Sunday, July 24, 2005

Seeking a way to combat terrorism - Haroon Siddiqui

Seeking a way to combat terrorism - Haroon Siddiqui
Haroon Siddiqui says public knows answer to what their politicians can't see

The London bombings have triggered new fears, heightened security measures and sparked another round of finger-pointing.

But, unlike in post-9/11 America, all sides of the debate are beginning to be heard in Britain.

All civilized people have condemned the terrorism, unequivocally, including British and Canadian Muslims.

Yet there is a tendency in some quarters to never lose an opportunity to lay a collective guilt trip on all Muslims. The new McCarthyism usually takes the form of a demand: "What do you have to say about ...?"

Such folks need to be reminded of the May 22, 1944 notation in the diary of Anne Frank: "What one Christian does is his own responsibility, what one Jew does, reflects on all Jews.

"Hounding law-abiding Muslims contravenes our basic democratic principles, besides being wholly counterproductive.

The next debate is over trying to understand the causes of terrorism.

One side says Muslims are angry because of what's going on in Iraq, Palestine, Chechnya, etc.

Yes, but ... says the other side. How come Africans and Tibetans are not terrorists? Such critics fall into three camps.

One blames Islam. "It's a violent religion; its adherents always wage jihad." Oriana Fallaci makes millions saying so. A congressman makes headlines wanting to bomb Mecca. Other hatemongers are more careful.

The second camp draws a distinction between Islam and what it calls Islamism, defined as Osama bin Laden's dream of destroying the West and founding a caliphate. The terrorists are said to be his foot soldiers.

But clearly not all are inspired by Bin Laden's religion, only his politics of grievance.

The third camp categorizes the terrorists as a neo-fascist, nihilistic and death-loving cult with an Islamic sheen. "They hate our freedoms." "They want to destroy our way of life."

"An evil ideology," Tony Blair calls it, associating it with "radical Islam." He'll hold a conference, just as he had on Palestine when feeling similarly helpless.

The "cult of death" line prompts a debate over which side kills more — the terrorists or state-initiated economic sanctions, wars and endless occupations?

Piping up in the middle are the old unreconstructed multiculturalists, still bemoaning that the West would be better off if we were all a homogeneous lot.

We are going in circles.

Which way forward?

One side says we show the same interest in solving the problems of the Muslim world as we did, say, in East Timor.

The other side says, Muslims heal thyself. Crack down on madrassas. Fight Wahhabism. Stop fiery sermons. If you don't do it, we will do it for you.

Muddling along in the middle are politicians and bureaucrats.

British competence in identifying the bombers does not cover up the fact that a recent security report concluded that there was no imminent threat; that one of the bombers was probed last year but not held; that the mastermind of the bombing, a known operative, was allowed to slip in and out of the country.

Blair's pledge to deport Islamic extremists avoids the issue of where he will send those born in Britain.

Similarly, the macho talk of our own Gen. Rick Hillier about going to Afghanistan to fight "detestable murderers and scumbags" does not clarify if he plans to go to war on Britain or Pakistan or Egypt, where the bombers were born or had visited or had connections with.

He is not the only quacking Canuck. Anne McLellan — "we are also a target, you know" — would also be wiser to prepare harder but talk less.

But there is hope.

Britons see the connection between Iraq and their troubles. It's not just Ken Livingstone, the leftist mayor of London, or rebel MP George Galloway, or some British Muslim leaders. So does a confidential security report. So does a public report by the Royal Institute of International Affairs. So does two-thirds of the public.

They are asserting themselves the same way that Canadians did before the Iraq invasion, notwithstanding the pro-war stance of the Tories, the establishment and most media.

Why are Western governments and the media so afraid to examine whether or not the terrorist Muslim mayhem that we are suffering is the extremist response to what America and its allies are doing in Muslim lands, or are complicit in?

Our own publics are pointing the way.

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