About a week ago the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MckAskill MSP made the decision to release Al Megrahi of the Lockerbie Bombings on compassionate grounds home to Libya. The response of critics such as politicians, radio hosts, journalists and comments written on various newspaper websites disappointed me so much that I felt compelled to write to the Editor of the Times expressing my feelings on the matter. People are so ready to hate nowadays, and the attacks on McAskill were both, in my opinion, heartless and ignorant.
To my genuine shock my letter was printed in the Saturday Times! You can read mine and the other featured letters here:
They cut out a few paragraphs, but the whole letter that I sent goes as follows:
Kenny McAskill has been a far more courageous man today than George Bush was when he declared a “war on terror”. How much courage does it take for a Member of Parliament, relatively unknown on the global stage, to defy the intense pressure from many directions including the US Government? To meet with the parents and families of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing, contemplate their pain and yet tell the world that he has decided the man responsible should be released?
The decision sent out today by Kenny McAskill was unequivocally one of compassion. The underlying message was that of the courage of our convictions as a nation. McAskill’s answer to the threat of terrorism, and his weapon against the scourge of violent, barbaric and inhumane attacks was not one of retaliation. Instead it defied all acts of terrorism, rising above enormous pressure and upholding our fundamental principles.
The intention of terrorism is intimidation, coercion and fear for political purposes. Kenny McAskill has shown that we will not be intimidated, coerced, or frightened into submission. He does perhaps the most shocking thing of all by releasing the terrorist dying of cancer to live out his last months with his family. Terrorism has no answer to mercy. It has no means with which to fight back against a people who answer hate with compassion and murder with justice. Justice will finally be served, as McAskill said today, by a “higher authority.” What he is saying is that as a people, we are undefeatable by terrorism if we have the strength to show compassion in the face of such atrocities.
In an age where religion sleeps and cruelty is rife we must hold true to our innate beliefs. When the terrorists, murderers and anarchists across the world hear of the news that Megrahi has been released from Greenock Prison on ‘compassionate grounds’ surely they will be dumfounded. Here, the people of the victims of the atrocities at Lockerbie have turned around and have sent the perpetrator home to his family, to die in peace. Revenge is not the answer to terrorism and when compassion like this is shown and internationally broadcasted, they will clearly realise this; and when they do, they will realise that they no longer hold power of threat or fear over the British people.
(PHOTO COPYRIGHT DAVID BEBER©, THE TIMES)
What really impressed me was the leading article on the front page by Martin Fletcher, "At Home With The Lockerbie Bomber." (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article6806087.ece) Carefully partial but suspiciously supportive, it was a huge contrast to the headlines on The Times the previous day which were aggressively written and clearly critical against the decision of release.
While opinion seems to have mellowed on this very controversial topic, it was also a relief to know that when I really wanted to voice my opinion in a way that would allow many people unknown to me to see my point of view, I was able to do that. I honestly didn't believe it would be printed (I already had several drafts waiting to be sent to other newspapers, MPs, the BBC News site etc). And so from this I urge anyone who really wants to have their say to go out and do something about it, whether it is writing to a paper, or a parliamentary figure, or anything else of the sort. Sometimes you get lucky and some think you have something important to be shared.