Letters: Londoners stand firm against bombers, Muslim values and others

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Londoners grieve and remember, but stand firm against bombers

Sir: I am not asking Londoners not to grieve ("Don't tell us not to grieve", Letters, 13 July). Grieving and remembrance alongside defiance are an important part of our response to the terror attacks on our transport system.

I am asking everyone in London to participate in a two minutes' silence at noon on Thursday 14 July, one week after the terror attacks. All buses will pull over and stop their engines. There will be a silence on the Underground system and I am asking Londoners to come out of the workplaces to share the silence.

Following this, from 1pm a book of condolences will be available for Londoners to sign on Trafalgar Square, and at 6pm there will be a vigil in Trafalgar Square which I hope as many people as possible will attend. On Saturday from noon there will be a free concert in Burgess Park, "London United", which will give Londoners the chance not only to remember the victims but also to stand firm against those who have attacked the city.

I do not believe that it is simply "business as usual" - we can never forget what happened last Thursday. But it is the case that we should not be knocked off our course as a great and diverse city by these bombings.



Muslim values and a cycle of killing

Sir: The horrific events of last week and the recent discovery that the perpetrators may well be British has led to the expected question of why British youth would carry out such atrocities. The usual excuses of social and economic deprivation and isolation from the (white) mainstream are being trotted out, as in Kishwer Falkner's article "Where now for the Muslim community" (12 July).

These people are fighting for a cause they believe in. Social, economic, and national background is largely irrelevant; the intensity of belief is what separates them from the rest of us. The "cause" is simple - stop killing, oppressing, and exploiting Muslim people and their lands. None of the groups responsible for any terrorist attack has stated their aim is to kill all Christians and Jews and establish an Islamic state in the west. If we, the western civilian population, allow our governments to kill possibly hundreds of thousands of Muslims around the world, why should we expect a Muslim suicide bomber to care for our lives?

Ms Falkner thinks the solution to the British terrorist issue is to "share values" with the broader secular society. This statement reinforces the stereotype that we Muslims have a different (inferior) set of values than the rest of Britain, one implication being that Muslims do not place the same value on human life as our non-Muslim counterparts. This is a difficult argument to pursue, basically saying: "We're going to drop bombs on your fellow Muslims; it's for their own good, don't get upset about it; and whatever you do, don't retaliate by killing anyone in England as that will just show that you don't share our values on the sanctity of human life."

Much as Tony Blair and George Bush would like to paint these terrorists as cartoon villains who are just full of hate and foaming at the mouth with no human traits, any reasonable person will know this is not the case. They have grievances, and grievances can be addressed and resolved.



Sir: It is no wonder that many British feel rather betrayed by the comparative weakness of the Muslim reaction to the bombings. Leaving aside those Muslim apologists for terrorism like some London-based Arab journalists and academics, it was remarkable that Muslim reaction against the atrocities did not go beyond verbal condemnation.

I should have thought the least we Muslims could do was to come out in our hundreds if not thousands to back up those condemnations and give the British public an unambiguous sign of our true feelings. After all we have held those kinds of demonstrations on issues such as the Rushdie book and recently the Iraq war and desecration of the Quran.

I would argue that this is an indication that the main factor behind the emergence of home-grown terrorism is a lukewarm attitude of the Muslim community towards it, stemming from the spread of a traditional, literal, anti- western form of Islam specially in the Arab world, during the last 20 years.

We Muslims, particularly Arab Muslims, need to do some real soul-searching.



Sir: As we learn of the backgrounds of the perpetrators of the bombings, a united, public display of condemnation of the atrocities on the part of the Muslim community is called for.

It is a challenge for this community, more than any other, to try and prevent the breeding of extremism of this kind. A clear gesture, perhaps in the form or ribbons or badges (similar to the anti-war "Not in my name" ones), would display each individual's disapproval of and dissociation from the ideology behind those attacks, as well as the entire community's intent to expel these particular harmful tendencies.

Amidst fears of both vengeance towards Muslims and future attacks by extremists, a signal of this kind from members of the Islamic community could prove to be a powerful healing message against senseless violence.



A retort that defies common sense

Sir: I am a New Yorker. I am astonished at the arguments made by letter writers against those who correctly blame last week's vicious terrorist attack on your government's decision to join our president's invasion of Iraq. I refer specifically to the ludicrous retort that the attack couldn't possibly have anything to do with Iraq since 9/11 pre-dated the invasion.

This argument reflects the colossal myopia of the "existential threat" brigade, who refuse to analyse these attacks with simple common sense. If the motivation is some mindless, cartoonish "hatred of western values" then why don't the perpetrators target Norway, Ireland, Belgium, France, Germany and Canada? Given France's ban on wearing the Islamic hijab, it is quite surprising that that country is not first on the terrorists' list.

The notion that Mohammed Atta sacrificed his future, studying for months, dedicating his whole life in order to fly a plane into an American skyscraper because he just couldn't stand the idea that Americans could freely elect their leaders is laughable. To understand these terrorists, one need only go to the source - their own words, which are readily available on the internet. The group that claimed responsibility for last week's attacks in London threatened future targets: Denmark and Italy.

Are we to believe that it is merely coincidence that these are the other principal members of Bush's coalition of countries that invaded Iraq?



Rough justice will not keep us safe

Sir: In his eagerness to support new "anti-terrorist" measures, Steve Richards (8 July) makes no mention of the recent disastrous history of such measures.

This is not the first time Britain has suffered terrorist attacks. There were attacks by the Provisional IRA in the 1970s. The Birmingham pub bombing of 1974 led to the immediate introduction of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, under which thousands of people with Irish-sounding names were harassed and arrested; but very few were actually charged, and even fewer were charged with offences relating to terrorism. And the determination to catch and convict the perpetrators of these atrocities led to the conviction and wrongful imprisonment of men and women whose innocence was not acknowledged until two decades later.

If the official reaction to the latest atrocities is similarly panicky and unscrupulous, not only will it not prevent further attacks, it may even provoke them. Parliament and the police should not allow themselves to be stampeded into hasty and ill-considered responses to these killings.



Don't listen to the warped few

Sir: The letters page has recently been filled with letters trying to provide an answer to the question of "why" London was bombed last Thursday. There are letters suggesting that the Iraq war was one of the main reasons ; letters suggesting that our policy in the Middle East is to blame.

The real reason, it appears, is the disaffected Muslim youth in our society. We pride ourselves on a so-called multicultural society and yet we appear to have created a home-grown terrorist cell, so full of hatred for the people of this country that they are prepared to maim and kill innocent people of every nationality and religion. In truth these are warped individuals with no clear sense of what it means to be a Muslim in Britain.

We should not listen to a few warped individuals and certainly we should not let a few warped individuals dictate government policy.



Kennedy's stance on the Iraq war

Sir: It is true that Charles Kennedy had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to the anti Iraq war march in February 2003, not least of all by Donnachadh McCarthy himself ("The lamentable leadership of Charles Kennedy", 12 July). But the most remarkable thing was how, in his moment of greatest victory, Donnachadh did everything he could to throw away all the political capital he had earned. In doing so, he did the green and social liberal wing of the Liberal Democrats immeasurable harm from which it has yet to recover.

We were right to push the party leadership into backing the march, but Charles's more nuanced approach to the war itself has proven to be right time and again. He deserves a lot more credit than Donnachadh is prepared to give.

Donnachadh's failure has been his inability to recognise that the party is bigger than any particular individual he has fallen out with. Many of the problems he has identified are real. But instead of simply blaming the leadership, most of us find it more effective to get on with helping to sort it out.

This isn't the first time Donnachadh has resigned from the party. However sorry I am to see him go, for all our sakes I sincerely hope it is the last.



Blair's G8 failure on climate change

Sir: Michael McCarthy is right to describe the opening of a dialogue with China and India on greenhouse gas emissions as an important step ("Most important move on the Environment since Kyoto", 9 July). But nevertheless the outcome of the G8 climate talks represents a failure of political will.

The position adopted by the US administration at Gleneagles - that climate change is a serious threat meriting action to reduce emissions - allowed Tony Blair to claim concessions had been wrung from Washington, but the language Bush signed up to has been declared White House policy since 2001. In the following four years US emissions have risen and will continue to rise, and no G8 communiqué will be able to arrest the effect these billions of tonnes of carbon will have on our climate.

Emerging economies will have watched what happened in Scotland and concluded that merely expressing concern while refusing to commit to action is enough to avoid reproach. America should have set an example, not a precedent for inaction. And our Prime Minister should have said so.



Mosque attacks

Sir: Why do you refer to the attacks on mosques as "reprisals" (report, 11 July)? I thought the people who carried out such attacks were on the same side as the London bombers: attacking innocent people, driven by racial hatred and blind stupidity. These are all hate attacks.



ID cards useless

Sir: It is alarming that perpetrators of the London atrocities were British citizens who had not previously attracted the attention of the authorities. It is most likely that there are others of like mind. Clearly ID cards would be of no use in fighting this enemy, negating one of the key justifications for their issue. Major frustration for Mr Blair and Mr Clarke - a terrorist outrage should have strengthened their case. But no doubt they will simply spin a fresh justification. Without shame they have reinvented reasons for the invasion of Iraq as each argument was lost.



Sir: Panos Mouryelas (letter, 11 July) objects that because it is not compulsory to carry ID cards in the UK, any Greek or Cypriot victims cannot easily be identified. However, Greeks and Cypriots are of course perfectly free to carry their national ID cards with them when in the UK. If they do not do so, it shows that Greeks and Cypriots too do not believe that the remote chance of the cards ever being of any real use is worth the hassle of carrying them, and given the choice ditch them.



Blair unchecked

Sir: John Manning asks "... how Blair, alone in Europe, was able to get Britain into this mess. And how he and his friends manage to keep us there" (letter, 12 July). In answer to the first question, Blair mistakenly thought that by slavishly supporting Bush's illegal and immoral war on Iraq he would be able to influence American policy in other areas. The second question is answered simply: by our outdated and inefficient electoral system, which gave Blair's party a sixty-odd majority in the Commons when less than 22 per cent of the electorate had voted for it.



Terms of terrorism

Sir: In your frontpage news report on 13 July one reads: "The terrorists responsible for the Tube and bus attacks in London have been revealed as home-grown suicide bombers." The same day another news item appeared headlined "Palestinian militant kills two in attack on shopping mall". One wonders why would your newspaper call a suicide bomber in London a terrorist but a suicide bomber in Israel a militant? Is terrorism defined by geography?