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Brand Islam

By Tanveer Ahmed - posted Wednesday, 3 August 2005


Having just returned from London and mainland Europe, it is interesting to see how Australian Muslims have responded to the London bombings.

While there is universal condemnation from Islamic groups and individual Muslims, there is also a consistent “but” after any condemnation … “But the events in Iraq ... but in Palestine ... but US imperialism” and so on.

Tony Blair, in his monthly address, agreed for the first time that the invasion of Iraq did help recruit bombers for the London atrocities. But he was even more adamant that this in no way justified the acts.

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It is clear that most Muslims do not agree. Most British citizens don’t agree either, as shown by last week's Guardian poll where 65 per cent of readers believed the invasion of Iraq contributed to the London attacks. Whether “contributed” equals justification cannot be determined from the poll.

But what is more worrying for me, as an Australian Muslim, is the inability of many Muslims to see the moral difference between the attacks in London and the invasion of Iraq. The purpose of the invasion of Iraq, regardless of the inadequacies of its political justification, was not to kill innocent civilians. The Americans do make an attempt to show regret for civilian deaths.

The suicide bombers in London had the sole purpose of killing innocent civilians. In fact, they measure their success by the number killed, and no group claiming responsibility for an attack has ever showed any remorse for the deaths they caused.

The moral confusion on the part of Muslim communities is further exacerbated by a growing sense of victimhood. There are regular cries from commentators, clerics and the Left that all Muslims are being branded with the same brush. This is a little more guarded than in the past, for the attacks in London were from British citizens raised in local communities.

I would actually claim the opposite was true. British authorities are fanatically attempting not to implicate Muslims in their attempts to find the perpetrators. When I was leaving London only a few days ago, the police presence was enormous. While they were concentrated around the London underground, a significant proportion were guarding mosques and Islamic schools in order to prevent hate crimes. In Australia too, hate crimes have been few and far between.

The London mayor, Ken Livingstone, went as far as embracing a local Imam, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who has praised Palestinian suicide bombers in the past.

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Despite the enormous efforts by the British authorities to placate its Muslims, a large number still complain they are being made the scapegoats for the heinous crimes of the few. Granted, there was one serious hate crime in Nottingham where a man was beaten to death. This is tragic and regrettable. But if there was a similar attack launched by Hindus in countries like Pakistan or Bangladesh, the number of revenge attacks leading to deaths would number in the thousands.

The sense of victimhood allies itself easily with the idea that their local plight is shared on a grander scale by their fellow Muslims suffering in Iraq, Palestine or even Chechnya. This is despite the immense complexity and differences in the nature of these conflicts. This is also despite the fact Muslims are killing Muslims in Iraq on a large scale. In Muslim minds, this is outweighed by the greater injustice of the invasion.

Furthermore, conflicts like the Balkans, where the US intervened to effectively save the lives of Muslims in Kosovo and Bosnia, are quietly brushed under the table.

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About the Author

Dr Tanveer Ahmed is a psychiatrist, author and local councillor. His first book is a migration memoir called The Exotic Rissole. He is a former SBS journalist, Fairfax columnist and writes for a wide range of local and international publications.
He was elected to Canada Bay Council in 2012. He practises in western Sydney and rural NSW.

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