Saturday, 25 April 2009

Sauce for the Terrorist Goose Isn't Sauce For the Terrorist Gander

The US Department of State has a beautiful and very impressive website. This splendid website has a section which lists out the foreign organizations that are designated by the Secretary of State under the Immigration and Nationality Act to be Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Sixteenth in this list of Foreign Terrorist Organisations, you will find the Hizballah, which the US Department of State has helpfully translated as the ‘Party of God’.

Since the Hizballah is a designated terrorist organisation, it should come as no surprise that on 23 April 2009, a Pakistani immigrant cable operator in New York City named Javed Iqbal was sentenced to almost 6 years in jail for offering his customers Al Manar TV, Hizballah’s TV channel through his Brooklyn-based satellite television company, HDTV Limited. Iqbal’s lawyers tried to argue that Iqbal did not offer Al Manar TV for ideological reasons. The forty-five year old father of five children whose wife is expecting a sixth one, also offered his customers a Christian evangelical channel, a gay and lesbian channel and adult movies. However, the judge bought the prosecutors’ argument that Iqbal was the Hizballah’s man in New York City. When Iqbal was originally arrested in August 2006, his defence lawyers had unsuccessfully tried to argue that he was entitled to distribute channels of his choice by virtue of his right to free speech under the first amendment.

Of course, the Hizballah is not the only foreign terrorist organisation listed by the US Department of State. If you will scroll down the list, you will find another organisation, very similar to the Hizballah, at number twenty six. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which goes by the acronym LTTE, is not much different from the Hizballah. Like the Hizballah, the LTTE also recruits and uses suicide bombers. It doesn’t really care about the civilians it claims to fight for. In one respect the LTTE is much worse than the Hizballah, that is with regard to the use of forcibly recruited child soldiers.

Now that the LTTE is in its death throes, supporters of the LTTE based in western countries have taken to the streets in large numbers to pressurise their national governments to press the Sri Lankan government for a cease fire. In the United States, LTTE’s supporters have held rallies in front of the United Nations Building and elsewhere.

In Canada, supporters of the LTTE have blocked and closed down Ottawa's main Wellington Street, which is the main access road to Parliament Hill. They have been waving the LTTE’s flags.

Something very similar is happening in London, where supporters of the LTTE have been besieging Parliament square for many days now, blocking traffic and making life difficult for commuters.

This is not to say that western nations have not cracked down on those raising funds or procuring weapons for the LTTE. They have.

It is interesting to see that while so many LTTE supporters freely proclaim their support for the LTTE and propagate its messages, especially over the internet, a man who distributed Al Manar is sentenced for almost 6 years.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, once an organisation is designated as a terrorist organisation, it is unlawful for any person in the United States or subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, to knowingly provide "material support or resources" to such organisation. The Home Office doesn’t officially make a distinction between foreign terrorist organisations which fight US interests and the interests of its allies, like the Hizballah, and terrorist organisations which don’t directly harm US interests, like the LTTE. However, to my mind, it appears that this distinction is the only reason why the LTTE’s supporters in the US and other western countries get off so lightly when compared to supporters of organisations like the Hizballah.

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