Thursday, 5 July 2007

London & Glasgow attacks used to justify Islamophobia

See many more articles from Arab language and Middle Eastern press
on this and other subjects at the OURAIM Archive

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From Al-Ahram Weekly

In a state of denial

Sukant Chandan argues that the recent botched
terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow are the

result of Britain's botched imperial designs against the
Muslim world

Following unsuccessful car-bomb attacks in London and
Glasgow on the first day in office of the new British Prime
Minister Gordon Brown, debate in Britain revolves around
two main issues: are Muslims justified in arguing that
Islam and Islamic countries are victims of a Western plot
of domination and aggression, and is the invasion and
occupation of Iraq the cause of the radicalisation of
Muslim youth and the growth of militant Jihadi networks
planning attacks in Britain?

What is at stake is the very relationship between the
Muslim communities, the white community and the British
state.

The process of mutual understanding and dialogue will
escape us so long as the British government, the mainstream
media and the public are in denial over the fact that
strained relations between the Muslim community and the
British state must be seen primarily within the context of
British government policy vis-à-vis Muslims and Islam
across the world, especially in Palestine, Iraq and
Afghanistan. Further violence and conflict will continue
both in Britain and the Middle East if this state of denial
and lack of mutual respect continue.

In the post-WWII period, it was the war in Vietnam which
epitomised the relationship between not only East and West,
but also North and South. Since the collapse of the
Socialist Bloc this relationship has been symbolised by the
wars and occupations of Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and
Afghanistan. Indeed the 1990 US-led aggression against Iraq
was the US's signal to the rest of the world that it was
establishing its world hegemony, or New World Order in the
words of Bush Senior. The Middle East continues to be the
epicentre of this battle between the poor and rich nations,
the North and South. The attacks in London and Glasgow took
place against a stark backdrop of occupation and resistance
in the Middle East and the ludicrous appointment of Tony
Blair as a Middle East peace envoy by the Quartet. Al-Quds
Al-Arabi 's Editor-in-Chief Abdul-Bari Atwan suggested that
"the only reception befitting of Blair is with rotten eggs
and tomatoes."

Instead of a reasoned public debate about the root causes
of Arab and Muslim anger against Western foreign policy,
Blair set the boundaries of the public debate in blaming
the victims. In what was probably the most vicious of a
long line of attacks on Muslims and their identity and
beliefs, Blair insists: "it's not just your methods that
are wrong, your ideas are absurd. Nobody is oppressing you.
Your sense of grievance isn't justified." This is typical
of Blair, the ideological spokesperson of the West's
"civilising mission" against Muslims and Arabs, but it is
given further credence when Muslim voices echo Blair. One
Hassan Butt has obliged and been prominent in the print and
TV media.

Butt, a former member of the now disbanded militant British
pro-Jihadi group Al-Muhajiroun, said in The Observer on 1
July that Muslims in Britain have been allowed to assert
their identity through their dress, construction of mosques
and equal rights before the law. Butt, the spokesperson for
the model Western civilised Muslim, helps to confirm The
Observer 's editorial on the same day which assures us that
"the West does not want to dominate the lands of Islam."
Meanwhile, he helps to confirm the misplaced fears of many
that Islam is blindly violent to non-Muslims, referring
casually to "those passages of the Quran which instruct on
killing unbelievers".

The underlying cause of the growth of political Islam is
Western policy in the Middle East. Instead of recognising
this simple fact, the terrorist activities of a handful of
frustrated militants are used to trivialise any notion that
Muslims may have a convincing case for their concerns. The
attacks in London and Glasgow are being used by some to
argue that the widespread solidarity for those resisting
occupation in the Middle East in the Muslim community is
really support for Al-Qaeda-type armed attacks against
civilians in this country.

The subtext is that Western tolerance towards Muslims and
Islam requires that they confine themselves to praying
quietly, dressing as they like, and respecting the law, but
in no way should Muslims or anyone else support the rights
of Arab and Middle Eastern people to end occupation. If
they do, they are branded terrorist sympathisers. Rather,
Muslims and the public in general are told time and time
again that there is no project to dominate the Middle East,
whilst every season sees a new campaign against a Middle
Eastern country. Attacks in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan,
Lebanon, Somalia, regime- change threats against Sudan,
Syria and Iran, a secret international network of US
prisons for Muslim men, women and children, the obscenity
that is Camp X-Ray, and the sadistic humiliation and
torture at Abu Ghraib prison... What else is necessary to
prove that Arabs and Muslims who stand up for the
independence of their countries and their identity are
being victimised?

The Middle East was the last region of the world to be
conquered by the colonial powers. It continues to be the
most difficult to subdue, but is a crucial region for the
West to control due to its geographical proximity and oil.
It is so important, and acquiescence to control it is so
important, the very act of resisting US, British and
Israeli aggression and occupation is therefore in effect a
crime in the eyes of the West.

In this context and due to the related terrorism laws here,
most of the Muslim community is afraid to get involved in
legitimate democratic political activity. Those who are
involved, even the most mainstream organisations, have to
constantly defend themselves from attempts at
criminalisation from the more hawkish sections of the
British state. Rather than victimising dissenters, true
believers in British democracy should be trying to show
that democracy can work; they should involve them in
consultation with the authorities and in light of this
apply a wiser policy in the interests of all parties.

What is taking place instead is polarisation between the
British authorities and the Muslim community. A small
section of Muslim youth here see that, on the one hand,
democratic methods such as lobbying and marching in the
millions does not shift British policies one iota, and that
mainstream Muslim organisations are ignored and even
attacked despite all their meetings with panels and
committees with the British authorities. It is no wonder
then that in the face of the unabated suffering of their
brothers and sisters in the Middle East, some sympathise
and a few even take up the strategy espoused by Al-Qaeda of
refusing the West security as long as Muslims are denied
security through occupation and aggression. This emergence
of the more extreme and violent methods of protest when
legal protests fail was infamously explained by Mohamed
Siddiq Khan in his video before the bomb attacks that he
led on 7 July 2005: "our words have no impact upon you,
therefore I'm going to talk to you in a language that you
understand. Our words are dead until we give them life with
our blood."

This Al-Qaeda political strategy of treating violence with
violence is not unique to militant Islam: it was most
recently employed in England by the Irish Republican Army
and by secular Palestinian nationalists in the 1970s
amongst others. It is the "shock and awe" of the weak. When
peaceful and democratic means to resolve conflicts and
grievances are allowed to fail by those who have the power
to resolve conflicts, it is inevitable that some will try
other means.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is clearly setting a
markedly different tone to that of the comparatively
hawkish and offensive former PM Tony Blair. Unlike Blair,
Brown has not so far opportunistically encouraged the media
and authorities to take advantage of this situation to
immediately justify the strengthening of the terrorism laws
and encourage an atmosphere where Islamophobia flourishes.
However, on all the most important issues of foreign policy
in the Middle East there is no sign that Brown will be
moving away from the policies of his predecessor. Whether
or not the attacks in London and Glasgow are
Al-Qaeda-inspired, Brown should understand that these
attacks are inevitable when one nation occupies and creates
calamities in another nation.

The attack at Glasgow airport poses a serious problem for
the new nationalist Scottish government. Newly elected
Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond is now
first minister of the Scottish parliament. The SNP, the
Liberal Democrats and the Greens are all opposed to the
Iraq war and support British troops being withdrawn from
Iraq. Furthermore, the SNP want independence from the
United Kingdom. Given Al-Qaeda's ideological position of
assuring countries immunity from attack if they are not
partners in military campaigns against the Middle East,
striking in Scotland does not make any sense. A terror
attack against Scottish targets only jeopardises the
Scottish people's aspirations for independence from the
British government and their policies in London, and hence
goes against Al-Qaeda's policy of encouraging anti-war
administrations in the West. If the attack in Glasgow is an
Al-Qaeda-inspired attack it shows the lack of
sophistication on part of the attackers not just on the
level of technical know- how, but politics as well.

Salmond has shown an alternative and more positive
political leadership for people in Britain; he is keen to
distance himself from the rhetoric of the Blair and the
British media in alienating the Muslim community, and is
keen not to be pushed into adopting draconian laws against
Muslims in response to these attacks.

The public debate in the aftermath of the attacks in London
and Glasgow is centred on blaming the Muslim community and
their beliefs. On a popular level, those who believe in
justice and mutual respect for the people of the Middle
East need to develop effective strategies to end British
occupations, and press for dialogue with political
movements that represent Arabs and Muslims who are
struggling for independence.

1 comment:

Anon said...

The Glasgow Airport incident looks like an action by the security services to turn the people of Scotland against Moslems and against the SNP. Some of those involved in the plot would have been double agents and some would have been patsies. The 1605 Gunpowder plot in Britain was a government plot to discredit Catholics. Robert Catesby, Thomas Percy and Francis Tresham, all agents of the British government, were involved in the planning of the Gunpowder plot. On his death-bed, there were statements by Robert Catesby's servant that the government's spymaster Robert Cecil met Catesby on three occasions in the period leading up to the events of of 5 November 1605. In the 1880s, the Irish nationalists wanted independence from Britain. British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury, decided:(1) to use a British government agent Francis Millen to organise a false flag operation to blow up Westminster Abbey, thus killing Queen Victoria. (2) to have the plot discovered just in time - so that the Irish Nationalists would be discredited. After the plot had been revealed, two Americans were arrested and sentenced to long periods in prison for conspiracy to commit terrorist acts. Francis Millen managed to escape to New York where he mysteriously died. Mohammed Siddique Khan, the alleged ringleader of the 7/7 London bombings, was working for British intelligence agency MI5 as an informant at the time of the attacks, according to Charles Shoebridge, a 12-year veteran detective of the London Metropolitan Police.