Poetic Justice is a literary device which virtue or the good is ultimately rewarded and/or vice punished and is related to Aristotle’s Poetics. According to Aristotle poetry is superior to history in that it shows what should or must happen, rather than merely what does occur. Poetic justice is also used to describe how a work should inspire proper moral behavior in its audience by illustrating the triumph of good over evil.
In 2006 I received an email with a .pdf file that contained an article called Raising Mujahideen Children from a Moroccan-Dutch Muslim woman. Around the same time the article was posted on a Dutch webforum Marokko.nl by someone else which triggered a small discussion. The piece was originally written by Umm Musab al-Gharib; a nickname that I came across several times. Umm Musab al-Gharib aka LyricalTerrorist aka Bint al Shaheed aka Stranger awaiting Martyrdom posted several messages on different websites, mostly poems. Many of those were send to me by the woman I mentioned earlier.
Busy with other things I did not gave it much thought until I read an article at the BBC website about Samina Malik:
Samina Malik was born in Britain and grew up in the west London borough of Southall.
Like many from the area, she found work at Heathrow Airport where she was a shop assistant at WH Smith.
But during her trial, prosecutors claimed Malik hid another, radicalised identity behind her everyday existence.
It was an identity they said she had crafted online after becoming involved with extremist Islamist organisations.
Calling herself the Lyrical Terrorist, they said she wrote and posted poems praising Osama Bin Laden, supporting martyrdom and describing gruesome subjects like beheading.
Police also told the Old Bailey they found a “library” of extreme literature in her bedroom including The Al-Qaeda Manual and The Mujahideen Poisons Handbook.
But throughout her trial, 23-year-old Malik insisted her poems were “meaningless”.
She called herself the Lyrical Terrorist, she said, “because it sounded cool”. It did not mean she was actually a terrorist or wanted to be one, she said.
In fact, she said: “I did not realise there was such a thing as extremism.”
The jury found her not guilty of possessing articles for terrorist purposes.
But they did convict of the lesser terror charge of collecting articles “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.
It all adds up to Samina Malik being a dangerous extremist
Jonathan Sharp, prosecutor
This gives Malik the dubious honour of being the first woman ever convicted for offences related to Islamist terrorism in the UK.
‘Out of context’
Malik told the court she started writing love poetry while at Villiers High School in Southall.
In early 2002, using the name Lyrical Babe, she said she began writing rap poems about guns and violence in the style of artists Tupac Shakur and 50 Cent.
At the same time, she said her interest in Islam began to grow and in 2004 she started wearing a hijab.
It was then that Malik changed her online name to the Lyrical Terrorist. She told the court: “It is only a user name. You have taken it too literally and out of context.
WH Smith receipt on which Samina Malik wrote about martyrdom (Pic: Met Police)
Malik wrote on a WH Smith till roll about her “desire” for martyrdom
“It was only because it was a cool name. It doesn’t mean I’m a terrorist.”
In the evenings after work, the prosecution said Malik posted her poems to a number of extremist websites.
The court also heard that she wrote about terrorism on the back of WH Smith receipts.
One note read to the jury said: “The desire within me increases every day to go for martyrdom.”
On other till rolls, police said they found scribblings about Soviet spy weapons and “poisoned bullets” capable of killing the inhabitants of an entire street.
Prosecutor Jonathan Sharp said the evidence showed she was “deeply involved” in terrorist organisations, claiming: “It all adds up to Samina Malik being a dangerous extremist.”
Malik, however, denied there was anything sinister about her behaviour.
Of one of her many poems, she said: “This does not mean I wanted to convert my words into actions.
“This is a meaningless poem and that is all it ever was. To partake in something and to write about something are two different things.”
She said that another of her screen names Bint al Shaheed – meaning “daughter of the martyr” – was simply chosen in honour of her grandmother, who died of liver cancer in 2002.
Malik admitted visiting the website of controversial cleric Abu Hamza
Nevertheless, she said she did like to be known as Stranger Awaiting Martyrdom.
Malik also admitted visiting various extremist websites, including that of controversial cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, but insisted she had “stumbled” upon it.
“I was being exposed to Abu Hamza, who we all know is a radical preacher,” she said in court.
“Through the media’s continuous spotlight and through his preaching, which the media continuously kept shedding light upon.
“I stumbled across his website. There was also Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed who was the leader of Al Muhajiroun.”
She is not the first one. In a trial mentioned here earlier a Moroccan-Dutch woman was also accused of similar charges, but acquitted. The thing is, does writing ‘jihad poetry’ (albeit not that good) means you are a terrorist or you incite others to violent acts? Or is it protest poetry protected by the freedom of expression?
Consider for example the two following poems by Lyrical Terrorist printed in the Daily Mail:
And also took a look at the next poem:
I shall hate you
Like a dart of singing steel
Shot through still air
As pines are sober
When they stand etched
Against the sky.
Hating you shall be a game
Played with cool hands
And slim fingers.
Your heart will yearn
For the lonely splendor
Of the pine tree
While rekindled fires
In my eyes
Shall wound you like swift arrows.
Memory will lay its hands
Upon your breast
And you will understand
This last one is written by Gwendolyn B. Bennett (1902-1981). She was a poet, illustrator, and columnist who achieved minor fame during the Harlem Renaissance. Protest poetry stakes out a moral position from which to criticize its object. The protest writer says, in effect, “Based on these moral values, this behavior or these circumstances are unjust and deserve to be condemned.” They seek, as it were, poetic justice. Bennett’s poem is established on the moral tradition of black protest poetry in the US and invokes that tradition in her poem “Hatred,” by displaying the contrast between the calm landscape and the speaker’s intense emotion, which could symbolize ‘the black psyche’ at a time of severe racial oppression.
The gangsta rap from for example 2Pac is a modern variant of that protest poetry. Consider the excerpt from 2Pac’s ‘Last Wordz’:
It’s on, the next real nigga fall dead
Dred, jheri curl, process, or bald head
Be prepared for the smoke to bust
What niggas need to do is start loc’in up
United we stand divided we fall
They can shoot one nigga
But they can’t take us alll
Let’s get along with the Mexicans
And we can all have peace on the sets again
Imagine that if it took place [ha ha ha]
Keeping the smile off their white fakes
I ain’t racist but lets trade places
Trace the hate ‘n face it
One nigga teach two niggas
three teach four niggas
And them niggas teach more niggas
And when we blast
That’ll be the biggest blast you’ve heard
And them is my last wordz
Initially Lyrical Terrorist called herself Lyrical Babe and was inspired by the gangsta rap from 2Pac and 50cent, writing rap poems about guns and violence in more or less the same tradition. Her ‘work’ at several webforums shows that although she used more and more from the islamic traditions in her texts, she was still influenced by the gangsta rap repertoire. In the trial the defense compared her writings with those of Wilfred Owen. Also W.B. Yeats can, albeit in a different way, stand in the tradition of war poets or rebellious poetry:
REMORSE FOR INTEMPERATE SPEECH
I RANTED to the knave and fool,
But outgrew that school,
Would transform the part,
Fit audience found, but cannot rule
My fanatic heart.
I sought my betters: though in each
Fine manners, liberal speech,
Turn hatred into sport,
Nothing said or done can reach
My fanatic heart.
Out of Ireland have we come.
Great hatred, little room,
Maimed us at the start.
I carry from my mother’s womb
A fanatic heart.
Many of these type of poems are about a struggle between good and evil and also sometimes how good intentions can breed the worst results and certainly show how the love for the mother country, the ingroup can develop into a hatred for the Others. This seems to be the case with Lyrical Terrorist (although I certainly do not want to suggest that her poetry is as good as that of Yeats or Owen or Bennett).
Samina Malik was found guilty by the jury of possessing records likely to be used for terrorism by a majority of 10 to one. The catch here of course is in the term ‘likely’ which means the prosecution does not have to prove that it is actually used for terrorism, just that is likely to be used. The report in the Telegraph says the following:
When they raided her home, they found folders on the computer called “Samina’z Stuff” and “Copy of Handbooks” as well as dozens of handwritten notes hidden in the pages of a book and a bracelet which carried the word jihad [holy war].
On a mirror were found the words “Lyrical Terrorist” and on one piece of paper she had written: “The desire within me increases every day to go for martyrdom, the need to go increases second by second.”
In her poems she wrote about killing heathens, adding: “Kafirs your time will come soon, and no one will save you from your doom.”
Police found a copy of Osama Bin Laden’s Declaration of War and a passage in which she praised the al-Qa’eda leader and added: “We will not let you have any peace. We will show no remorse, no mercy and no regrets”
In one poem, called “Raising Mujahideen [holy fighter] Children,” she recommended indoctrinating children from the age of seven, adding: “Show the children videos and pictures of mujahideen and tell them to become strong like them.”
Explain how the Mujahideen fear no man – they fear Allah alone, and for his sake they are able, willing and capable to do anything in defence of Islam.” Malik joined an extremist organisation called Jihad Way set up to disseminate terrorist propaganda and support al-Qa’eda.
On a website called Hi-5, similar to social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace, Malik listed her interests as: “Helping the mujahideen [holy fighters] in any way which I can… I am well known as lyrical terrorist.”
Under favourite TV shows, it said: “Watching videos by my Muslim brothers in Iraq, yep the beheading ones, watching video messages by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri [his deputy] and other videos which show massacres of the kaffirs.”
Malik claimed she was only writing poetry for “fame and recognition” and to show off to men she hoped to marry.
Another thing that was also found was the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook. It is not clear if that has played a role. Like most of the other stuff it is easy to find on the internet and the Handbook could be a hoax since many of the recipes do not seem to work. What is very clear nevertheless is that she apparently did not realize that people have to be careful these days what they put on the internet and/or send to other people. She has certainly been very naieve in this. Let’s conclude with a poem from her that certainly does not call upon people to fight or celebrates violence, but can be seen as a personal call upon others to become (a better) Muslim:
– Forgive Me –
Forgive me for not doing my duty properly
Forgive me for not teaching others about al-deen
Forgive me for not inviting the Kufaar to al-deen
Forgive me for not spreading Tawheed
For give me for keeping the Islamic Ilm within me
Forgive me for failing to share it with others
Forgive me for not teaching others of that which I knew of
Forgive me for Praying Salaah – And not bothering to call others to it aswell
Forgive me for being in Dhikr of you – And failing to remind others to remember you
Forgive me for beginning every Action, ever Speech in Your Name – And not telling others to do the same
Forgive me for Keeping Obligatory and Nafl Fasts – And Failing to not encourage others to keep them aswell
Forgive me for giving Zakat – And not informing others about the importance of it to give aswell
Forgive me for learning so much about Jihad – And failing to teach and share the information I have with the others
I’m down on my hands and knees
I’m begging you ‘O All-Mighty One – Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem
To forgive me Please
All this hits you hard when a close misguided family or friend dies
And you sit and ponder
Where you – Yourself went wrong
Without a doubt many of us get along with one or two Non-Muslims
We had many opportunities to teach them
To teach them about the One and Only – True Deen
We had many opportunities to teach them
To teach them about the One and Only – Allah (Jallalahu)
We have non-practising Duniya-clinging family members
We should give them Da’wah
-Indeed With a lot of Patience-
When someone close dies
“I Had So Many Chances
So Many Opportunities
Could They Be in Hell Cos of Me
If Only I Had Only Acted Upon What I Knew Off
If Only I Had Done My Duty Correctly”
Your heart breaks in two
You cry day and night
You sit there tapping your head
-No Peace of Mind-
You see Dear Muslim Brothers and Sisters
Death can come any day, anytime, any second
No matter where you are or what you are doing
And no matter what age you may be
Because death doesn’t ask for one to meet its requirements
It has neither limits nor any conditions
It can get you whenever Allah (AzaWajal) decrees
Now and then many of us say:
“Next Week I’ll Teach so-and-so about Tawheed,
I’ll Try and Invite them to a New Life
To The True Deen
But that –Next Time- Never comes
The intention of doing good is there
But one for some reasons fails
Fails to put those words into practise
And when one least expects it
The news about that –Person’s- Death gets to you first
Before you made that move
And taught them
“La Illahaa Illallahu Muhammadur Ra’soolullah’
I had a best friend – She was dying
Knew her for 15years
She was 22 years of age
She was a Sikh
A Sikh who was interested in our Deen
She would ask certain questions
And I would answer them to the best of my ability
Everyday I said the same old thing
“Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow I’ll go teach her man!”
I knew she was very close to death
She was on her final stages of her life
A week ago I had planned to –Literally Go-
I was all prepared and feeling –Damn Good-
I was all geared up to tell her about this –Peaceful- Religion of ours
A day before I was going to go
I received the news
The news that she had left this world
That she had died with breathing difficulties
Do you all see the mistake I made?!?!?!?!
Take my advice people:
‘Invite, Invite, Invite
Invite as many of your close friends and family to Islam’
Because trust me
What I’m going through ain’t easy
15years of friendship –
And 4 years out of the 15years I’ve been a practising Muslimah
And never – Never did I even bother to invite her
4 years ain’t little
When one is interested in Islam then 4 years is more than enough
But I didn’t – I didn’t do what I was meant to do
I always thought of
I always remembered to
But death got to her before I could teach her the Shahadah
And now … I feel
Pathetic and useless
I feel stupid and ridiculous
I feel as though I have let Allah (SWT) down
I have angered and annoyed him
What has been made obligatory upon Muslims
To spread Tawheed – To invite – To teach
I failed to meet
I Pray Sincerely
That you all attain and reach your goals
Attain and reach you goals in the field of Da’wah
In inviting others to Islam
I Pray Sincerely
That Allah (SWT) guides you and your families
That we all become better Muslims
That we all die as Righteous Muslims
One day or another we’re all going to die
And we will –Have To- face reality someday –
-Ameen ALLAHUMMAH Ameen-
WaSalamu Alaikum WaRahmatullahi WaBarakatuhu My Dear Muslim Brothers and Sisters in Islam
-A Stranger Awaiting Martyrdom-
The Messenger of Allah (SAWS), in One of His Expeditions Against The Enemy, Waited Till The Sun Declined and Then He Got Up Amongst The People and Said: “O People! Do Nnot Wish To Meet The Enemy, But Ask Allah For Safety, And When You Face The Enemy, Be Patient, And Know That Paradise is Under The Shades of Swords”.
[Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Narrated by Saalim Abu-Nadr]