UK: Controversy over political songs

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United Kingdom:
Controversy over political songs

Aki Nawaz, a British rap artist and frontman of Fun-Da-Mental, is accused of glorifying terrorism. The lyrics on his new album has provoked calls for him to be arrested under anti-terrorism laws

Aki Nawaz’s own record label, Nation Records, has refused to support his new album, ‘All is War (The Benefits of G-had)’. Two executives of the record company have threatened to resign if Aki Nawaz publishes his album on Nation Records, and according to Nawaz, “everyone in the UK is scared to manufacture it”. HMV and other high street stores in United Kingdom have refused to stock the album, and two members of the parliament of the United Kingdom have called for his arrest.
Til now, August 2006, the album is only available via the internet.

The controversy has mainly been over two songs on the album: ‘Che Bin’ – a track that compares Osama Bin Laden to Che Guevara – and ‘Cookbook DIY’ which describes the steps taken by a terrorist in assembling a chemical bomb and compares him to a White House scientist making a bomb. Nawaz uses the words of Bin Laden issuing “a statement of reason and explanation of impending conflict”, saying that he challenges anyone to disagree with the statement by Bin Laden that he uses.

The lyrics of ‘Cookbook DIY’ describe in detail how to produce a homemade bomb. An excerpt:

    “I’m packed up ingredients stacked up my Laptop
    Downloaded the military cookbook PDF
    Elements everyday chemicals at my reach
    Household bleach to extract the potassium
    Chlorate Boiling on a hotplate with hate
    recipe for disaster plastic bomb blaster
    (…)
    I’m strapped up cross my chest bomb belt attached
    deeply satisfied with the plan I hatched
    electrodes connected to a gas cooker lighter
    switch in my hand the situation demands
    self sacrifice hitting back at vice with a £50 price”

The British newspaper The Sun has dubbed Aki Nawaz the ‘suicide bomb rapper’ because of these lyrics. Nawaz denies that he is condoning suicide bombers. ‘Everything to me is tragic. I don’t understand what the guys are doing. But I can feel what they’re doing,” he says in an interview with The Guardian in June 2006.

The lyrics of all songs from the album are placed in full length on Fun-Da-Mental’s website.



‘Contradictions of free speech’

Aki Nawaz says his lyrics are designed to expose the contradictions of democracy and free speech, aimed at provoking debate. As long as the UK government and mainstream media limits debate on the causes of terrorism, he is prepared to risk landing himself in prison to challenge received wisdoms, he says.

In June 2006, Aki Nawas told The Guardian: “I’ve got a Post-it note on my front door saying ‘Don’t knock the door in, ring me, here’s my number’.”

In a public meeting in Oxford on August 20, he was asked to explain the controversial lyrics detailing how a suicide bomber and a White House scientist make bombs. Nawas replied: “We said it is all evil. Don’t tell me one is more moral than the other. (…) I do not want to be on anybody’s side. I just want the madness to stop. (…) Righting the wrongs of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan is the key to ending Muslim resentment.”

About Aki Nawaz

Aki Nawaz grew up in Bradford in England and began his career in the 1980s as the drummer with Southern Death Cult (better known in a later incarnation as goth rockers The Cult). He published his first songs with Fun>Da>Mental in 1992, and secured himself a place as the founding father of British Asian music when he created Nation Records – a label that has given a home to artists such as Asian Dub Foundation, Natacha Atlas and Talvin Singh when no other record company was interested in them.

Photo credit: Press photos from Fun-Da-Mental’s website


Click to go to www.fun-da-mental.co.uk
Fun>Da>Mental


Not everything is allowed

As a point of departure, no censorship can be imposed or subsequent legal steps be taken against musicians because of what they express in their music. The European Court of Human Rights has interpreted artistic freedom of expression in a broad way. In a judgement from 1988 the Court observed, that “Those who create, perform, distribute or exhibit works of art contribute to the exchange of ideas and opinions which is essential for a democratic society. Hence the obligation on the State not to encroach unduly on their freedom of expression”.

However, there are exceptions, e.g.:

• Propaganda for war is always unlawful, as is advocacy for national, racial or religious hatred.
• States may also limit freedom of expression if it is necessary for a certain number of other reasons:
• Respect of the reputations of others (defamation),
• Protection of national security, public order, or of public health or morals.

In any case such limitations must be prescribed in a national law.

Sources:

Red Pepper Magazine – 3 August 2006:
‘G-Had In the UK’

Oxford Mail – 21 August 2006:
‘Rapper explains bomb lyrics’

The Guardian – 28 June 2006:
‘G-had and suicide bombers: the rapper who likens Bin Laden to Che Guevara’

Google News:
Search on most recent news about “Aki Nawaz”

Official website of Fun-Da-Mental:
www.fun-da-mental.co.uk
Click to go to www.redpepper.org.uk

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