By Ben Pensant
Much has been written about the government’s decision to award former Guantanamo Bay detainee Ronald Fiddler £1million pounds in damages, a decision questioned last month when Fiddler’s sightseeing tour of Iraq was tragically cut short after he blew himself up larking about with a bomb. As in 2001, when his backpacking holiday in picturesque Pakistan was ruined by US hawks framing him as a member of the Taliban, Fiddler’s habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time once again saw him unfairly punished. Though this time, rather than being blindfolded, dressed in orange fatigues and forced to listen to Enter Sandman for 24 hours he was instead torn limb from limb by the dangerous explosives that just happened to be in his car.
All of which casts doubt on the wisdom of awarding compensation to a man whose explanation for what he was doing at the Afghan border was the least convincing since Brookside star Gillian Beale claimed she was giving husband Ian an abdominal massage when she got caught sucking him off on the A1. Because anyone but the most Islamophobic Tory troll can see what a huge insult handing Fiddler a million quid was: it should at have been two million. And a Ferrari. And a penthouse in Knightsbridge with a gold toilet like what President Trump craps on.
Because if they’d treated Fiddler with the respect he deserved he’d never have fled Manchester to join a terrorist group who rape children and murder gays or try to blow up an army base. If indeed he did do that. We only have the word of the British intelligence services that he was a terrorist and we all know what they’re capable of. Not only did they inspire Mohammed ‘Jihadi John’ Emwazi to behead people by harassing him at airports, they also allowed three teenage girls from London to run away and marry men who behead people by not harassing them at airports.
And is it really so strange for a tourist to accidentally drive onto an army base in a car packed with explosives? Take fellow Guantanamo survivor/compo recipient Shaker Aamer, a mild-mannered charity worker who visited Afghanistan in 2001 to build a school for the kiddies. Yet just because he owned an AK47, carried a fake passport, visited terrorist training camps and spent 13 years trying to remember the name of the charity he worked for he was smeared as a terrorist. Similarly, the case of peaceful bookshop owner/G-Bay detainee Moazzam Begg demonstrated that these days you can’t even sell jihadist literature, make jihadist statements or found a jihadist advocacy group without people assuming you’re a jihadist.
But let’s say Fiddler was guilty of trying to blow up an army base and kill hundreds of people. Erm, whose fault would that be? Certainly not Fiddler’s, who did what any normal person would do after being rewarded a meagre million quid for being wrongly imprisoned for two years. And if the Islamophobic security services had done their jobs properly in the first place none of this would have happened. As the Jihadi John and missing schoolgirl gaffes showed, the only thing more dangerous than pestering moderate Muslims too much is not pestering moderate Muslims enough.
Because we all know this harassment was a sly form of deliberate provocation, much like Peppa Pig, the existence of Israel and Olympic athletes arsing about on rugs. All of which are increasingly likely to inspire sane, level-headed people to head for Syria to rape children and murder gays, far more than a religious ideology that tells its followers it’s okay to rape children and murder gays.
Indeed, as Rogue Warrior actor Riz Ahmed pointed out this week, even a lack of diversity on British TV is enough to force people to join ISIS: ‘If we fail to represent, we are in danger of losing people to extremism’ he warned, cementing his place in the hearts of the modern left by inventing one more thing to blame for terrorism other than a stone age religion that explicitly promotes terrorism. And as someone born and bred in Newcastle I can relate to Riz’s point: the only section of society more prone to violence and easy to radicalise than Muslims are working-class white males. Indeed, if it weren’t for Robson Green, Ant & Dec and Geordie Shore I dread to think how many children I would have raped and murdered by now.
Still, there’s hope for the future as long as we have respectful voices like Riz chipping in. And it’s assuring to know he respects Muslims so much he thinks all it takes to turn them into medieval murderers is a lack of brown faces on Hollyoaks. But we should never underestimate the left’s tendency to insult those it claims to defend. And it’s a small price if it means we can promote fearmongering, infantilise Muslims and let Islam off the hook in one fell swoop.
Which Riz achieved with his sage words, boosting his currency among liberals by cashing in on the thriving post-Trump trend for deluded actors and thick-as-mince celebs to indulge in rank apologism and hysterical overreaction. Granted, he’s not quite Lily Allen – he has talent – but the signs are looking good. A few more acting gigs alongside Snowflake Queen Lena Dunham and this time next year he could have gone full-Silverman and be spending his days tweeting paranoid nonsense about swastikas on pavements, clouds that look like the Luftwaffe cross and the froth on his coffee spelling out threatening racist phrases like ‘Citizen Khan Is Shit’ and ‘Muhammad Was A Bender’.
Of course, like Fiddler, Riz knows all about being in the wrong place at the wrong time having starred as one of the Tipton Three in Michael Winterbottom’s brave whitewash The Road To Guantanamo. The experience clearly gave the actor a unique insight into how growing up in a tolerant, liberal democracy can anger moderate Muslims so much they’re left with no choice but to repeatedly visit Taliban training camps to muck around with assault rifles while holidaying in war-torn Afghanistan.
Unlike Riz, however, Fiddler proved his commitment to Allah by changing his name more times than Prince and Puff Daddy combined. And for all his noble attempts to curry favour with virtue-signalling Guardian-readers, as a successful Hollywood star Riz will never fully understand the fear Fiddler lived in. He will never know what it’s like to be forced to emigrate to a warzone; to be so oppressed he has no option but to commit murder; to be gifted one million pounds from the same government his far-right religious ideology tells him must be wiped off the face of the earth.
Because whether Ronald Fiddler called himself Jamal Udeen al-Harith, Abu Zakariya al-Britani or Magarita Pracatan-Obi Ben Kenobi, the life and tragic demise of this complex man is a stark reminder of what happens when you keep kicking the hornet’s nest. And like everything from 9/11 to the Berlin truck attack, we’re all to blame for unleashing the swarm.
But it’s worth honouring those who were on the right side of history, such as David Blunkett and Shami Chakrabarti. Indeed, the former home secretary lobbied hard for Fiddler’s release in 2004, declaring on his homecoming: ‘No-one whom is returned will be a threat to the security of the British people’, a statement which was entirely correct as it ended up being mainly Iraqi people Fiddler posed a threat to. But such foresight was bread and butter for Blunkett, rising above his disability to show that his eye for a terrorist was every bit as acute as his eye for the ladies.
And he was joined every step of the way by Shami, Liberty, CAGE and various newspapers. Indeed, even back then Ms Chakrabarti was quietly doing what she does best: moaning about Islamophobia, showing solidarity with extremists and pressuring the government to make millionaires of innocent people who just happen to believe in Sharia Law, enjoy playing with rifles and rather like the idea of destroying Western democracy.
That people have suggested pay-outs like this should be reserved for British soldiers with missing limbs – limbs lost waging an illegal, Islamophobic war on the middle-eastern Muslim population – is the sickest joke of all. Though not quite as sick as The Daily Mail’s recent condemnation of the decision to release Fiddler despite the fact they campaigned on behalf of him and other Guantanamo prisoners and practically threw a ‘Welcome Home, Shaker!’ party when that nice Mr Aamer returned to Britain in 2015. It’s mind-boggling they could be so right then yet so utterly wrong now but that’s the Tory press for you – as hypocritical and contradictory as the left-wing media are principled and consistent.
In the meantime I look forward to the Mail backtracking on their 1997 front page branding the Stephen Laurence suspects ‘MURDERERS’ and starting a campaign for all five to receive compensation for PTSD sustained while kicking a young man to death. It might drive The Guardian nuts but a simple bit of fake news about Gary Dobson and David Norris converting to the Religion of Peace should be enough to get them on board.
They don’t call Islam a Get Out Of Jail Free card for nowt.