Tragedies such as this are awful not just for those directly killed and injured and their friends and families, but because they engender such fear in everybody. Fear and uncertainty creates dangers of their own and it is important that these natural reactions are not exploited or responded to irrationally.
I’ve received a few emails and calls today from people blaming multiculturalism for the London bombing and urging tighter immigration controls on who we let into Australia –one example says “most trouble spots in this world are civil wars caused by the intermingling of races” which we must prevent in our society and that people like me who support multiculturalism are “betraying our war dead”. The rest are along similar lines.
Peter Faris’ blog uses a quote (I assume approvingly) of Tony Blair’s from the civil liberties debates around proposed security laws in the UK last year, when Blair was trying to overturn centuries old British legal rights and freedoms and give more unaccountable power to his government on security grounds. No doubt Blair will be repeating this effort again soon.
Sydney lawyer and blogger Irfan Yusuf urges Britain’s Muslim’s to speak out loudly in condemnation of the bombings or they will be condemned themselves (article found via On Line Opinion). Many in Australia’s Muslim communities have already expressed fears that ASIO’s extra powers are being used specifically to target them. If underlying community antagonism increases – even subconsciously – as a consequence of the London bombings, then the fear and apprehension amongst our local Muslim community will probably also increase. I know it is very easy for the bigger more difficult issues to be lost in amongst calls for greater and ever more strident condemnation, but I agree with Irfan Yusuf’s argument. While I know many Australian Muslims do condemn actions like these, I believe they need to do more to make those views heard – for thier own sakes as well as our wider community.
There will be strong and emotional debate around these topics, as there should be and needs to be. But, as the Editor of the excellent Open Democracy website, Isabel Hilton writes, “now is a moment to reaffirm those values – to resist blaming any community or faith for the actions of criminals, to defend traditions of justice, dissent and solidarity – that broad ground on which the democratic citizen stands.”
That ground of democracy and freedom is what our society rests upon more than anything else, and we must resist the temptation to undermine it in the face of the fear and uncertainty that events like this generate. The role of community leaders in keeping those fears rational and in context is a vital one, as many governments will look to exploit any opportunity to give themselves more power and control and take it away from others.
Now is the time to more strongly than ever defend our freedoms and rights from attack from both inside and outside our society, and to promote the importance of a diverse, pluralistic, multicultural, multi-faith society as the best way to defeat the ignorance and hate most graphically demonstrated by the London bombings.