The biggest news so far this year has been the London bombs of 7/7/2005. More than 55 eventually died from the injuries caused and over a hundred others needed medical attention. Three bombs went off, all at 8.50am, on the Underground and a later one on a number 30 bus at Tavistock Square, near Russell Square. The four bombers were Mohammad Sidique Khan,30, Germaine Lindsay, 19, Hasib Hussain, 18, and Shehzad Tanweer, 22. CCTV caught them with the bombs on their backs in Luton at 0720 BST on Thursday 7 July.
On Thursday 14 July 2005 two major opponents of the war in Iraq, Robin Cook of the Labourites and Kenneth Clarke of the Conservative party appeared on The Week BBC1 to say that whilst the said war was a factor, it was by no means the only factor, and maybe not even the major one, in the London bombings. They conformed, as much as they could, to the idea that was pushed by the leadership of their parties, to deny any link to the invasion of Iraq, and to say that it was part of the great problem of worldwide terrorism. Others, not those two, had even suggested that the bombings justified the said invasion after all, rather than, as common sense might suggest, that Iraq was a stimulus to the London attack. But they could only go so far to meet this official response, and both of them did admit that the invasion was a factor.
The proponents of this official denial make a few good points, as one needs to-do when up against common sense. Common sense is like a big hill that makes any new theory set against it uphill work, but it can be overcome with good arguments or true observations and the advantage of novelty and freshness. When the arguments against common sense are refuted, or even when they get older, it is often as if one is suddenly on the far side of the hill and heading rapidly down the other side. We have been told that the 9/11 happened before the invasion of Iraq, rather than after it. That many terrorist bombings round the world, like the recent one in Turkey, were in states that did not support the Iraq invasion. The bombings were against our way of life instead, runs this official cross-party response.
On Monday, 18 July 2005, the issue was highlighted in a report from a British think tank, Chatham House , which said that “the UK government has been conducting counter-terrorism policy 'shoulder to shoulder' with the US, not in the sense of being an equal decision-maker, but rather as a pillion passenger compelled to leave the steering to the ally in the driving seat”….The invasion “gave a boost to the al-Qaeda network's propaganda, recruitment and fundraising…There is no doubt that the situation over Iraq has posed particular difficulties for the UK, and for the wider coalition against terrorism.” Professor Paul Wilkinson of the University of St Andrews is one of the authors of the report that nevertheless tends to back the official response: “There is no doubt that Britain was on the target list before the invasion of Iraq” he said. Yet he still maintains that:, “The conflict itself was a setback in our struggle against al-Qaeda.” His case is that Iraq is a factor, but not the only factor. André sees a big role for al-Qaeda though books like Al-Qaeda (2003) by Jason Burke tend to hold that it is more of an idea than an actual organisation. Wilkinson clearly does not agree with that thesis. However, it does seem to be largely the case.
It is clearly the case that the invasion has stimulated opposition, but it seems to be true that this stimulus is not the major factor in the London bombing. The major factor is the meme that links belief in Islam to death amongst many teenage Muslims, if not amongst the adults. I first noticed this meme in the early 1970s in Birmingham and I witnessed it many times since. On meeting Muslims, they invariably told me how eager they were to die for their belief in Islam. My reply was that no one can die for a mere belief, as they maintained, and that they were conflating beliefs with values. There was nothing political in any of the discussions I ever had with them. It was my atheism up against their religion. We had similar ideas to each other as I held they did not really believe in Islam, but valued it as a tradition, owing to loyalty and the like, whilst they, invariably, held that no one was truly an atheist. They said that I was really a Christian. But this highly emotional willingness to die for the faith was a major feature of all the young men I met over a few decades up till 1997. This has now found a outlet in recent politics rather like all the practice of grandiose public speaking on the part of Churchill finally found a suitable topic in his wartime speeches from 1939 on. Clearly, Iraq is factor but the reaction might not be in the form of any suicide bombings without this repeatedly rehearsed meme of seeking to die for Islam. That, I take to be the major factor. Islam remains a live religion, and thus it is political – as was Christianity before modern society pushed it into being a personal matter. Modern society is doing the same to Islam, but we are, at the present time, witnessing a reaction. That was what the Rushdie affair was all about. Liberalism and science do not mean to destroy religion, and they welcome religion of all types on principle, but any live religion needs to monopolise, thereby forcing conformity, hopefully by law, and that is illiberal. To become apolitical, to become a mere personal matter, is to spell death for religion. To do otherwise, to be a live religion that forces people by law to conform, is to be illiberal. So there is clash. Similarly, there is a clash with science, for any religion will makes claims as to the truth, and there it may well clash with science, even though this is the last thing that science, qua science, wants to occur. What is miscalled “the West” is thus seen as the great enemy of Islam and therein lies the modern clash of this religion with the West.
How great this clash is depends on how seriously people take their religion. Most will take a modern interpretation that takes the edge off any such clash, but others will look at Christianity today and fear that it shows Islam its “dead” future. I think it does, and that Islam is already dying and in a few hundred years, at the most, it will be as lame as Christianity is today. Moreover, “the West” is not really needed for that result, just as it was not needed to weaken Christianity. The weakening of religion occurs as progress is made. This process has not been completed yet; though it clearly has long since begun. And therein lies the problem.
The media allows all to see what goes on in Israel and in Iraq and the teenaged Muslims see their side losing out. Many of them identify with Muslims abroad rather than with the people of the UK. Although there has been no end of denying this on the media since the bombings, there has also been plenty of affirmations of the fact. We have seen as many Muslims affirm it as deny it on television in the last few weeks. The Internet adds to the stimulus of grievances from aboard, and what has been going on in Iraq is clearly part of this. It is fun for Muslims to associate with the threats of violence to the enemy made on the various Internet Websites if they do not pull out of Iraq. Islam sees the West as its enemy. But Iraq and the Middle East is not the main reason it sees the West as an enemy. It is the corroding affect of liberalism, as was plain in the Rushdie affair; and the fact that science also will claim to be superior to Islam on the truth that forms the ethereal basis of Muslim discontent. The other reasons are handy as understandable grievances to the West that Islam can lead with. The Blairites are right that it is the modern world that is objected to, but wrong that this is only a new extremism. It is mainly the issue of Rushdie continued viz. Is Islam to live or die?
There is a lot of talk about brainwashing but why should we think it exists? Clearly, Muslims choose to indoctrinate themselves and, in any case, we do reconsider all that we think to be the case; such that if it were possible to wash out our brain and replace it with alien doctrines we could soon think ourselves out of such doctrines in the aftermath of the brainwashing. No doctrine is alien from criticism and revision. What we get from enthusiasts is willing self-indoctrination. The main factor in all this, the eagerness to die for Islam, is an exciting meme at the heart of the creed judging from the ranting of the propagandists. Trips to Pakistan no doubt reinforced the ideology, but it was not there that the ‘willingness to die' meme was first adopted. It is up front in almost any Islamic propaganda outreach to the public. It is seen as a test of how important the creed is.
But for Tony Blair the main thing is the “evil ideology”, that is not really proper Islam, and that is a cause sufficient unto itself of the bombing of London of 7/7. On Monday 11 July 2005, he said, in the House of Commons: “It seems probable that the attack was carried out by Islamist extremist terrorists, of the kind who over recent years have been responsible for so many innocent deaths in Madrid, Bali, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Kenya, Tanzania, Pakistan, Yemen, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, and of course in New York on September 11, but in many other countries too.” John Reid took the official line against the Chatham House report. “Terrorism is an international problem,” he said on the wireless, and he too cited a long list of places were bombs had been used: “New York, Tanzania, Kenya, Bali, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Yemen, Egypt, Pakistan, India and Turkey, all of which occurred before Iraq or in countries which opposed the intervention in Iraq.”
A few Labourites did not follow the official line. John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, was one and he held that it was “intellectually unsustainable” to hold that the invasion of Iraq had no bearing on the motivation of the bombers: “For as long as Britain remains in occupation of Iraq the terrorist recruiters will have the argument they seek to attract more susceptible young recruits. Britain must withdraw now.” Similarly, Clare Short appeared in a number of television programmes to say the same sort of thing, not least on Newsnight BBC2 18 July 2005. She had no doubt that there was a link to Iraq.
Tarique Ghaffur, the Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner, and also an Indianid, said Muslims and their leaders must do more than condemn the bombings. He urged members of the community to inform on potential terrorists and their supporters. The police would have to engage better with minorities, but minorities must take the first step, he said.
Meanwhile the government is pushing through a sop to the Muslims in order to get this co-operation in the form of the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill. There was a BBC/ICM poll on the popularity of this, based on interviews with1,005 people between 8 and 11 July 2005 for the BBC News website. It showed an indifference on the part of the majority to this creeping totalitarianism or it could merely be conformity to what they thought the researchers wanted to hear. It found 51% in favour of such a move but 44% against the governments plans to ban incitement to religious hatred. The people who wrote into the website in response were against the new legislation, almost to a man, so much so that I thought there was little point in my adding to the protest against the totalitarian aspects of the new law. Maybe such people are self selected and it is also the people who are indifferent to such issues who are also usually indifferent to civil liberties. But some commentators are also indifferent or at least think the danger is worse than the loss of liberty and, like Brian Walden on Sunday morning of 24 July, they often still call themselves libertarians.
On Thursday, 21 July 2005 there were four more minor explosions in London. No one was hurt. But the next day, a man, Jean Charles de Menezes, was shot at Stockwell tube station by plain clothes policemen. He soon turned out to be an innocent man from Brazil. He was something of an Anglophile, who spoke good English, but he was not to know that the plain clothes men after him, for some reason, were police. Most living in the UK all their lives expect police in uniform or in suits, not in rough looking causal jeans and ragged clothing and this could be why he did not stop when they commanded him to do so. His pursuers did not look friendly, nor as if they were in any position of authority whatsoever. It later emerged that his visa had run out, and later still that it had run out over a year ago, but that is not likely the reason why he would disobey armed police.
It is not easy to gauge how serious the terrorism problem in Britain is today. If Charles Clarke was truly surprised as he claimed on first hearing the news that the bombers were British then he is too stupid to be the Home Secretary. If this is just a political Noble Lie to give Islam a good name in the hope that it will live up to it, then it is perhaps about as good as the Noble Lie gets and it is clearly the more sensible way of pursuing things. But this should be done without the sops of the new intolerant laws on free speech. In the modern society religion is a personal matter and that does mean that Islam cannot rule the roost in the UK. It is going to have to follow Christianity sooner or later; better for humanity that it is sooner.
"Islamic fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think," Pape tells The American Conservative in its July 18 issue. Indeed, the world's leader in suicide terror was the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka. This secular Marxist group "invented the famous suicide vest for their suicide assassination of Rajiv Ghandi in May 1991. The Palestinians got the idea of the vest from the Tamil Tigers."
But if the aim of suicide bombers is not to advance Islamism in a war of civilizations, what is its purpose? Pape's conclusion:
"[S]uicide-terrorist attacks are not so much driven by religion as by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide terrorist campaign – over 95 percent of all incidents – has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw."
The 9/11 terrorists were over here because we were over there. They are not trying to convert us. They are killing us to drive us out of their countries.
Before the U.S. invasion, says Pape,
"Iraq never had a suicide attack in its history. Since our invasion, suicide terrorism has been escalating rapidly, with 20 attacks in 2003, 48 in 2004 and over 50 in just the first five months of 2005. Every year since the U.S. invasion, suicide terrorism has doubled. … Far from making us safer against terrorism, the operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorists and has given suicide terrorism a new lease on life."
Pape is saying that President Bush has got it backward: The Iraq war is not eradicating terrorism, it is creating terrorists. "(Extract from Pat Buchanan's article Why Are They Killing Us?)