May 29, 2004
Well that was a surprise. Last week, I asked Abu Hamza if he had watched my cd. I had been distributing cd’s of what I had so far around some of the guys who were good enough to talk to me at Finsbury Park. I had never given one to Hamza or spoke to him about it. He said he had seen it and thought it was interesting. He understood I was making a documentary about Mr. Abdullah and wished me all the best. I spoke to Mr. Abdullah about my intentions to introduce him to Jamie and Patrick from Idealworld the next week to talk about making a documentary about him. I told him that I would forward the e-mail contact I had had with them. It was sunny and relaxed. There were no big cameras about.
I heard about Hamza’s arrest at around lunchtime on Thursday from various text messages my friends sent me. I got an text from my ex
" How is your bitch tonight motherfucker? "
I called Mr. Abdullah. He seemed surprisingly relaxed.
“ The struggle continues.” He told me. “ If it is ordained for us to suffer in this life then we accept that suffering as Allah wills it.”
I headed to Belmarsh with my camera, following a surreal trail of newsstands advertising Hamza’s arrest. I recognized a lot of photographers from Finsbury Park. One of the biggest photographer’s who I had seen many times in scuffles with the Muslim brothers engaged me in conversation. He had always looked to me to be one of the paparazzi style guys and I had always ignored him. I love to be proved wrong about people.(I hope I'm not wrong about Mr. Abdullah)
He spoke of his time in Nicaragua during the conflicts there, of his exhibitions of Protest photographs during the Thatcher years. He spoke of his amazing theories that the 9 spheres of the kabbalah tied into the most advanced theories of quantum physics. A man who I had wrongly judged a media hack turned into an amazing human being before my eyes. He was a secular jew who seemed to have read all the religious texts. His website is www.potp.co.uk
A really tall guy who turned out to be from Panorama turned up. We recognised each other from Finsbury Park. I spoke to him about what I had been doing.
“ Excellent access “ he told me.
“ You’ll be putting people out of a job! “ said his friend.
“ I just want to put myself in one. “ I answered.
He was really encouraging and said that if I didn’t have any joy with channel 4 I should approach the BBC. It was a long wait. He spoke sarcastically about The Sun’s apparent prior knowledge of unfolding events. His friend also spoke of an anarchy party he had held for the Queens jubilee. A lot of people seemed to be quietly angry that Hamza was not being tried under the British justice system.
During a five minute recess in the proceedings a large blonde woman came out of court and held an impromptu press conference. She claimed to have been attacked by Abu Hamza and his “bouncer” and to have been assaulted by the police who had arrested her. She said Hamza had called her a “ white bitch “
At this point I recognized her. Two weeks previously she had launched herself, screaming at Hamza as he finished preaching. Police intervened within seconds and formed a cordon between press and islamists. They pulled her round the corner. As I left I spoke to them.
“ You’re not going to arrest her are you? “ I asked.
“ No.“ they answered. They were just warning her not to do it again.
Later on in the day she came out of court again (I think she was thrown out.) She started sunbathing topless on the grass in front of the magistrate’s court. Then she stood up and turned sunbathing into a topless protest with 2 pieces of paper covering her rather large assets. The police eventually arrested her and drove her away. They probably let her out a few miles down the road.
After a long wait press came out with mobile phones to their ears. Muslims came out in a long fast walking line, Mr. Abdullah in the middle. I pegged it off after him hoping my faulty camera was running.
“ No comment today. “ he told me.
Talking to Mr. Abdullah is frustrating sometimes. I didn’t want a bloody press conference I wanted him to tell me how he was feeling.
The next morning I got up and bought all the papers. The kangaroo court had finally been replaced with a real one. The fun was over. As I read the charges I again began to wonder what the fuck I had been doing. Jamie phoned me in the morning and we arranged to meet in Finsbury Park. I was there at 12 to watch the press setting up. I sat and meditated for a while on the pavement. An Irish lady came past. She didn’t agree with Hamza or his teachings but she had been a regular in Finsbury Park more often than I, all the older muslims knew her well. She said it was right that he had been arrested but also said that she had shook his hand once and had a nice conversation with him.
“You shook the hook?“ I asked incredulously.
A few of the younger Muslims came past one said to me
“ You are happy now? This is the biggest opportunity of your life.” He was really angry.
In a year and a half in a kangaroo court playing the court jester I have always tried not to behave like a vulture. I searched my soul.
Others came past and told me that no one would be there today.
Patrick couldn’t make it, but Jamie and another guy called Simon came down. For a long while I thought there would be no muslims to introduce them to on their first visit.I'm not a muslim, but as Finsbury Parks muslim community trickled in, to level in number with the media and police I couldn't help but feel that with their leader facing 100 years and narrowly avoiding the death sentence they were very brave. I was shocked how much of a gap Hamza had left. It was like there was a fucking hole in the floor.
They had drafted a guy in to preach who I had never seen before. I thought that Mr. Abdullah would now take centre stage. I should have known him better. He said a few words at the beginning, but left the preaching to someone else. Since I had given him a video with him preaching on it he seemed to have stopped preaching.
Christine Phillips from BBC London called me up. She had filmed our eviction (see POLICE AND BALLIFS IN HIGHGATE) and we had spoken days previously about the Stanstead eco-activists campaign. She said she knew people at the BBC who would be interested in my stuff. At their meetings they had been speaking about how they had really wanted to get under the skin of the story.
“ If these T.V. types start pissing you around come to us.“ she said.“ It sounds like you’ve worked bloody hard on all this.“
“I’m shitting myself.“ I confided in her.
“You’ll be fine.“ she told me.
I spoke to Simon about what sort of deal Idealworld might offer.
“ £3,500 flat fee. And you would direct. Further up the scale is a 150 grand budget but you wouldn’t be able to direct it.” He told me.
No idea if that is good, but these are nice people. I thought.
To be payed to do what you enjoy is a great thing, after a years work it’s not really about the money now.
“ You’re documentary is going to be the best thing ever. “ a journalist I didn’t recognize told me. “ I’ve seen you work.” He told me he was from Albania.
I spoke to Mr. Abdullah at the end, and asked him if we could make a documentary about him. He repeated what Hamza had said a few weeks previously about only doing live interviews. I told him that I couldn’t make a documentary with live interviews.
“ You’re personality will put a whole different slant on the story, Mr.Abdullah.”
He started saying about how a Muslims personality wasn’t important. Jesus! How do you make a documentary about someone who doesn’t want to be centre stage? Simon came up with the camera, I had a radio mike pinned to me. It was hard to explain to Mr. Abdullah what sort of thing we were after. I had hoped that Patrick was going to turn up and say something. It felt weird to be there without my little camera. It seemed obvious that I wouldn’t be able to bring a stranger with a camera in at this point. Jesus, if they had only turned up a couple of weeks previously.
Without Hamza as a central focus camera crews went everywhere. We went for breakfast and I did a piece to camera with Jamie. Simon gave me some basic camera training. He also pointed out that the image stabalizer on my camera had been switched off for a whole year. Fuck. I spoke of my intentions to try and visit Hamza in prison and that I would e-mail Mr. Abdullah. When I got home I called Max Clifford’s agency to see if they were still representing the guys who had come out of guantanamo bay. I’m also trying to get hold of the Algerian guy who filmed undercover for the police in the mosque. If I ever get this documentary made I’m going to go round the world making a really detailed, chilled out film about how cannabis is grown, prepared and smoked in sunny places.
I watched the channel 4 news. Fantastic article. They reported what the guys said. It was good to see Mr. Abdullah's kissing America's backside comment. I read Jon Snows Snowmail, also fantastic. The papers have really freaked me out to be honest. I want to run away. I agree with the Daily Mail though, and Mr. Richard Littlejohn. Hamza should be tried in this country. What's going to happen to Hamza now? Well they wont extradite him will they? Britain never extradites. We didn't extradite Pinochet did we?