Appologies this is a cut and paste from the BBC site.
He may not win first prize in the Great Disabled Britons contest, but if there was an award for the most damned disabled person in Britain this week,
then Muslim cleric Abu Hamza would emerge as the clear winner.
The Muslim cleric who, we are told, lost both his hands and an eye fighting the Russians in Afghanistan was given a good going-over by the tabloid
press while the police were raiding the Finsbury Park mosque where he preaches.
"Sling your hook!" screamed The Sun on Tuesday, with a front page prominently featuring a large picture of his prosthesis. In the newspaper's
leader column, it said that with his "hook hand and snarling mouth" he was the unacceptable face of Islam.
The Daily Express was also busy. In fact, on Wednesday it was almost in danger of overworking the puns by saying that he was preaching hatred against:
"the very hand that feeds him." By Thursday, they were calling him plain and simple "Mr Hook" telling us that the "hook handed fundamentalist
preacher" had once married a 48-year-old British woman dubbed (of course) "Mrs Hook". Oh dear.
Why has Abu Hamza become such a hate figure for the national press? Of course, to begin with he’s a radical Muslim cleric who has been allegedly
preaching some fairly unpopular things at a time when the country is on a heightened state of alert. Secondly, according to the Daily Express, he
claims several benefits; thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, he doesn’t disguise his disability. Worst of all, he appears to flaunt it. Not for him
a tasteful pink prosthesis. No, he wears what has been described as "a hook" - and the tabloids seem to be obsessed by it. Writing in Wednesday’s
edition of The Guardian, Rod Liddle had it just about right when he said that Abu Hamza looked as if he had been "designed by a committee of Daily
Mail news executives." Showing his prosthesis so prominently makes him the perfect bad guy.
While all this tabloid interest in disability was going on, I was reading a book called The Politics of Disablement by academic Mike Oliver. In the
book, he points out that disabled people are often marginalised in the media - presented as superheroes, victims or villains. One academic quoted in
the book points out that in children’s literature:
"... the disabled adult has often been portrayed as an embittered and menacing character who, like Long John Silver, seeks to manipulate children for
their own ends, or as a man bearing a grudge against society who uses his distorted body or artificial limbs in a sinister and aggressive fashion,
e.g. Captain Hook."
There we are back with the hook. Abu Hamza has been portrayed almost as a character from a pantomime. We’re encouraged to boo and hiss when we see him
on the front page. He could be straight out of Peter Pan. He is literally the latter day Captain Hook.
Of course, the tabloid press don’t make villains of all disabled people. We can be superheroes as well as villains. On Wednesday - the day after Abu
Hamza occupied the whole front page of The Sun - another disabled person was featured on the front of a tabloid. This time it was the Daily Mirror,
and the person in question was none other than Simon Weston: "This war is wrong, says Falklands hero Simon Weston."
In the pantomime that is often the British tabloid press, Simon Weston - whom the Mirror dubbed "the scarred veteran" - is the good guy, the man of
peace playing opposite Abu Hamza, the villain. And all this at a time of uncertainty over war. Unlike Abu Hamza - who, according to the Express, has
supported all sorts of bad guys like Osama Bin Laden - the Mirror told us that Simon Weston had "never fired a shot in anger." Hoorah.