Hard News by Russell Brown


Don't Panic

The apparently resolute British desire not to panic after the weekend's close shaves with murder and mayhem is to be admired. I went through several discussion forums on Saturday and Sunday and it seemed that the respondents were not about to have the British way of life - including the right to get trollied into the early hours at West End nightclubs - hampered.

There is quite a range of views advanced in this BBC website thread, and this discussion of an Observer editorial, but most correspondents seem determined not to panic. It's left to an American reader to fret wildly about Britain becoming "a nation under Sharia law".

The Observer also has a fascinating column by former British jihadist Hassan Butt, who says that the motivation for him and his kind was not, in a direct sense, the West's foreign policy adventures in the Middle East, but "a sense that we were fighting for the creation of a revolutionary state that would eventually bring Islamic justice to the world." He concludes:

I believe that the issue of terrorism can be easily demystified if Muslims and non-Muslims start openly to discuss the ideas that fuel terrorism. (The Muslim community in Britain must slap itself awake from this state of denial and realise there is no shame in admitting the extremism within our families, communities and worldwide co-religionists.) However, demystification will not be achieved if the only bridges of engagement that are formed are between the BJN and the security services.
If our country is going to take on radicals and violent extremists, Muslim scholars must go back to the books and come forward with a refashioned set of rules and a revised understanding of the rights and responsibilities of Muslims whose homes and souls are firmly planted in what I'd like to term the Land of Co-existence. And when this new theological territory is opened up, Western Muslims will be able to liberate themselves from defunct models of the world, rewrite the rules of interaction and perhaps we will discover that the concept of killing in the name of Islam is no more than an anachronism.

Yet if the jihad cannot be explained solely through geopolitics, it's only decent to consider this story, noting the death of 80 civilians in a single American attack in Afghanistan, alongside the weekend's incidents in Britain, in which, thankfully, no one was even injured. While we are frightened by the callousness and evil intent of the homegrown British plots, it's as well to bear in mind the other innocents who died these past few days.

Oddly, the attempted London car bombings echo not only the terror attacks of Iraq, but an even more British bombing campaign, directed against homosexuals and ethnic minorities in 1999. That campaign was the work of an individual, but it was endorsed by Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, which stands in British elections:

The TV footage of dozens of ‘gay’ demonstrators flaunting their perversions in front of the world’s journalists showed just why so many ordinary people find these creatures so repulsive.

Tragically, one of the survivors of the Soho bombing was subsequently beaten to death in a homophobic attack.

So hate takes many forms and is not without precedent. I might add that, like many of the correspondents linked above, I have considerable faith in modernism. We've won so far; we'll win again.

PS: I wasn't able to get to William (Bill) Direen's Auckland performances over the weekend (although I hear the Wine Cellar show on Friday was magic - he took requests!), but he's performing music and poetry with a lineup of others, including poets and Power Tool Records artists, at the King's Arms tonight, and I'll be there.

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