In Britain, the idea that extremists would want to establish secret hideaways to make bombs and develop death-dealing plans against fellow citizens is fairly inconceivable, and yet it happened.
Over here, the papers are saying what do you expect when so much openness exists in the U.K. To that I would answer that it is because of that very openness that authorities were able to quickly track down and identify the perpetrators of the London bombings.
That is partly because they don’t look like us (unlike the Irish) and because inquisitive neighbors are all too willing to cooperate with law enforcement. It is also because of the proliferation of cameras positioned watchfully in public places.
Here in security alert America, cameras don’t get much play on the streets, because of privacy laws, lawyers, judges and a written constitution. And, there is so much moving around in urban areas, that people could care less what their neighbors, whom they usually don’t know, are up to.
Meanwhile, Britain is struggling to come to terms with the thought that any of its own citizens would wish to carry out the wishes of al Qaeda.
In his latest speech Prime Minister Blair spoke of Muslims and Islam.
“This”, he said, “is a religious ideology, a strain within the worldwide religion of Islam, as far removed from its essential decency and truth as Protestant gunmen who kill Catholics or vice versa are from Christianity.”
He said that the propaganda generated by extremists “plays on our tolerance and our good nature. It exploits the tendency to guilt of the developed world, as if it is our behavior that should change, that if only we tried to work out and act on their grievances we could lift this evil, that if we changed our behavior they would change theirs.”
He went on “I have to say this is a misunderstanding of a catastrophic order. Their cause is not founded on an injustice. It is founded on a belief, one whose fanaticism is such that it cannot be moderated, it can’t be remedied, it has to be stood up to.”
He believes that extremist threats can be fought with “the power of argument, debate, true religious faith, and true legitimate politics.” and “That means not just arguing against their terrorism, but their politics and their perversion of religious faith. It means exposing as the rubbish it is the propaganda about America and its allies wanting to punish Muslims or eradicate Islam.
“It means championing our values of freedom, tolerance, and respect for others. It means explaining why the suppression of women and the disdain for democracy are wrong.”
This argument is presented as though it were a subject up for debate in privileged Oxford/Cambridge circles, and is not the way to go about it. Any proposed dialog cannot be created by the sort of closed minds typically found in such places.
Blair spoke of their grievances, but we don’t really know what they are, although they are apparently known by young converts who become their willing disciples and bombers. Is this a revolution in the making?
If there is any hope of finding out, then it is necessary to mingle with them, with open minds and closed mouths, ready to listen. Their acts of terrorism are trying to say something, and we need to find out what it is in their words, instead of in their deeds.
And in terms of “us” versus “them”, well, they are picking us off at the rate of one of theirs (the suicide bomber) sacrificed in order to take out more than a few of ours every time. In terms of classic warfare casualties, that’s a terrible record.
There needs to be a very very serious inquiry leading up to the possibility of negotiation, exchange, and compromise.