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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The cult of the suicide bomber

This is not intended to offend anyone (other than government cronies possibly). If you have an issue with what is said here please leave a comment and hopefully it will better help me to understand the situation.

On Monday I watched Why Bomb London on Channel 4. I’ve had some trouble formulating my thoughts regarding terrorism and the threat to the UK since the programme, but I feel there is one over-riding point that must be addressed, and this is the reaction of moral panic across the country and world.

The message filtering through from the mainstream media is one of hyper awareness and impending doom. Anyone and everyone (Asian, Muslim, Islamic, so many labels are offered) is a would-be, could-be suicide bomber.

This is where the root of the problem lies. While there is so much panic regarding all young Muslim men being recruited in to Terrorism, (and remember, everyone’s a threat, and everyone’s a suspect) the average normal well integrated citizen is being sidelined, victimised by people who mistakenly believe what they are being told by the media and also disillusioned by a message that suggests they are capable, and under suspicion of, terrorism.

The programme last night mentioned that at least a dozen men have been turned away from Heathrow because of suspicions they were going out to Iraq to fight against the coalition forces [my emphasis]. It also showed an interview with what we were led to believe is a respected Imam, who stated that is it was a choice between British law and Islamic law than Islamic law will always be more important. If security services have only identified half a dozen surely that is a good thing, because if I recall what he said correctly believers in Islam are stirred to fight to protect for others of the same faith.

I’m struggling specifically with the knee-jerk reaction of the government lawmakers to the ‘new threat’ of suicide bombings. There have been two attempts on London. The first was successful, disruptive and deadly, but not on the epic scale of the wars we’re waging. The second, basically, failed. They were not highly sophisticated.

Britain has struggled with terrorists in the past in the form of the IRA, and although I recognise that I know very little about this as it was ‘before my time’, it seems their impact was felt deeper and wider (in terms of distribution around the country). The terror of the IRA affected the country; it was felt in town and cities across the UK. But we didn’t introduce new laws to detain people under house arrest, without trial, until we saw fit, based on the say of the home secretary. There was no mention of trying people for treason. They were not considered as an Other the way today’s bombers, and believers of Islam, and people from the middle east in general.

The Other is the key to this. The Other religion, the Other colour, the Other language. These differences can be used to identify and segregate members of our communities and humans in the world. These differences can be used to incite fear. It has been said many times that what we do not understand we fear; and we do not understand this.

The indifference and confusion towards the Other is only compounded by the techniques thought up to help non white British people feel more ‘British’ and feel more a valued, welcome part of our community. WHY has it taken a terrorist attack to prompt this?

The name Pakistani-British as well as others along a similar vein has been bandied around in the past few days as one of the solutions offered by the government for ‘helping’ people of mixed heritage (primarily middle eastern *I think*) feel more British. Many who have had the change to speak on the matter say it is not necessary, that they feel British, or they don’t, but really it does not matter to them. Essentially this is because they are not a threat! Everyday people, working and living in the UK are not plotting against the country. Labels do not matter to people who feel British. Labels will have little effect on those who don’t. This is a half baked, half cocked bad solution to the wrong problem.

I don’t think it is about feeling British (or not), more about identifying with other people, be it from their country of origin or based on dreams and romanticised visions of heroism/martyrdom. While UK troops are armed and dangerous in Iraq and across the middle east there will always be people who do not agree with it. Hell, there are over 2 million people in the UK who didn’t agree with it and protested in London against the occupation. For these people who do not agree, and for those who want to take a stand against it, they need to find an effective way to retaliate. This needs to be cheap (in monetary terms) and effective, and quickly responsive. Qualities fulfilled by suicide bombers. I think, in fact I am pretty sure that if we had thought of it first then it would have been celebrated as an act of heroism too. A captain going down with his ship, the ultimate sacrifice to help save your people and country; the ‘cult of the suicide bomber’ is not new, if has just changed.

I wouldn’t put it past some, Dubya name checked specifically, to send convicts, or death row detainees out against their will as suicide bombers. The ethnocentric view of the world that western governments (UK and USA leading this) possess obscures their vision so badly they cannot see anymore. Without it they might begin to understand the causes better and come to some kind of solution. I certainly don’t have the answers, but I ask of one thing, for them to think about the consequences of their actions on a global scale, rather than on their own pride and power.

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