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Home > People

Henry Rollins: Free Thinker

24 February 2006

You've got to love Henry Rollins. Punk, poet, rockstar, raconteur, author, actor, thinker and super-thick-necked spokesman for a straight edge way of life, Rollins is like, totally unique. This week he's been in the news because of an incident which occurred at the end of last month when he was touring in Australia. The incident marks yet another of the recent bumper crop of mini-attacks on this delicate little flower we call Freedom.

On a flight from Auckland to Australia's Gold Coast, Rollins was reading a book by leading Pakistani author and journalist Ahmed Rashid. Described by Publisher's Weekly as an 'important work', the book in question is an examination of how Islamic fundamentalism has gained support in Central Asia since the fall of Communism. It is published by Yale University Press and is a significant account of one of the most pressing issues of our time. Unfortunately, it happens to have the word 'Jihad' in the title. This was enough for the passenger sitting next to Henry Rollins to regard him as a threat to national security and report him to the Australian government. Although frankly, his thick neck probably didn't help matters.

Thankfully the good people at Australia's National Security Hotline do have a sense of perspective, and a degree of intelligence. Or at least the one that contacted Rollins does. In her explanation of the situation, she wrote the following:

'...I work in one of those Government areas that deals with anti terrorism matters. A fine service is provided but unfortunately we get to read a lot of things submitted by lunatics... The person who sat next to you on the flight from New Zealand does not agree with your politics or choice of reading and so nominated you as a possible threat. As they were too cowardly or stupid to leave their details I can't call them to discuss their idiocy with them.'

Rollins responded politely, explaining exactly what he had been reading, before adding:

'...Please tell your government and everyone in your office to go fuck themselves. Tell them twice. If your boss is looking for something to do, you can tell him I suggest he go fuck himself. Baghdad's safer than my hometown and your PM is a sissy. You have a nice night.'

Now this might seem a little churlish considering the apologetic and really quite sweet tone of the original letter, but clearly Rollins was angry by now. Furious in fact. On his blog, he explains, 'I really don't take kindly to that kind of shit.' Followed by, 'I like it though. Love it. Confrontation. Tension. Adversarial relationships. More please.'

And he doesn't intend to drop it there. Rollins is disgusted that the guy who reported him did not have the courage to leave his name. Already he is plotting some kind of revenge. In an interview this week he said, 'The next time I get out to Australia - that is, if they let me in - I am going to talk about that guy in every interview I do. And it will get to him. It's a small country, in that there aren't a lot of people there and most of the country's just sand and flies. So it will get to him.'

Whether Rollins manages to get to this petrified slug of a man or not, one hopes that the story of his small-minded prejudice and knee-jerk fearfulness is widely circulated. Then maybe one day, someone, somewhere - maybe someone in a queue at the post office who notices someone else with a beard reading a copy of the Koran and starts to feel violently uneasy - will remember it, and get themselves a sense of perspective.

It's a nice idea anyway.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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