“The crucial question is to know what is the support for Al Qaeda amongst British Muslims”, a BBC reporter was quick to comment on TV last night. He went on to claim that 8% of British Muslims supported the efforts of the so-called enigmatic organisation ‘Al Qaeda’ and its mysterious, almost mythical subterranean leader, Bin Laden. These comments were, of course, cunningly mixed with others from the familiar faces of mainstream press and politicians alike stating that these attacks had nothing to do with Islam, and that the vast majority of Muslims vehemently rejected violence.
It is still very hard to forecast how the ‘British public’ will react although it has largely shown in the past a greater degree of tolerance and wisdom than its ruling class. However there is a great fear that the British government could use these terrible and totally unjustified attacks to push forward its assault on civil liberties, with its anti-terror legislation and the probable introduction of ID biometric cards, inflicting even more suffering on innocent people at home and abroad.
When the IRA was committing attacks on British soil, a few courageous politicians such as former ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone, continued to lobby for the withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland, seeing the violence as a manifestation of a political situation of Britain’s making.
It is now the responsibility of the anti-war movement and the British people to take the streets again and to demand, “troops out of Iraq and justice not vengeance”. It is also the responsibility of all Muslims not to isolate themselves and to keep working jointly with all the many progressive forces at a grassroots level, as they have been doing over the last four years. Finally, it is the responsibility of the journalists and media not to fuel fear and anger amongst ordinary people, but to perform their duties with accuracy and independence for the sake of community cohesion.