Sunday, December 09, 2007

Watch Out for the People Who Work in Bookstores

I wonder if I've ever seen Samina Malik. I've certainly bought books at at least one W.H. Smith at Heathrow Airport, where she worked. According to "'Lyrical Terrorist' Samima Malik Guilty," she has now been found guilty of terrorist offenses for which part of the evidence against her included "a series of poems on websites across the internet about killing non-believers, pursuing martyrdom and raising children to be holy fighters."

I'm uneasy about claims that art always can be read in terms of intention, imitation, and approval rather than seeing creative works as a potentially more complex forms of representation that can certainly be used to invite critique or ironization. For example, when I read about children being disciplined by school authorities for poems they write, I think about how I -- who have an M.F.A. in creative writing -- could have been labeled disturbed if I grew up in this new educational time. It is interesting that poetry-writing by campus shooters is now considered to be as much a supposed tell-tale sign as their indulgence in violent videogame play. Perhaps game theory critics who point to the similarities between poetry and videogames are right.

Malik, who went by the Internet handle, "Lyrical Terrorist," argued in court that her online persona was shaped by the norms of Internet dating much more than it was shaped by the rhetorical conventions of global jihad.

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.

Of course, this being the Internet, her poems are already being parodied. See Jihad Watch for an example.

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