Friday, July 07, 2006

Unsurprising Reflections on 7/7

For the last few months, I have been going around talking to community activists, a few academics, and one person who was visiting from Britain, here in the United States. Amongst my questions is:
"Were you surprised when you learned that the 7/7 bombers were British born and bred?"
While this is not a statistically significant sample, or a scientific or academic analysis, the results, quite frankly, have not been surprising.

Folks that know me, and my often quixotic-seeming rants about the influence of right-wing ideologies on the mainstream of American Muslims, in particular, might, and I say might, understand what I am talking about. The same people who have always argued with me that there is no such right-wing tilt in the American community--or the ones who looked at me as if I had two heads--have been the ones that answered "Yes" to that question. And, interestingly, though not really surprisingly to me at least, the ones who say they are not surprised are often the folks within Muslim communities that are consciously moderate or progressive. These are the folks that are not the ones arguing that there is no such thing--or no need for such terms--as "Moderate Islam" or "Progressive Islam". [The folks that answer "Yes" are the same folks, in my humble experience, that do not make the distinction between "Islam" and "Muslim" when they discuss these things, even if they might in their own minds. But that's a discussion for another time.]

As the anniversary of the bombings in London comes around, I see the same blindspot, the same stubborn refusal to get real, on most sides of this discussion--and on both sides of the Pond, as it is sometimes called. And I mean most sides, not just "the Muslim one"; Mr Blair's recent statement has me tearing out my hair, too. His complete dismissal of any role for his country's foreign policies in even giving fanatics an excuse for their acts is mind-boggling. As we say back home, you either think your listeners are completely foolish; or you are trying to make fools of them; or you are foolish yourself. None of those choices pleasant or that augur well for our planet.

And then there's the bishop and his comment about a "false ideology". I know that is most probably his Anglican way of saying "evil ideology", since in a lot of religous systems anything that isn't exactly the same as your point of view about the road to salvation is false, the work of the devil, and evil, and so on. But isn't the equation of things that are false from one's point of view with "evil", and "satanic" what we are all talking about here?

And then, of course, there are the Muslims. Stuck between a rock and a hard place. Usama and the local Mullah. And between "community leaders" in business suits who say they were "very surprised" that the 7/7 bombers came from their communities and the elected politicians who say that there is no way their policies could make anyone angry.

One can only shake one's head in un-surprise.

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