Teach our Muslim youth

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Sir: The time has come for all good Britons to stand together, regardless of race or religion. As a British Muslim, I abhor the senseless violence we witnessed last Thursday; as a citizen of this country I condemn the traitors; and as a human being I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones. The mass murderers behind the carnage must be unmasked quickly.

Whilst the identity of those behind the bombings has not been conclusively established, the finger seems to point at Islamist jihadis. We've heard much about the disillusionment of British Muslim youth, the irresistible call to jihad in distant lands and the allure of martyrdom. Now we need a strong leader to point out to them that Britain is a haven for Muslims.

Britain has more mosques and Islamic scholars than "back home". This liberal, law-abiding country grants each individual the freedom to be devout in their own faith. God said: "I created you as many nations, tribes and languages." We must live in peace with all of God's creatures. London is a crucible of faith and cultures and no one has the right to impose their particular brand on others. The time has come for someone to teach the youth how to live, not how to die.

Only last week the British people demonstrated their love and compassion for the have-nots by supporting Live8. Their concern about eradicating poverty and disease in far-away continents is a testament to their humanity. It was those very people who were targeted last Thursday. I'm proud of the dignity and courage with which Londoners withstood the attack. I endorse the Prime Minister's sentiments about the bravery and efficiency of our emergency services. London will not be cowed and we can send that message strongly by carrying on with our daily lives.

As a Muslim resident in Britain for over three decades, I laud the liberal values of this country that respects every creed and denomination equally. Even Muslim criminals get halal food in prison and the right to pray five times a day - though what they were doing committing crimes when they pray five times a day is another question.

Terror has no religion; murder is not a divine tenet. Even if the terrorists are discovered to have been born in the UK, they have imbibed none of the morals, principles and values enshrined either in Islam or in British society. I would even advocate capital punishment for such treasonable acts, despite the reservations we have against such punishment.



Blair, Bin Laden and the question why

Sir: I am puzzled by the plaintive questions: Why? What do the bombers want? Rupert Cornwell (9 July) put it clearly enough. So did Robert Fisk (8 July): "They are trying to get public opinion to force Tony Blair to withdraw from Iraq, from his alliance with the United States, and from his adherence to George Bush's policies in the Middle East."

If we are honest, the facts are beyond dispute. The open question is how Blair, alone in Europe, was able to get Britain into this mess. And how he and his friends manage to keep us there, despite the clarity of analysis we now have before us.



Sir: As if the London terror attacks were not bad enough, we now have to live with predictable excuses for them. Apparently, these bombings were inevitable retribution for invading Iraq and failing to create a Palestinian state.

Before falling for this seductive nonsense, we must understand that al-Qa'ida does not seek a two-state solution or a stable Iraq. Instead, they wish to drive the Jews into the sea and destroy every moderate, pro-western regime in the Middle East; 9/11 was planned during the Camp David talks that sought a two-state settlement in the region.

Al-Qa'ida seeks the re-establishment of the Islamic Caliphate which the Turks abolished in 1924. To do this, it is necessary to drive away the infidel Westerners with their hateful notions of individual freedom, democracy and lifestyle choice. Western civilisation, with its separation of church and state, is the prime target for eradication.

Those who believe that we can accommodate ourselves to such a warped ideology are simply fooling themselves.



Sir: Although I am sure every right-minded person, including Muslims like myself, condemns Thursday's bomb attacks, still the question must be asked, why London? The answer is not that they hate our freedoms, as George Bush and Tony Blair would suggest. If that was the case then the attacks would be on even more liberal societies like Holland or Sweden, so why London and why Britain now?

The answer is remarkably simple to anyone who actually reads the statements of Osama bin Laden - they are telling us to stop our unjust and evil foreign policy, specifically though not exclusively our support for American oppression in Afghanistan and Iraq that has seen tens of thousands of Muslims killed by American and British bombs and bullets.

They also demand that the west stops propping up the evil dictators in the Muslim world: people like President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan who occasionally boils his opponents alive with US and UK support, or President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, whose regime uses electric shock and homosexual rape as torture techniques. Let us also not forget that until the invasion of Kuwait the west was perfectly happy to support Saddam.

Osama bin Laden is very clear in his demands: remove western support for these evil tyrants in the Muslim world, withdraw the occupying troops and the attacks on the west will stop. It really is that simple. Muslims around the world are rightfully angry with the west, including Britain, and whilst our unjust foreign policy continues, some of that anger will boil over into evil acts such as those seen in London on Thursday.



Sir: Tony Blair is in denial. He knows very well that the attacks in London are a specific retaliation for Britain's involvement in Iraq. Bin Laden made this very clear in his statement of October 2003, referring to the American-led invasion: "We reserve the right to retaliate at the appropriate time and place against all countries involved, especially the UK, Spain, Australia, Poland, Japan and Italy."

Of course Blair wants people to cling to the idea that the London bombings are not related to Iraq - it gets him off the hook. But if he has bothered to read any of Bin Laden's pronouncements, he he must know that these attacks will continue until the war in Iraq is ended, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolved.

Tony Blair has pledged on many occasions to help bring these aims about. The question is, does he have the commitment and the courage to make it happen?



Sir: Isn't it odd that so many people seem to believe that westerners could restrain ourselves from retaliating after terrorist atrocities, but also claim that such atrocities are the inevitable result of unfair foreign policies? Why is it that we apparently have the power of free will, but Arabs apparently don't?



Break the cycle of terrorist violence

Sir: If you believe in violence, then you should expect violence in return. According to the logic of violence, the logic in particular of the deliberate employment of terror-tactics (such as "daisy-cutters", phosphorus bombs, torture etc), we in Britain have quite simply had this coming to us

The only coherent alternative is an ethic of non-violence, as taught by Buddhism, Quakerism, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. I hope that all those who share my revulsion at the means employed by Thursday's killers will oppose as steadfastly the means employed by Bush and Blair and by the new Iraqi regime (which is now, we learn, routinely using torture). Let us oppose the fundamentalist fantasies of world hegemony for "the coalition" and world hegemony for (a travesty of) Islam, and oppose equally the mass killing and terrorisation that are the means of both projects.

Let us break the cycle of damage and of revenge. Let us be human.



Empathy for the burdens of office

Sir: I guess the angry attacks on the Prime Minister on your letters page (8 July) and the single attack on him by George Galloway in the House of Commons were to be expected. Yet in your leader you call for "measured consideration".

However passionately we may feel about the invasion and state of Iraq (and the wisdom and complex moral judgments concerning that war are for history to judge), I believe that in the immediate aftermath of the London bombs the "measured consideration" you call for should include some imaginative attempt to empathise with the Prime Minister over the immense burden sometimes placed on his shoulders; remembering, too, that poverty in Africa and the issue of climate change would almost certainly not have begun to be tackled at the G8 summit were it not for the leadership of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Your admirable reports on the terrible events in London rightly speak of the resilience of the British people and the spirit of the nation. Many might hope that at times of national grief we could for a while be spared the nagging culture of contempt for those in high office, and seek to understand the almost intolerable cost such leadership demands. That does not mean we are not properly critical when the occasion demands it, but it gives that criticism a more humane and considerate face.



Secular Arabs or murderous tyrants?

Sir: Christopher Walker is mistaken (letter, 11 July) : Arab nationalism was never a "reasonable patriotism that was secular and inclusive of non-Muslims". The ideological roots of the Ba'ath party and Nasser's national socialism were fascist. Arab nationalism has trampled on human rights; massacred and repressed minorities such as Copts, Jews and Assyrians.

The rise of Islamism - and global jihad - is a direct result of the lack of real democracy in the Arab world. Arab regimes and the Islamists prop each other up. Arab regimes justify curfews and emergency laws in order to keep the Islamists in check while deriving legitimacy from the mosques.

Until the Bush doctrine, the west was to blame for failing to foster civil society and true democracy in Arab states. It preferred to support stable but corrupt and adventurist regimes as long as the oil kept flowing. The west is still doing far too little to stop the suppression, jailing and murder of Arab secular democrats and dissidents. For instance, it should make aid conditional on cessation of human rights violations.



Sir: Christopher Walker reminds us of the west's assault on a generation of secular Arab regimes. It never ceased.

In the 1980s Reagan and Thatcher gave massive aid to the mujahadin who assailed the secular government of Afghanistan. In the 1990s we punished our old ally Saddam Hussein for having been foolish enough to believe the assurance of the American Ambassador, April Glaspie, that "We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait". And most recently Yasser Arafat died with no recompense for the huge concessions he made in 1993.

The next target is clearly the Ba'ath regime in Syria. Roll on fundamentalism!



Sensationalist reports of horror

Sir: Whilst I, like all your readers, have been shocked and disgusted by the London bombings I find much of your reporting excessive and sensationalist.

Over many years we have been made fully aware of the carnage wrought by such attacks and it is therefore unnecessary to have a dozen pages devoted to large pictures of blood-splattered walls and comments from interviewees stating that their experience has been horrific.

It is not a question of being squeamish or unfeeling, but a little less of "the bleeding obvious" may be in order, not least to mitigate the delight of those responsible for these atrocities.



Outbreak of evil

Sir: Could politicians please stop taking about "evil"? If a person was suffering from a disease we would not say, "This person is suffering from evil." We would ask, "Where does the disease come from?" and, "What can we do to heal this person?"



Grim satisfaction

Sir: Rosemary Gordon (letter, 9 July), in response to comments by Tony Blair and Ken Livingstone, asks if the attack on London was "more or less barbaric" than the bombing of Iraq or "more or less cowardly" than bombing from 30,000 feet. Why can't the answer be "as barbaric" and "as cowardly"? Some of your correspondents on the attack have shown a tone of grim satisfaction which is despicable.



Usual suspects

Sir: Would Yasmin Alibhai-Brown care to explain, in your newspaper, why she would "pray fervently that the blasts were caused by Irish republican extremists" (article, 8 July)? To have such a knee-jerk reaction is something she may care to keep to herself. To publish it is ill-advised and offensive. Let's blame someone else (the "usual suspects") so that we can feel better about ourself.



Ministers on the Tube

Sir: The Government could make a useful gesture to reassure the public and also make amends for the recent lopsided security applied to Gleneagles. Ministers could abandon their chauffeured cars and use public transport like the rest of us. Then we would know we were really all pulling together.



Royal example

Sir: As I watched coverage of the commemoration of the end of the Second World War, I wondered if President Bush would have driven at walking pace in an open-topped car along a people-packed Pennsylvania Avenue within three days of a major terrorist attack on the US capital, in the way that HM the Queen has just driven down the Mall. I think not.