he London bombings pose stark dilemmas
for those on the left and British Muslims in particular.
The vast majority of us believe in allowing people
to express their differences and practice their
culture and religion, without being pushed into
one set of homogenous thoughts. Should those freedoms
be surrendered by supporting some of the measures
being proposed by Tony Blair? Is it really credible
to suppose that we should forget the international
policy issues bound up in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine,
The media (left and right) seem to think that
what happened on July 7th is all to do with Islam
and that Muslims want to impose their way of life
in the west, destroy our liberal democracies and
want to oppress women, and they think that the
Hijab is a sign of that. That is just plain wrong.
The lessons of history highlight the perils of
targeting a religious group through propaganda.
There are many issues and challenges for Muslims
in this country and elsewhere, just as there are
for the Jews, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs. July
7th has nothing to do with encouragement of multiculturalism,
the alleged lack of integration of Muslims in this
country or the few oddballs in the Muslim community
(others have them as well) who no-one has actually
heard of, except by the courtesy of our media.
The bombings in London and elsewhere have everything
to do with political dispute, the control of Middle
East wealth by USA multi-nationals and the Western
policy of installing most of the current rulers
without any democratic process. Is it surprising
then that in the Middle East they laugh at us when
we talk of democracy?
Let me make it clear that I do not condone the
bombings in London: two wrongs don’t make
a right and violence begets violence. There are
many peaceful ways of resolving conflicts. However,
whilst 99.9% of Muslims understand this, there
are ‘hot heads’ out there who do not.
In the last two months few have wanted to address
the underlying causes of the London bombings for
fear of being accused of sympathizing. But, if
we want to safeguard and protect our citizens we
need to address the uncomfortable and unpalatable
truth of our policies, both present and past. The
anti-terror laws and internments without trial
in Northern Ireland didn’t help to reduce
the violence. Similarly, the Israeli foreign intelligence
agency, Mossad, has operated a policy of targeted
assassinations of opponents and the Israeli government
passed laws allowing physical violence to be used
to get information out of suspected suicide bombers.
These measures have not worked, either. Extreme
measures taken by governments appear to have caused
more tensions and problems.
Why do I say that suicide bombing is not about
religion or integration but is a political struggle?
Firstly, let’s examine the history of suicide
bombing. The most famous suicide bombers were the
Japanese Kamikaze pilots who would ‘ram their
planes into targets’ knowing they would die.
It was an effective means of hitting a target.
Then, almost thirty years later, Iranians used
the technique against the unlawful invasion by
Iraq, resulting in the deaths of millions of Muslims
from both sides. In those days, of course, Saddam
Hussein was given military backing by the USA and
UK. Is it therefore any wonder that Iran is hostile
to the USA? The Lebanese Socialist Revolutionaries,
who did not believe in religion but were fighting
against the Israeli occupation, used suicide bombing.
They regarded it as a cheap, but effective tool
for warfare. The Tamil Tigers, Tibetan freedom
fighters in India and others in India have carried
out suicide bombings. If these groups had fighter
jets, daisy cutters or tanks they would use them
as nation states do.
Secondly, the young men who carried out London
bombings had not gone to faith schools and there
is nothing to suggest that the mosques they went
to preached anything radical. They came from Yorkshire,
had never lived in London and heard nothing of,
for example, the radical cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed,
whom the government has banned from returning to
the UK. The people who have not integrated so fully
are predominantly the older generation and yet
they are not the problem. The idea that integration
or assimilation would be a panacea to bombing is
a mirage but initiatives, or measures that will
help all communities to understand each other and
live with each other harmoniously are to be welcomed.
Thirdly, it is apparent from discussions and debates
amongst many people, especially amongst young Muslims,
that there is very genuine and real anger at what
they see happening in the world namely:
- Lack of any real progress in resolving the
conflict in Palestine. The building of the wall
has deprived many Palestinians of their livelihoods,
but it has been completed and serves as a daily
reminder of the iniquitous and contemptuous manner
is which they have been treated whilst the West
has stood by and watched. At the same time Israel
continues to establish and protect settlements
in the West Bank and encourages immigration from
abroad. They are angry that people who did not
even come from the Middle East can have a country
of their own on the basis that their religious
scriptures state that Israel is for the Jews.
I have been often asked how many other claimants
have been successful in getting another’s
land on the basis that their religion ordained
it. Most Muslims are realistic and know that
the state of Israel is here to stay, but they
would like to see a viable Palestinian state
as well. It is the ongoing failure to acknowledge
and make this possible that frustrates and angers
- The invasion and destruction of Iraq was seen
by all: the cluster bombs, the killings of Iraqi
civilians, and the awarding of all reconstruction
projects to USA firms. This is seen as the complete
stranglehold of the USA over Iraq and as part
of its continued expansionist plans for the rest
of the Middle East.
- They also have seen and read of once thriving,
progressive Afghanistan of the 60s and 70s being
decimated with many Afghans dying – pawns
in a power struggle between the USA and the then
- In Kashmir, they see Muslims being slaughtered
by the Indian forces; they are aware of the UN
resolution giving Kashmir a right to self determination
yet this UN resolution, like those on Palestine,
is being ignored whilst the USA chooses to enforce
resolutions on Iraq without even obtaining UN
consent. UN resolutions regarding Kashmir and
Palestine have been ignored as if they do not
- In Bosnia, two hundred thousand Muslim Bosnians
were killed by Christian Serbs, before the West
intervened. It was, according to US Assistant
Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, "the
greatest failure of the West since the 1930s."
Despite all this, the vast majority of Muslims
although angry and unhappy have never considered
taking any action, negative or positive. There
is much talk of the Ummah or worldwide community
of Muslims, but it remains talk. If, say, it were
Christians, Jews, Sikh or Hindus at the receiving
end of Western interference, would not some of
them take up arms? Extremism occurs in all religions.
In the absence of any apparent understanding of
these sensitivities by Western policymakers, is
it surprising that some Muslims believe that taking
up arms is the only way to save other Muslims?
They see scope for legitimate struggle.
These youngsters are not bothered by our moral,
social or economic values or beliefs and have no
desire to change our way of life. They believe
they are fighting for Muslims being slaughtered
all over the world and want us to feel the pain
that they feel Muslims have been facing for the
last fifty odd years. Sadly our leaders do not
have the courage or the foresight to realize that
these conflicts will not be swept away. Innocent
lives are being taken all around us. We must pay
for our oil instead of stealing it as we have done.
History has shown that most conflicts are resolved
by social interaction of all the conflicting parties.
The person(s) who can work towards a solution to
these issues will be remembered as great human
beings and great leaders.
Yasmin Qureshi was Labour candidate for Brent
East at the 2005 General Election.