[Bilal Patel is a British Muslim residing in East London. Here, he gives his views on the latest attacks against his city. To contact him, please email:
IT’S NOT ENOUGH TO POINT FINGERS AT AL QAEDA
One in seven Londoners are Muslim. Half of all UK Muslims live in the city and most of them live in the East End. Yesterday [Wednesday], we were overjoyed to hear that the Olympic games were going to be staged where we live. As an Eastender, this must have been one of my happiest moments. I am so proud of this city. It’s diversity and tolerance is unique and unmatched anywhere else in the world.
It’s amazing how quickly events turn around barely a day later. None of us are immune to the effects of terrorism. Muslims have been victims of IRA bombs. Our community was one which was specifically targeted by the Soho nail bomber. We bleed too. Two of todays’[Thursday’s] bombs went off in Whitechapel and Edgware Road – places where there is a heavy Muslim presence. We too made frantic phone calls, left voice mails and sent text messages to make sure that our friends, families and colleagues were not caught up in the bombings.
However, we have concerns over and above that of the risks of suffering terrorist attacks. All of the calls I received from other Muslims were also fearful of the now predictable blame which will be fixed on our community. There is already speculation from some officials and media commentators about attacks from ‘Islamist extremists’. Rest assured that the finger of suspicion will be pointed at us yet again. It is not enough that Muslims have to suffer one set of attacks from terrorists. We will have to face many more from the politicians, press and security services in the weeks and months to come.
As at the time of writing, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair and the Home Secretary Charles Clarke, have warned against the dangers of speculation as to who exactly is behind these attacks. Turning us against one another, as Shadow Home Secretary David Davis warned, is exactly what the terrorists want. I agree with these sentiments. Londoners have in the past shown remarkable resilience and unity in the face of terrorist attacks. We have refused to let them affect us and I believe that, left to their own devices, people will unite and deal with this latest threat as they have dealt with every other. They will brush it off, things will go back to normal and all will be as it was.
These attacks, stated Blair in his reaction, were designed to coincide with the opening of the G8 summit at Gleneagles. Yet in the same breath he talks about a threat from extremists determined to enforce their views on us. From the language he used, I presume that what he is talking about is the elusive Al Qaeda (whatever that is) and not those G8 demonstrators who physically attacked the police barricades and businesses in Edinburgh and other places.
Excuse me, but the usual sanctimonious expressions about Al Qaeda are not enough this time. Tough rhetoric on tackling terror won’t stop attacks. They have happened. In London of all places, despite all the bragging about the successes of the ‘war on terror’. Fine words and condemnations might look good for the TV cameras, but they don’t address the issues. Are we really to believe that someone woke up one day, declared that he was an extremist, and decided to enforce his extremist views through bombs? Did Al Qaeda suddenly decide to bomb London for the sake of mere ideology?
If it really was a so-called ‘Islamist’ or Middle Eastern group behind these attacks, then I have no doubt that it happened because of Blair’s insistence that we invade Iraq, and on the basis of a lie which is something that has infuriated the Muslim world. Like others, I further believe that our blinding acquiescence to the Israeli occupation of Palestine is something that marks us out as enemies in certain quarters, as does our tacit support of various dictators parading as kings and presidents in places like Saudi-occupied Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan.
If politicians really are concerned about stopping terrorism and making this country and the world a safer place, then let’s leave out the macho tough talk and get down to business. I believe that in order to prevent terrorist attacks, we first have to sit down and talk with those who are behind these attacks, like we did with the IRA. Secondly, we have to recognise that if we go out and invade other countries, or support oppression in other countries, then this is not cost-free and it will eventually rebound on us. Thirdly, we will get nowhere if we don’t have the support of the Muslim community - at least here in the UK. Blair’s government has alienated the community through its draconian anti-terror legislation and this has to be reviewed, as we will need the support and help of the community if it really is so-called Islamists behind these attacks.
Frankly though, I am not hopeful that such a thing will happen. Once again our politicians will parade themselves with expressions of sanctimonious self-righteousness while the rest of us have to suffer as a result of their actions. It is high time that we called them to account.