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REFRAIN FROM EXCUSES FOR THE BOMBINGS
by Amir Taheri
Gulf News
November 23, 2005

Just hours after last July's suicide attacks in London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair's advisers were working the phones to arrange an urgent meeting with what they term "Muslim community leaders". At the same time, however, the prime minister himself was telling the media that what had happened in London had nothing to do with Islam which was a religion of peace and harmony.

Soon, however, the "Muslim community leaders" were sitting across the table from Blair at Downing Street expressing "Muslim grievances" that had supposedly led to the suicide attacks. The meeting, followed by other sessions with Blair's advisers, ended with an invitation by the prime minister to the "Muslim community leaders" to prepare a report on "the deeper causes" of the London tragedy.

Last week the "Muslim community leaders" produced their report. In it they cited two reasons for the tragedy: poverty among British Muslims, and Muslim anger over British foreign policy.

All this is interesting for several reasons.

First, if the London attacks had nothing to do with Islam, as Blair asserted, why invite "Muslim community leaders" to discuss it? When Britain was involved in bombing Serbia, to save the Muslims in Kosovo from genocide, Blair did not invite leaders of the Serbian Orthodox community in Britain to discuss matters at Downing Street.

While all the suicide bombers in London were of Muslim extraction their victims also included many Muslims. In fact 15 of the 57 killed in the three attacks were Muslims. In other words the attacks were designed to kill indiscriminately.

But if, contrary to Blair's assertion, the London attacks did have something to do with Islam then the least that he should do is to say what that is.

By accepting to write the report, the "Muslim community leaders" have tacitly agreed that the July bombings did have something to do with Islam. And that, seen from any angle, is a disservice both to Islam and to Britain.

Caught in a cobweb of deceit woven by their own hypocrisy, the British "Muslim community leaders" have implicitly agreed that anyone has the right to use Islam as a label for any murderous ideology. At the same time by suggesting that poverty and disagreement on foreign policy were the causes of the suicide attacks, they are putting the British authorities on the wrong track.

The poverty argument as a justification for terrorism is too discredited to merit detailed refutation. Throughout history, terrorists have come from middle class and well-to-do backgrounds. The man who assassinated Caliph Omar was a wealthy Persian pearl merchant. Caliph Osman was assassinated by a group of Qureish aristocrats. Caliph Ali's murderer was the well-heeled leader of a political faction. Julius Caesar was murdered by a group of Rome's highest aristocrats. The Narodnik terrorists in Russia, the Anarchists in Central and Western Europe and, more recently, the Red Brigades and the Bader Meinhof terror gangs, all belonged to the upper middle classes.

We see a similar pattern in the recent history of Islamist terrorism. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Fedayeen Islam in Iran recruited their assassins from middle class families and were financed by wealthy merchants. The Al Qaida's central leadership, now disrupted, included at least four millionaires.

The second cause cited by the "Muslim community leaders" is even more problematic. To begin with the "leaders" cite absolutely no evidence that British Muslims disagree with any aspect of British foreign policy. The reason for this is obvious. British Muslims are as divided on issues of foreign policy as are their non-Muslim fellow citizens.

In any case Britain is a democracy with several political parties representing a rich diversity of views and policies. Any British Muslim opposed to this or that aspect of British foreign policy could join any of the opposition parties or, even, join one of the several anti-Blair wings of the governing Labour Party.

The report produced by the "Muslim community leaders" is dangerous because it implies that as long some British Muslims are poor and some British Muslims angry about foreign policy, terrorist attacks would be understandable if not justifiable.

The report creates an "us and them" dialectics in which British Muslims see their non-Muslim fellow citizens as "others". And from that to treating non-Muslim Britons as the kuffar (infidel), is but a short step.

The only useful contribution that "Muslim community leaders" can do is to refrain from furnishing excuses for the terrorists and to hold special sessions to condemn their ideology and put as much blue water between them and other Muslims as possible.

Sadly, the men invited by Blair to help have done the exact opposite.

Iranian author Amir Taheri is a member of Benador Associates.

 

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