For $11.96 you can buy a copy of the Al-Qaeda Training Manual in paperback on Amazon.com.
One such order was recently placed by staff members at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom to make a point about academic freedom. Earlier this summer Rizwaan Sabir, a 22-year-old M.A. student at the university, and Hisham Yezza, an administrator, were arrested by British police for possession of the training manual and held for nearly a week under the sweeping powers of the U.K.'s 2006 Terrorism Act.
The manual, which contains fairly unimaginative prescriptions for terrorist warfare, first came to police attention almost a decade ago after a raid on the Manchester home of an al-Qaeda suspect. It has since made the rounds of various websites, including the U.S. Department of Justice's, from which Sabir downloaded it for his research thesis into terrorist tactics.
Despite it's widespread availability, the Terrorism Act makes possession of the manual a prosecutable offense. Sabir and Yezza's defenders say the indiscriminate use of the Terrorism Act is endangering academic freedom and the broad minded research that is needed to take on Islamic extremism (and which the government has made one its top research priorities).
"How can we attract scholars if they're threatened with arrest?" Bettina Renz, Sabir's personal tutor told me over the phone. She says the International Security and Terrorism Masters is the most popular course at Nottingham University, especially with overseas students.
At a recent protest over the fate of Yezza, who, due to visa irregularities, is now threatened with deportation, passages of the Al-Qaeda Training Manual were read in public.
But what may be more disturbing about such police tactics is their worrying ability to drive Muslims towards extremism.
According to a recent "Islam on Campus" survey of 1,400 students by the Centre for Social Cohesion, an independent think tank, just under a third of Muslim students said that killing in the name of religion can be justified. Sixty percent of the students who were active members of campus Islamic societies agreed with the statement, compared with 2% of non-Muslims.
The views of these students, are, I suspect, more moderate than those of many of their peers in the Middle East and Asia. But where the survey makes a notably different observation is in the isolation that many Muslim students feel.
Eight percent of Muslim students agree that "Most of my friends at university are Muslim because I have more in common with them than I do with non-Muslims." However, this rises to 25% when active members of campus Islamic Societies are asked.
Forty percent of Muslims said that they thought that it was unacceptable for Muslim men and women to mix freely.
The British government should probably have spent more time addressing these issues of social isolation, rather than the countless hours spent debating the Terrorism Act and recent extensions to the right to detain suspects without charge.