Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: There is no simple reason why bombers kill

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The Independent Online

Yet a common rage connects them and draws them into these tunnels where they arm and inspire each other, laboratories to distil wrath and to turn humans into deadly weapons. It is a subterranean universe yet it skilfully propagates and parades itself using the internet and television. No place is safe and no one reason can explain exactly why particular times and sites are picked for mayhem.

Today, once more, the poor people of and in Bali are washing the blood and grieving, incomprehension adding to the agony. The horror is greater because world leaders - political and religious - cannot come to grips with the violence or deal honestly with the truth that there is no undemanding, straightforward explanation. Nor any clean divide between us and "the enemy", the good guys and bad guys, the just and unjust. Victims of this cataclysmic "war" are caught between death and lies; terror and duplicity. There is no simple story to tell , yet simple stories are all we are fed.

Mr Blair, who does accurately describe the perils, is nevertheless convinced (or wishes to convince us) that there is but one cause, and that cause absolves him and the West of any responsibility. He casts himself and Bush as Crusaders fighting to spread the gospel of freedom and democracy using bombs and bombast on backward Muslims to make them accept these gifts.

Goodness, how fervent and pious he was when he spoke on the challenges in his conference speech. So what if thousands die? he didn't say, but meant. The end justifies the means. One day, perhaps, he deludes himself, they will build statues of Blair and Bush in the squares of Iraq. And Kabul. And Ramallah. One day.

As soon as Bali blew up this week, the Western leaders were up and about claiming the bombers hated our freedoms and way of life. How do they know? Should they not find out first and spout later? Why should we believe them? And is this is the only reason for the thousands of deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Yemen etc?

Bush and Blair would certainly have us swallow this version. Everyday more people die in Iraq than were blown up in Bali. We don't count the bodies of the blasted in Iraq, especially not the civilians our forces kill. Maybe the worry is if the numbers pile too high people will ask what the point was of ridding the place of Saddam. But the occupying forces know well enough that some of the violence comes from warriors seeking to eject the occupiers, other attacks are the result of internecine rivalries; a number are caused by power merchants - Shia and Sunni - seeking ascendancy; some are staged provocations, part of our own dirty tactics in an ungovernable land; and, yes, yet more are a bloody way to destroy any incipient democracy.

After the explosions in London, an Iraqi woman wrote this on the internet: "You have lived through moments of desperate anxiety and horror ... I wish to tell you that we too grieve when human lives pass away. We have lived through this every day since your country and the US attacked Iraq. I would like to ask you, the free British people, in whose name was our country blockaded for 12 years? In whose name were our cities bombarded using internationally prohibited weapons? In whose name did the British army kill and torture Iraqis? Was it in the name of religion? Or humanity? Or freedom? Or democracy?"

Too many journalists and commentators seek simple cause and effect stories and straight solutions for a phenomenon which is distractingly complicated. Multiculturalism is to blame, some say, when trying to understand why British-born men would want to strike at London. Get English speaking Imams and, hey, we will drive the demons out. In France they think strong-armed assimilation will cure the ill. In the US a new McCarthyism seeks to enforce loyalty and to silence dissent.

There are indeed Muslims who do loathe the west for its progressive values and free societies. They want to impose a global Islam by any means. Decent Muslims are exhorted by Western leaders to sort out their faith and its radicalism. Who dares tell them to do the same with their unethical policies, which have annihilated so many lives in so many states? Or to play fair when it comes to Chechnya and the Palestinians? Or to deal with the institutional injustice of Guantanamo Bay?

The rewards of virtuous interventions are there to reap. In spite of the tragic failure of international politics to prevent the massacre of thousands of Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, you don't any longer find a stream of Bosnian Muslims willing to go to militant training camps as they once were when the forces were loaded against them. Refusing to admit to the wrongs we do and changing the rules of the game when it suits us creates a generic mistrust of Western politics, exploited by the Bin Ladens of this world.

The irony is that there are key people on in the Muslim Ummah who are also great at reductive, self-serving propaganda. Leaders of failed, dictatorial and corrupt Islamic countries have become as adept as Blair and Bush at providing us with stock reasons for bomb attacks, which kill and maim mostly innocents.

The usual list arrives after each atrocity. The bombers object to Israeli power, to double standards, to the war in Iraq. They distort Islam and are demented. Were the bombers in Bali bothered about the persecution of Palestinians or even Iraqis? I don't think so. I too am disenchanted and furious about these places and standards. But I don't turn to weapons to placate my fury.

What I want to know is why do Algeria and Saudi Arabia, for example, produce and import so many lethally angry young men? Why have cultures and practices in Muslim countries and communities putrefied and atrophied in recent decades? Whence this darkness of the soul in people just starting the journeys of adult life? Only potential suicide bombers can tell us why.

But of course this is regarded as blasphemy. I could be charged under the liberally used anti-terrorism laws for making the suggestion. I will be denounced as a traitor. The bastards who elect to blow themselves up have eschewed words and chosen death. We need to do the opposite.

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

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