J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Closing the Book on Tarik Shah

(Note: Like the stock exchange, I’ll be taking Good Friday off.)

Two years after he was charged, bassist Tarik Shah has pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid Al-Qaeda terrorists, the NY Times reports. Some in the jazz community, like Howard Mandel, have criticized the government’s case from a civil liberties standpoint. Others, like Margaret Davis, immediately leaped to Shah’s defense, presuming his innocence and assuming malfeasance on the part of the U.S. government.

Given the hours of videotape evidence reportedly collected by the F.B.I., it is indeed hard to understand why it took so long for Shah’s case to come to trial. When prosecuting terrorism-related cases, justice should be swift and harsh.

How will Shah’s partisans react to his guilty plea? Despite NY Times puff pieces about him scatting in prison, Shah reportedly regarded his profession as the “greatest cover” for a jihadi. He has pleaded guilty to throwing in his chips with the perpetrators of the 9-11 attacks, which had a calamitous economic impact on the New York club scene. It claimed the life of jazz vocalist Betty Farmer. Shah’s disturbing attitude towards al Qaeda is clear from the NY Sun’s report:

“Shah said little at yesterday's hearing, beyond admitting that he knew supporting Al Qaeda was ‘wrong.’ Nonetheless, during questioning by a prosecutor, Karl Metzner, the defendant appeared unwilling to call Al Qaeda a terrorist organization. After consulting with his lawyer for several minutes, Shah conceded only that he knew the government considered Al Qaeda to be a terrorist organization.”

Those who attended uptown benefit concerts for Shah’s legal defense would have done more for the music had they contributed to the Jazz Foundation of America—such was Shah’s betrayal of the music he once played.

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