Wootton Bassett is a model English town. The name is redolent with connotations of village life, farmers' markets, tiled roofs and doughty values. It is near the Lyneham RAF base, where planes bring back the bodies of British servicemen killed in Afghanistan.
Spontaneously, people in the town began demonstrations of respect for the hearses from the base as they passed through the main street. People simply stood to attention in silence whenever a hearse went by with its glass sides revealing a coffin draped in the Union Jack.
The spontaneous gesture grew organically, until hundreds of people became involved. The gesture became a silent community demonstration, a ritual where the main street stood still. Unhappily, it became a common ritual. The number of British military personnel killed in Afghanistan over the past three years stands at 241, more than during the invasion of Iraq.
After the media heard about the ritual it became an event. Inevitably, some parasites were attracted to the phenomenon. In Western society there is no greater parasite than the Islamic fundamentalist, who exploits everything from the West while respecting nothing. One such parasite is Anjem Choudary, an Englishman born and bred, and a lawyer. He is also an enemy of the state, protected by the freedoms he is committed to destroy.
Choudary has long supported Islamic militancy and separatism. He wants Islamic law for Muslims living in Britain. He has set up a system where Muslims in Britain can marry under sharia, bypassing civil law. He claims to have married 1800 couples and conducted hundreds of divorces.
Choudary saw an opportunity at Wootton Bassett. Last week, he announced a plan to lead supporters carrying 500 coffins through the main street to signify the Muslim civilians ''murdered'' in Afghanistan by ''merciless'' coalition forces.
The response was predictable. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: ''I am personally appalled by the prospect of a march in Wootton Bassett . . . Any attempt to use this location to cause further distress and suffering to those who have lost loved ones would be abhorrent and offensive.'' Home Secretary Alan Johnson chimed in: ''It fills me with revulsion.'' And so the reaction rippled out through the media and into cyberspace, where hundreds of thousands responded. Leaders of the hard-right British National Party vowed to physically block any march by Islamists in Wootton Bassett.
Mission accomplished. Choudary says he chose Wootton Basset to attract ''maximum attention''. His goal was to detonate a cultural bomb, and he succeeded. This provocation from a fringe-dweller in the wider Muslim ranks should never have been dignified with a response from the Prime Minister.
Once again, the West's political, legal and media systems keep feeding the deluded and the perverted with the power of publicity. This is a cultural struggle that pits a large, wealthy and evolved Western civilisation against a relatively small and dispersed core of murderers and religious fanatics. The cost of containing and responding to the threat runs to billions of dollars, while the cost of imposing the threat is minute.
For the marginal and the fanatical, the idea of being feared in the West is an end in itself. It is a victory. This challenge thus needs to be fought with more subtle and practical intellectual weapons: better language, better legal responses, better security intelligence and more stealth.
The greatest single burden in making a more effective response is the West's own legal system. The most recent example was the near-murder of 278 people on board a US airliner on Christmas Day, in the name of Islamic jihad. MI5 has been accused of failing to alert US authorities to the extremist links of Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who attempted to bomb the plane in mid-flight using a device secreted in his underwear.
Even though he had come to the attention of MI5, The Sunday Times yesterday reported the agency was advised by its legal department to withhold its file on Abdulmutallab out of concerns about breaching his human rights and privacy. The fear of a potential civil rights lawsuit by an African Muslim outweighed security concerns. The files were released only after he attempted to blow up the plane.
This is human rights gone mad.
One of the most damaging intellectual legacies of George Bush was his declaration of a ''war on terror'' and its invitation for jihad. Now we have Barack Obama deciding to try the surviving protagonists of the September 11 bombings in a civil trial in New York. It will be a legal three-ring circus. It is a political risk of the highest order. More insidiously, it is a conceptual blunder.
The decision also plays into the concept of ''lawfare'', where the laws of the West are used by those who despise the West and do not play by the rules of the West. The tactic is to clog up the courts, governments and media with lawsuits about human rights violations. The burgeoning and amorphous field of human rights has been a paradise for this practice, both in international and domestic law.
But those who seek to wage war against a society should not have recourse to the civil laws of that society. Their activities should be examined by a tribunal, where the sifting of all evidence has primacy and the distractions and dissembling of a public trial have no audience and thus no point.
We have the capacity to create such a system, but not yet the will. It would be anathema to the human rights industry, and a winner with the electorate.
Here in Australia we allow some self styled sheik to send letters to the next of kin of dead Soldiers and allow him to protest in the steets under our legislation, his protest is to call all Australians filthy pigs who slop at the US trough, whilst he himself lives off the taxpayer on a disability pension , he has never worked a day since he arrived in this country and has spent over $300,000 of tax payers money to fight in court ( through the public defenders office and legal aid) sueing us as a nation for the war of terror.
should we just give this nut and others like him ammunition to use against us? as this ammounts to the same thing, he is using our resources to send us broke when there are guenuine needy out there who miss out because he used the funds
Please, what ever you do , if you see anything of this nature protest it, write your lawful representatives, call them and ask why they help the enemy, who wishes us dead.
Take legal actions against those who support these people and let them know we the people of the allied nations that enough is enough, that it must stop and stop now.