Next time, Mr Blair, you won't carry British Muslims with you

'It is not only Muslims - I have not met one Briton of colour who supports military action in Iraq'
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The Independent Online

What do British or European or American Muslims think about the Bush 'n' Blair Axis of Deceit? Do they support the planned invasion of Iraq by the US and its very good friend the UK? Does anyone know? Do these powerful men and their apostles care? Of course not. We are hardly the people who matter when these big and important decisions are being made. Whatever objections and fears we have, our role as defined by this state is only to provide the nods, to be the chorus of approval or else be banished to the hinterland with the label "supporter of terrorist" branded on our receding backs.

Blair is rumoured to be rethinking his planned re-education campaign (he was going to give us a "damning dossier", apparently, not on proven links between the Iraqi regime and al-Qa'ida but on how evil Saddam is) to deal with all those faint hearts who are openly expressing disquiet about Cowboy Bush Jr and his arbitrary notions of a just war. Perhaps he has been unnerved by that passionate kiss between Saudi Arabia and Iraq at the meeting of Arab states last week. Or it may be the steady and incontrovertible arguments against the Bush line which are finding their way into public debates.

The Moral Maze, in an illuminating programme last week, had several unexpected people – the libertarian Claire Fox, the academic Dr Eric Herring for example – calmly providing factual evidence to show how there is no moral justification for US attacks on Iraq. Meanwhile, among western Muslims, emotions are rising in ways I have not seen before. They live as free citizens in a powerful democracy, but feel powerless to stop the destruction of Palestine by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon or to demand answers on what exactly is going on in Afghanistan (surely one of least reported of all wars) or at Camp X-Ray, and now to arrest an unjustifiable war against the crushed people of Iraq. They know, too, how smoothly this fury will be managed once the decision has been made to go for Iraq and that makes them even more incandescent.

After the action has started, some of the rapidly proliferating, self-made "community" will be summoned and placed before cameras to smile vacuously and shake the hands of our top chaps, sometimes their nice wives, often in the beautiful rooms of 10 Downing Street or the White House.

Ah, to be so close to teacups used by those who own the world, to stand under priceless paintings of the previously powerful white men, to experience fleeting moments of inclusion, how can this fail to turn their heads? These are, after all, petite bourgeoisie folk, still crawling up, always open to new opportunities for self importance.

That is the calculation. It has always worked. Only this time even this job lot of unctuous pleasers are trembling about this new war and the Government which has come to depend on their unthinking support. As one of these traumatised chaps told me recently, sweating profusely as if he were pleading for his life: "This is not the war against Taliban and al-Qa'ida. We were right to support Mr Blair. To show him our loyalty, and to help the poor people of Afghanistan. We had to show the world that we do not support terrorists. But now, if they ask me to say yes to the bombing of Iraq, I am so afraid that is not right. No proof, nothing, just to go and bomb. No, I cannot agree. My community will not trust me, you know, if I do that."

I think that he was genuinely grappling with anxiety, but I also know him well enough to fear that he could be easily bought.

The time may well be up for such appeasers as diverse Muslims (Sunni, Shia, secular, ardent, fanatic, mild, educated, illiterate, men, women and children, from all parts of the world) converge in their condemnation of this action against Iraq.

Over February and March I attended some 13 conferences and seminars in all. Whatever the planned topic, Muslims have brought up their feelings about the war against Iraq. Actually I lie. Not only Muslims. I have not met a single Briton of colour who supports this action either although I confess I haven't checked the views of black and Asian new Labour MPs and peers who probably have to agree that our worshipful leader is always right.

Younger objectors are appearing across the country and I don't mean the usual suspects of under-educated street fighters in deprived areas. I am talking of young Muslims in sharp suits who are working in the City, at our major hospitals as doctors, about nouvelle restaurant owners and dynamic entrepreneurs, and a large number of brilliant university academics. Some have never before been engaged in the politics of fervour.

They use the internet well; they know that Iraq was already 90 per cent compliant when the US deliberately provoked a new confrontation before imposing sanctions. They have been raised in a country where they have learnt important scepticism about politicians and the press. They trust only a handful of journalists, and Robert Fisk is one of them. They reject utterly the prevailing idea that one American death is a massive tragedy which the whole world must regard with disproportionate concern.

Some other campaigners – not necessarily Muslims – also seem gripped by a new, urgent terror. Milan Rai, the founder of Voices in the Wilderness, which fights against the sanctions imposed on Iraq, made a speech recently in which he said "I cannot stand by and let the children in Iraq die. I know I will keep going and that I cannot promise my six-year-old son, Arkady, that I will return from Iraq."

And the mood is getting worse, especially as the situation between Israel and Palestinians dissolves into a criminally unequal war. I have had letters and emails in the last 24 hours which are getting dangerously more agitated. People who in September felt a wave of revulsion against that kind of terrorism, are today finding reasons why those attacks had to happen and are likely to happen even more. Men and women are getting in touch to say that they will take to the streets if we go into Iraq.

The majority world view sees the US as in the vanguard of sustaining an unjust world order. And that is exactly what Noor, a young British woman, said to me on the phone late last Friday night before adding: "And you know I too can kill myself in Oxford Street, no problem, I am very angry and very upset for Iraqis"

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

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