Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: My City, my faith, both abused

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We were elated; our London had won against impressive competition to get the 2012 Olympic Games. For all the stresses and strains of inhabiting this fast, unpredictable, conflicted, energetic, multifarious metropolis, we agreed that London is where the globe meets and trades and works and frolics and creates and propagates, where opposing ideologies co-exist and thrive.

Long one of the hubs of capitalism, London gave refuge to Karl Marx; the centre of imperialism, every one of the leaders of the anti-colonialist struggle matured here. They included brilliant Muslim thinkers and lawyers. This city belongs to nobody and belongs to us all. The successful bid is the reward, a recognition of this perpetually shifting glorious capital.

So they had to blow it up, the ingrates, the killers, presumably residents of London who sup on its generosity and walk its cultural thoroughfares. By 10 o'clock yesterday morning, as the shock and dust settled, I started to pray fervently that the blasts were caused by Irish republican extremists or nihilist nutters. But trepidation grew that it was probably Islamicist Stalinists on another blood binge.

By eleven- thirty I had buried my head under pillows to stop the noise of the telephones and faxes, all asking for interviews. Shaking, feeling cold and overwrought, I had nothing to say to those who would ask me what I thought of these atrocities and why Muslims did such things and whether we Muslims condemned such actions. New Yorkers were left with a massive psychological wound; now it is our turn.

Every time these dreaded events occur you find yourself disintegrating, one part deep human compassion for the victims and their families, another calling you to the truth that our governments too shed blood for no good reason and create conditions for hate to infect life.

Yet another part reminds you that all lives are of equal value and that the pain we feel on behalf of our own citizens is not a licence for cruel revenge. My city, my faith, my city, my faith, I love them both, both traumatised, both abused. Where to turn?

How do I know why they do what they do? The majority of Muslims are appalled and confounded by such pitiless zealotry. We don't know what they want, these brigands. If it is al-Qa'ida again, yes there will be jubilation in their twisted little cells, bearded macho satisfaction that they have caused havoc in such a place. Beyond that, I doubt they know what they do and how their actions cause ever more suffering to innocent people, including other Muslims.

Influential British Muslims will disavow these attacks and once more incant the peaceful messages of Islam. Fewer non-Muslims will pay attention.

If this was the work of true Muslim jihadis, what did they achieve yesterday? They have shattered the focus on Africa and the fight against poverty. Muslims are among the most deprived people in the world. They have given Tony Blair his ID cards and further authoritarian power to bypass the rule of law.

This government has fallen over itself to extend Muslims special privileges, in spite of much opposition, including from some prominent Muslims. Our guerrilla brothers have thanked them with a bouquet of explosives. Some gratitude.

Next, Bush has been handed exactly what he needs to carry on his damned crusades. And he will. And thousands more Muslims will die as they are dying in Iraq, victims of unaccountable allied forces and insurgents. They may as well dig the graves for the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. They are going nowhere, ever. And today in halal restaurants and mosques and streets and schools, blameless Muslims will tremble as their fragile lives are once again turned over.

A group of young Muslim men have e-mailed me to ask: "We want to give blood, to show our loyalty. But will they take our blood?" Says it all, really.

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