I see it in their eyes as they watch the news: friends, relatives and neighbours. More than 400 dead, half a million displaced from their homes, pictures of dying infants broadcast around the world - and barely a word of rebuke from the British government. Muslims around the world watch in growing alarm, and in their heads they all ask the same question - is a Muslim life really worth so little?
I have spent my entire adult existence trying to convince Muslims that notions of conspiracy involving the West planning to persecute and, ultimately, destroy Islam are all in their heads. I have rebuked those who suggest there are grounds for enjoining a "defensive" jihad. I have reminded people - and still do - that we are all equals in the eyes of western law - national and international - that nobody is under attack and that George Bush's talk of Crusades is no more than an aberration.
The best way to fight terrorism is to defeat the logic behind it. The notion that anyone is more or less valued by dint of their background, religion, race or nationality has to be dispelled. The would-be terrorist's belief that he is part of a brotherhood of superior beings is mirrored and, indeed, fuelled by the belief of any other nation or part of society that they themselves are somehow superior or more deserving.
And yet we have seen the US and European navies scurrying away those fortunate holders of the right passports from Lebanon - via a window in the hostilities amicably negotiated with the Israeli Army - so that, as soon as the first world citizens are out of the way, the bombing can promptly resume. Bombs targeted directly at innocent civilians and described unambiguously by UN visitors as "a breach of humanitarian law", and yet, rather than calling for a cessation of such violence, Blair continues to justify it. If the callousness of his position inflames ultra-moderate Muslims like me, then what will it do to those on the extreme peripheries?
I have felt this way before, mind you, over Iraq. But the Government tells us that the intensity of opposition to the invasion and occupation within Muslim circles had nothing to do with the growth of home-grown terrorism in the UK. Those who know, however, know different. Hussain Osman, one of those charged with participation in the attempted second wave bombings in London, on 21 July 2005, allegedly told his interrogators: "More than praying we discussed politics, the war in Iraq ... we always had new films of the war in Iraq... more than anything else those in which you could see Iraqi women and children who had been killed... There was a feeling of hatred and a conviction that it was necessary to give a signal - to do something."
Now they don't even have to watch it in private. The killing is going on under the full glare of global media attention, making Bush and Blair's indifference to human suffering - Muslim suffering, as the extremists will put it - stand out all the more. By supporting Bush, Blair lends credence to the claims of the Islamic terrorist that it is the entire West that hates us. If Britain stood apart, we moderates could have argued that it was the backwardness of US neocon thinking that is skewing the world order and perverting the normal course of international law - as indeed is the case.
For me, and others like me, fighting the cause of integration and a harmonious co-existence between a peace-loving Islam and the rest of society, the Kosovo war was our heyday. It was proof positive, if ever it was needed, that Britain and the West were as concerned about the plight of suffering Muslims as they were about anyone else. But that seems so long ago now, and it was, of course, in the era of Clinton.
Blair may believe that supporting American administrations, even when they are wrong, in the hope of somehow carrying influence, is good politics, but today our Prime Minister's words have become the single most potent propaganda weapon for paranoid fundamentalist Islam. He is not George Bush's poodle, he is his fig leaf. He makes Bush look representative of a wider consensus, instead of the underlying naked truth, which is that he now represents little more than his own country's religious right.
But that is nothing compared with the rage being provoked in more dangerous circles. Somewhere in the UK is a young Muslim who is beginning to see, everywhere he looks, other Muslims being persecuted and their persecutors being applauded. Then one night he will realise, for the first time, that what those hate-filled campaigners outside the mosque had been saying was, in fact, right all along. That's when he switches off the TV, and goes to meet them.
The author is a psychiatrist and film directorReuse content