Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

Here are two stupid reactions to the London bombings:

Dilpazier Aslam in the Guardian:

If I'm asked about 7/7, I - a Yorkshire lad, born and bred - will respond first by giving an out-clause to being labelled a terrorist lover. I think what happened in London was a sad day and not the way to express your political anger.

Then there's the "but". If, as police announced yesterday, four men (at least three from Yorkshire) blew themselves up in the name of Islam, then please let us do ourselves a favour and not act shocked.

Shocked would be to suggest we didn't appreciate that when Falluja was flattened, the people under it were dead but not forgotten - long after we had moved on to reading more interesting headlines about the Olympics. It is not the done thing to make such comparisons, but Muslims on the street do. Some 2,749 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks. To discover the cost of "liberating" Iraqis you need to multiply that figure by eight, and still you will fall short of the estimated minimum of 22,787 civilian Iraqi casualties to date. But it's not cool to say this, now that London's skyline has also has plumed grey.

Shocked would also be to suggest that the bombings happened through no responsibility of our own. OK, the streets of London were filled with anti-war marchers, so why punish the average Londoner? But the argument that this was an essentially US-led war does not pass muster. In the Muslim world, the pond that divides Britain and America is a shallow one. And the same cry - why punish us? - is often heard from Iraqi mothers as the "collateral damage" increases daily.

And Mark Steyn in the Telegraph:

It has been sobering this past week watching some of my "woollier" colleagues (in Vicki Woods's self-designation) gradually awake to the realisation that the real suicide bomb is "multiculturalism". Its remorseless tick-tock, suddenly louder than the ethnic drumming at an anti-globalisation demo, drove poor old Boris Johnson into rampaging around this page last Thursday like some demented late-night karaoke one-man Fiddler on the Roof, stamping his feet and bellowing, "Tradition! Tradition!" Boris's plea for more Britishness was heartfelt and valiant, but I'm not sure I'd bet on it. The London bombers were, to the naked eye, assimilated - they ate fish 'n' chips, played cricket, sported appalling leisurewear. They'd adopted so many trees we couldn't see they lacked the big overarching forest - the essence of identity, of allegiance. As I've said before, you can't assimilate with a nullity - which is what multiculturalism is.


After 9/11, there were many possible reactions.

The worst and most misguided, from right or left, were knee-jerk anti-Islamicism and knee-jerk anti-Americanism.

The latter is not just revealed in Galloway’s pathetic bombast. It’s also in all those simpering articles urging Americans and other Western democracies to ‘look at themselves, and find out why they are so hated.’ In other words, we need to find out what we’ve done wrong to bring this kind of thing on ourselves.

Of course we don’t. Thankfully, Blair took the correct attitude, which was to affirm that these mad and evil acts won’t change anything about our way of life, except to make us more determined to prevent and punish mad and evil acts.

Exactly the same applies to the London bombings.

When dealing with people who want to indiscriminately kill as many innocent people as possible, plus themselves, because they want to be rewarded in Paradise, it is not necessary to sympathise and introspect. You only need to prevent and punish, starting with the removal of extremist Islamic clerics, and the military targeting of Al Qaeda training camps.

Steyn uses the terrorist act to beat his multiculturalism drum. Aslam uses it to criticise the West. Both miss the point, and both, despite coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum, end up spouting the same nonsense: “It’s our fault, we brought this on ourselves!”

To combat extreme-Right Islamophobia, the Left correctly points out that Islamic terrorists are a tiny minority of lunatics, and that the vast majority Muslims get on with it and live peacefully with their western neighbours. Yet they choose to ignore this same fact when blaming the West for ‘alienating’ Muslims.

Small numbers of mad and evil people exist in all societies. This is the current crop in ours. We only need to 'understand' them in so far as it will help us to discover and destroy them.

Apologising for them, introspecting, wondering how we could have made them happier - all of these are a complete waste of time.


martpol said...

Agreed: we shouldn't sympathise with suicide bombers, apologise for them or try to excuse them. The acts they commit are barbaric and hate-filled, and we should make every effort to hunt them down and stop them before they can blow themselves up.

But that's not the same as not making an effort to understand such people. Most moderate Israelis know that it's important to understand where Palestinian suicide bombers are coming from: a position in which hopelessness and alienation are twisted into extremist religous fervour. We shouldn't talk politely to extremists who train people to kill innocent civilians. But we need to understand the root causes of those feelings in order to address them.

Clearly there can be little direct comparison between the situations in Palestine and the UK (the Palestinians can justifiably turn the terrorist label on their opponents, for one thing). But another recent piece in The Guardian, written by a former Islamic extremist, made for interesting reading: it painted a picture not of Muslims being brainwashed by their fanatical elders, but of groups of young people coming to a collective understanding that something was wrong, and eventually deciding (misguidedly but collectively) that the 'evil' West was to blame.

Often, these people don't start evil, but as normal members of a community. There are causes for them to change, and while those causes may be largely related to their capacity for religious fanaticism and misguidedness, there are root physical causes which also play a part.

Maybe we shouldn't negotiate with terrorists, but we should at least look at why they become terrorists: that's why we negotiate with the IRA, or why the Israelis are starting to accept the idea of working with Hamas.

Brit said...

IRA and Palestinian terrorists have a coherent political aim.

I don't give two hoots what social inadequacies motivate al-Qaeda suicide bombers.