Thursday, July 07, 2005

Inevitable


Christopher Hitchens offers some observations on the bombing in London, noting in particular that there was a sense of inevitability about this attack:


When the telephone rang in the small hours of this morning, I was pretty sure it was the call I had been waiting for. And as I snapped on the TV I could see, from the drawn expression and halting speech of Tony Blair, that he was reacting not so much with shock as from a sense of inevitability.

Perhaps this partly explains the stoicism and insouciance of those Brits interviewed on the streets, all of whom seemed to know that a certain sang-froid was expected of them.
... there are two considerations here. The first is Britain's role as a leading member of the "Coalition" in Iraq and Afghanistan. The second is its role as a host to a large and growing Muslim minority. The first British citizens to be killed in Afghanistan were fighting for the Taliban, which is proof in itself that the Iraq war is not the original motivating force. Last year, two British Muslims pulled off a suicide attack at an Israeli beach resort.
In many British cities, there are now demands for sexual segregation in schools and for separate sharia courts to try Muslim defendants. The electoral strength of Muslims is great enough to encourage pandering from all three parties: The most egregious pandering of all has come from Blair himself, who has promised legislation that would outlaw any speech that could be construed as offensive to Islam.
Since most British Muslims are of Asian descent, a faint sense exists that criticism of their religion is somehow racist: In practice this weak-mindedness leads to the extension of an antiquated law on blasphemy that ought long ago to have been repealed but is now to cover the wounded feelings of Muslims as well as Christians.

In the main, though, London is a highly successful and thriving melting pot, and I would be very much surprised as well as appalled if there were any vengeance pursued against individual Muslims or mosques.

Older Londoners are of course raised on memories of the Nazi blitzkrieg, and a younger generation remembers living through a long campaign of bombings by the Provisional IRA. This latest challenge is far more insidious, however, because the ambitions of the killers are non-negotiable, and because their methods so exactly match their aims.
It will be easy in the short term for Blair to rally national and international support, as always happens in moments such as this, but over time these gestural moments lose their force and become subject to diminishing returns.
If, as one must suspect, these bombs are only the first, then Britain will start to undergo the same tensions—between a retreat to insularity and clannishness of the sort recently seen in France and Holland, and the self-segregation of the Muslim minority in both those countries—that will start to infect other European countries as well.
It is ludicrous to try and reduce this to Iraq. Europe is steadily becoming a part of the civil war that is roiling the Islamic world, and it will require all our cultural ingenuity to ensure that the criminals who shattered London's peace at rush hour this morning are not the ones who dictate the pace and rhythm of events from now on.


His point that Europe is becoming embroiled in an Islamic civil war is a profound one. The idea there is there are two factions of people in Islam, those who believe in Jihad, and those who don't. The ones who do wage Jihad are much louder because of the fact that violence inevitably draws attention.

However, most Islamic people would never be inclined to strap on a suicide belt.

The problem is, if this is a civil war in the Islamic world, then it appears that only one side is fighting. The other is curling up in a ball, putting their hands over their eyes and saying "Islam is a religion of peace. Islam is a religion of peace."