July 19, 2005
Our City?

I've seen the words "Our City" used many times after the bombings in London. Each time I see or hear this, I think to myself that it was "Their City" as well. Because the bombers were British. As British as I am. That is the problem. These Brits, who by all accounts were well regarded of, felt strongly enough that violence was the only way to make their statements heard. That they were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, kill themselves for whatever they believed in. Suicide bombing is the tactic of the hopeless and weak; if the terrorist threat was really some enormous powerful international force, they would surely do more than launch these desperate tragedies.

My real problem with those words is that it reinforces the reasons why someone can do that — tribalism. The collective "we" have a general strong instinct to form groups (tribes as I call them). It is perhaps why a British Muslim who sees pictures of mutilated children and tortured prisoners may be willing to override his national instincts with religious ones. Why they then see other members of the same country as the "other" (even though linked to by many strands of their identity). By saying "Our City", we reaffirm that this is a tribal war; we obscure subtlety of identity in drum-rolls of patriotism (wherever that patriotism may lie). We reinforce the problem, not alleviate it.

The stupidity of the British bombers is that their targets were utterly misconceived, their tribalism blinded them to the implications of their action. Of those that died in the tunnels and streets of London, the majority would have probably been opposed to the illegal and unjustified invasion of Iraq; to the death of thousands of Iraqi's, to the torture by US and British troops of detainees; to the use of cluster bombs in residential areas and the whole catalogue of horrors the Military machine promulgated in the name of liberation.

What options did we have in this "democracy", was my passionate voice heard; could the bombers have used a different route to defend their ideas? Sadly the answer is no. The Government was willing to go to War irrespective of public opinion. It lied and cheated its way to join the killing fields. The sadness and hopelessness I felt after those massive demonstrations may well have been converted in the bombers into a dehumanising obsession.

Some of my closest friends in life have been 2nd Generation Pakistanis. I have been to Mosque with them, and spent evenings discussing in prayer circles. I wish more people could experience the warmth and openness of the Muslims I know. My fear is as the Government finally gets the chance to strip away more civil rights, soon I will not be able to discuss any of this. The Government wants to make incitement to terrorism a criminal offence. Does me saying, "I understand why someone may do this" give them grounds to arrest me (even if I cannot accept the methods they used)? If I leave myself open to the position that Palestinians may have no other way to fight the absolute power of the Israeli military than through the tragedy of suicide bombing (even though I see how nihilistic and futile it is) — does that make me one of "them"?

Posted by Ian at July 19, 2005 02:41 PM | TrackBack
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