Friday, September 08, 2006

Profound observation

Note: This was written by City University coursemate Asad Khan, of Delhi, India, who works as an editor there. It is very topical and worth the time to read it.

Why blame Britain?

No provocation is big enough to justify killings and whoever supports the slaying of innocents is a coward. The theory of retribution is humbug, says Asad Amin

Minds are stamped with images of "atrocities against Muslims". Hizb-ul-Tehrir and al-Muhajiroun spend a great deal of their energy and resources denigrating Western culture and instilling hatred of the West; and thus are suicide bombers made.
There are around 1.8 million Muslims in Britain. A large number of them are from Sylhet in Bangladesh, Mirpur in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Punjab in Pakistan. Unlike Indians who migrated to Britain, most of them were uneducated and came to this country as labourers in the 1950s and 1960s to work night shifts in factories and mills.

My first reaction to British Muslims being arrested on August 10 after security forces unravelled their plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners was of disbelief. I prayed it would turn out to be another Forest Gate incident in which two British Muslim brothers of Bangladeshi origin, arrested on terrorism charges, had to be released because of wrong intelligence input. But three weeks later, with most of the arrested men charged, I am furious that the dastardly act of a bunch of people has put the Muslim community in the dock.

Why this urge among British-born Muslims to perpetuate violence against their own fellow citizens? What will they gain? Are they propelled merely by frustration over social and economic disadvantages? These and other questions are now being raised to find answers to the radicalisation of an increasing numbers of young Muslims in Britain. During my stay in the UK on a fellowship, I interacted widely with young British Muslims and often asked them these and related questions. Often this would result in unending arguments, with me insisting that violence, as a means of protest, is no solution. Some would agree, many others would not.

Those who advocate violence cite the suffering of Muslims "around the world". For them, the war on terror is a "global war on Islam". The US invasion of Iraq has nothing to do with democracy, but to "steal" Iraqi oil and draw a new map of West Asia. They describe Prime Minister Tony Blair as a "criminal" for supporting the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. The US and the UK are seen as mollycoddling Israel. So these countries are legitimate targets, they argue. No matter how hard you try, you cannot convince them that targeting innocent civilians in markets, the Underground, buses and aircraft is indefensible. But the fact remains that no provocation is big enough to justify senseless killings and whoever supports the slaying of innocents is a coward. The much-vaunted theory of retribution is humbug.

Who are these young British Muslims, mostly of Pakistani origin, that turn to violence? They are discernible by their presence everywhere. Hanging around on the streets in tracksuits with hood pulled on and Nike sneakers in groups of four or five, they indulge in pointless barbershop chatter and revel in conspiracy theories. These whinging Toms have nothing good to say about their Government. They are ungrateful children of the British welfare state. They live in the UK but their heart beats for their parents' birthplace. They decry everything Western, but make full use of freedom and democracy. They comprise the fringe group that has hijacked Muslim society. Some section of the media wants us to believe that they are the majority and represent Islam. Both the assumptions are wrong.

Among the potential terrorists some are school dropouts, born again Muslims and members of extremist Muslim organisations like Hizb-e-Tehrir and al-Muhajiroun. A large number of their members are drawn from families that survive on social security and are forced to live on paltry sums of money in a country of cutthroat competition and flourishing consumerism. With their eyes shut to the real world, they willingly believe propaganda about "atrocities being committed by Christian armies against helpless Muslims", made credible by visuals of "children being killed by the Israel Defence Force" screened regularly at centres of Hizb-ul-Tehrir and al-Muhajiroun

The Guardian recently quoted a disillusioned member of one such group as saying, "I think the answer lies in what I am calling the 'atmosphere' - the bedrock. I call it 'ummaism', corrupting the youth; making them disillusioned with their families; determined to show that the Western civilisation was a lie, that your parents are not living the Quran, that you are a Muslim first and supporting your brothers in arms is what it means to be a Muslim." This is how impressionable were provided with housing in Burnley, Bradford and other places in the north. Over the years, these housing estates became islands of British Muslims of South Asian origin, with the residents reluctant to interact with the Whites, transplanting the social and cultural mores of their country of origin.

When the factories and mills began to shut down, these immigrant, semi-skilled workers were left with no option but to either apply for welfare benefits or open small businesses in retailing, takeaway eateries and halal shops. Those who could not move on live in virtual poverty in dilapidated housing blocks.

The brighter side of the story is about how Bangladeshis have succeeded in private enterprise, opening restaurants. The Curry Club of Great Britain estimates that there are 8,500 Indian restaurants in the UK, of which Bangladeshis own 7,200. More Whites than Asians visit these restaurants in Brick Lane, Southall and Euston. The point that needs to be noted is that Britons helped them succeed by patronising their business ventures. Those who tried to succeed, have little to complain about; those who chose not to try, are today's whining lot who find fault with anything and everything British and, by extension, Western. These are the radicals, the die-hards, the potential bombers.

Where does Islam fit into all this?


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