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Tuesday, September 16, 2008 

The freedom not to be locked up for six days.

Excellent article over on CiF by Rizwaan Sabir, one of the two men arrested and held for six days for having in their possession an "al-Qaida training manual" which Sabir had downloaded from of all places, the US Department of Justice website. As this is of course CiF, a few posters then spend the rest of the comments trying to justify his detention; apparently if you have a Muslim name you shouldn't be doing research into jihadists, as that's just asking for trouble. Similarly, it seems that such documents are apparently comparable to child pornography, even though you can purchase said document from Amazon as a paperback. This is meaningless though, because there are plenty of illegal items that can be bought online, and after all, even "Spycatcher" was once banned in England.

All this handily ignores the very point that Sabir makes: the study of terrorists and terrorism is vital, not just to understand it but also in order to be able to fight it. Not just academic freedom but personal freedom to be able to read such sources and watch videos made by those sympathetic to the aims of al-Qaida without the fear of being arrested by police and locked up for the best part of a week ought to be an accepted right in any country worthy of being described as a democracy. It is not the views and opinions themselves that are dangerous, but the individuals that espouse them. Until we accept that, there'll continue to be such raids that only make a mockery of both the police and the laws which they have to enforce.

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