing.

The five men had feared that if extradited, they could face “torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”, in contravention of their human rights, as a result of American prison conditions. Which is another weird sentence.

If Abu Hamza didn’t exist, someone would have to invent him. One-eyed (physically and politically), and with a hook for a hand, he seems to have stepped, robes billowing, from a picture painted by Daily Mail readers and animated by Disney.

Hamza is an Egyptian Sunni and UK national who once worked as a bouncer in Soho. He has previous convictions for charges of: soliciting murder, “using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with the intention of stirring up racial hatred”, owning recordings related to “stirring up racial hatred”, and of possessing “terrorist encyclopaedia”.

The US extradition claim involves a number of further allegations, including taking 16 hostages in Yemen in 1998, and establishing, or trying to establish, a terrorist training camp in Oregon.

As if this wasn’t enough, apparently his family live on benefits in a half-a-million-pound house in London. He’s a veritable pick’n’mix of everything Britain hates. Abu Hamza is nobody’s friend. If he were an ice cream flavour, he’d be pralines and dick.

Never one to help himself, he’s been spouting nonsense like this as far back as 1999:

“Tell the average man and woman what is ahead for them when their governments go to war with Islam … European citizens are not our immediate enemy unless they jump the queue and come right up in our faces.”

By 2002 he’d become a regular feature in both the left and right-wing press. This, if you can believe it, is none other than Rod Liddle writing in defence of keeping Hamza in the country, under the headline “Hamza’s horrid – but we must tolerate him”:

We don’t mock the disabled any more these days, unless it’s someone like Hamza whom we don’t like; then, if you’ll excuse the inapt phraseology, the gloves come off. So Hamza is known (with that vaulting imagination typical of the British right) as “Captain Hook”, in articles which usually call for his arrest, or extradition to the US, or deportation back home to Egypt or maybe off to Pakistan or Afghanistan, where he fought the Russians for years and thus sustained his disabilities – anywhere, really; just out of here. And if we can’t lock him up or chuck him out of the country, maybe we can force him to shut up.

He continues, and this is a point he labours a lot:

Multiculturalism is not, surely, the cheerful appropriation of bits of inoffensive minority cultural behaviour by the ruling hegemony. That is a sort of syncopated monoculturalism. Multiculturalism is, rather, the ability of society to tolerate views that are antithetical to the dominant culture – and maybe learn from them.

The FBI has been investigating Hamza, but, of course, has found nothing remotely incriminating. The real reason for his vilification and persecution is simply the pungency of his views.

And again, a year later:

[That] is the true test of multiculturalism; tolerating somebody from an avowedly different culture, somebody who thinks differently to the rest of us and will not compromise.

Nor is he alone. His views may well be shared by only a minority of Britain’s Muslim population – but it is a sizeable minority. And he has been right before, most notably, for example, in those days of shivering paranoia immediately after September 11 2001. “Muslim people do not want this war against terrorism. They believe it to be a war against Islam,” he said, his bizarre visage once more being the first to raise itself above the parapet. Opinion polls proved him correct then.

To render silent, or indeed deport Abu Hamza would be to kid ourselves that such views have no currency today.

Liddle did pop up again in the Speccy, in January this year, to revisit once more his strange propensity for defending “Bearded Maniacs“. Considering (as he hints at above), Rod Liddle seems to hate the disabled, it’s an odd position to repeatedly defend at all.

But he’s been pretty quiet lately, which is no surprise, given that he’s got his Sun hat on instead of his Guardian hat. I’d love to see him try that “multiculturalism test” shit in the Sun.

Fast-forward to now, and it’s hard to find any newspaper disagreeing with the ECHR’s decision this week. Even the Guardian seems to be breathing a sigh of relief in yesterday’s editorial.

Odd that in the end, a Conservative MP speaks closest to the conclusion I’ve come to. Dominic Raab told BBC News: “To say that we couldn’t extradite serious terrorist players to the US because they may get a long sentence in difficult, tough prison conditions would be ludicrous.”

The question isn’t really how bad Hamza is, nor how far the Tories get their knickers twisted by their imaginary version of the ECHR. And nor is it a test of our noble post-multiculturalism, as Liddle would have it.

Abu Hamza has been convicted of a string of malevolent deeds. He’s probably not the menace to British society that the Sun and David Cameron would like to think, but he’s certainly got some questions to answer over in the States, and that’s where he should answer them.

He’s also a valuable political bargaining chip, and the ECHR has made the Tories look great this week. It could have made them look like idiots, which is why Cameron has been visibly bricking it. Good job he’d be out of the country if the ECHR had said no, eh readers?

But I don’t think a no was ever an issue either. The aforementioned Guardian editorial wonders about the reaction of the Tories and right-wing press if the extradition had been blocked.

Never mind them. I wonder how Washington would have reacted?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
fold-left fold-right
About the author
James Anthony is a writer, editor, and social media consultant.
%d bloggers like this: