Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Researchers have no right to study terrorist materials

It seems that the student who was arrested for downloading an al-Qaida manual from a US government website is now back at Nottingham University, the Vice Chancellor of which has declared that researchers have no right to study terrorist materials.

"In a statement issued to the university last week, Sir Colin Campbell says: "There is no 'right' to access and research terrorist materials. Those who do so run the risk of being investigated and prosecuted on terrorism charges. Equally, there is no 'prohibition' on accessing terrorist materials for the purpose of research. Those who do so are likely to be able to offer a defence to charges (although they may be held in custody for some time while the matter is investigated). This is the law and applies to all universities."

Sir Colin issued the statement to advise staff to note "additional points" that have emerged since the arrest in May of a Nottingham masters student and a clerk on suspicion of possessing extremist material.

The student, Rizwaan Sabir, who is studying Islamic terrorism, said he had downloaded a copy of an al-Qaeda training manual for use in his MA dissertation and PhD application and had forwarded it to the administrator, Hicham Yezza, for printing. After six days in detention, neither was charged...

Hicham Yezza, the clerk arrested with Rizwaan Sabir, was re-arrested on immigration-related grounds after his release and was due to be deported until proceedings were stayed pending judicial review."

In response to the comments by the V.C. at Nottingham, Professor Scott Lucas, at Birmingham University, has written an open letter.

"This is not a question of “access and research [to] terrorist materials”. No page or picture frame or moving image is “terrorist” in and of itself. It is how that material is used, let us say, to fan the flames of division and hostility that can lead to acts of violence. The problem was never the type-set pages of Mein Kampf; rather, it was in the use of those pages to justify bigotry, racism, war, genocide. The problem was never Marx’s Das Kapital or Mao’s Little Red Book or Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations or the Koran or the Bible. It was, still is, and always will be the manipulation of those texts to justify the taking of lives."

Further details of the story are available at the Support Hicham Yezza website.

No comments: