Some Thoughts on the London Bombings

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.

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13 Comments

  1. Would you classify an extremist Muslim Cleric as being part of a diverse, pluralistic, multicultural, multi-faith society or someone who preaches ignorance and hate?
    And what would you do with him? Let him keep preaching or deport him?
    That’s a decision many Western governments will have to make in the future.

  2. Andrew, those who contacted you that are opposed to ‘the intermingling of races’ and multiculturalism have views more aligned with the islamist extremists than with the Australia they are trying to protect.

  3. Mike,
    To where would you deport a 4th generation Australian Evangelical preacher who preaches ignorance and hate?

  4. “diverse, pluralistic, multicultural, multi-faith” – lovely sentiments but meaningless piffle when faced with direct attacks from a terrorist minority.
    I want security. I don’t want to have to worry everytime I get on a train or I simply pass a bin in a crowded place.
    Secure Australia’s borders. Secure its boulevards, its malls and suburbs. And send troops to fight these bastards on their home ground in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East.

  5. Richard, “fighting these bastards on their home ground” is exactly what the “terrorists” are saying to each other when they construct their bombs and bring them into our cities. Let’s not forget who started this conflict. It was Western governments who sent troops into Arab countries – not the other way around. It’s Western countries who maintain a multi-billion dollar per annum investment in military bases on Arab land – not the other way around. We – Australia and our allies – invaded Iraq in March 2003 with no justification. And our chickens will be coming hom to roost for many years to come.

  6. Richard, you may have been able to keep out ‘the enemy’ by walls and guns once upon a time, but not any more. That does not mean we shouldn’t have sensible security measures and as good a quality intelligence as we can muster, but how can you possibily ‘secure every mall, boulevard and suburb’?
    The best ‘intelligence’ is a united society that respects and values all its differing communities that respect it in return. That is not just nice sentiment, it is an important part of the recipie for standing up to the thugs and terrorists.
    It won’t guarantee no attack ever – nothing can – but it is an essential defence against being genuinely theatened or defeated by fear and violence.

  7. If Muslim communities fail to outlaw terrorists by means of fatwa, and fail to assist anti-terrorist activities by handing over the information they undoubtedly have, then they cannot be considered a rightful part of a tolerant, multicultural society.
    The onus now is on Muslims not merely to talk, but to take concrete and visible action to prove that they are worthy of participating in our society.

  8. EP
    This is where all those things our Govt did which people were willing to accept because it didn’t efect them comes back to bite all of us.
    Measures over recent years such as indefinite detention without charge, deliberately keeping refugees separated from their family, the knowingly false deliberate defamation of asylum seekers as potential terrorists and claims like “I don’t want peple like that in this country”, the involvement in invading another country under false pretences when it is now crystal clear the decision to invade was pre-determined, the willingness to allow Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks to be dealt with by the US in a manner completely outside any sort of due process or the rule of law, the extra ASIO powers which have been used only against Muslims ……
    all of these things just happen to have had Muslims as the direct targets and victims. That is not the same as saying the Govt has attacked all Muslims, but you can hardly blame some Muslim Australians for being somewhat sceptical when it’s suggested that they trust the Govt and ASIO by cooperating with them on anything.
    That’s what I mean when I say that understanding, respect and cooperation will work far better as an intelligence tool in the long run than fear and intimidation and endlessly tougher powers.
    It’s also what I mean when I have consistently said that Govt’s policies which undermine basic freedoms and standards of honesty harm all Australians, not just the small vulnerable group who are directly being targeted.
    Having said all that, of course people with solid information should come forward – and don’t think people aren’t – but the world isn’t a comic book with black hats and white hats.

  9. There is a reason why the things you complain about have had Muslims as targets.
    It’s because the events of terrorism in the world over the past ten years have overwhelmingly had Muslims as perpetrators.
    Every time there is an Islamist atrocity, we get some platitudes from Islamic leaders.
    Platitudes are no longer enough. If they can issue fatwas against Salman Rushdie, they can issue fatwas against Osama bin Laden and his cohorts. Why don’t they?
    Someone in Britain’s Islamic community knows who the bombers are. If nobody steps forward to identify them, what are we to believe?
    The time is long past when empty words are enough. If the majority of Muslims are opposed to terrorism, let them prove it with action.

  10. EP you say:
    “It’s because the events of terrorism in the world over the past ten years have overwhelmingly had Muslims as perpetrators.”
    If you include state sponsored terrorism you will find quite the opposite.
    If someone does know who the perpetrators are then surely I agree with you that they should come out.
    I can’t see what the ‘majority of Muslims’ that ARE opposed to terrorism should do to prove it. EP what have you done to prove your opposition? Why do you feel that any group of people in a religious or other grouping should be compelled to do something when someone in their group has behaved wrongly. Were you blamed for the actions of the Christian terrorist Timothy McVeigh, or the attrocities of the IRA, and what action did you take in those cases to prove to me that you are opposed to terrorism.
    Muslims are not one homogenous group and don’t all act in unison or share all the same beliefs as other Muslims. Blaming an entire group for the actions of a miniscule minority is how Bin Laden justifies attacks on innocent westerner infidels.

  11. If Muslims are, as you imply, a non-homogenous group that doesn’t support terrorist attacks — then they should be able to come out and prove it.
    They are under suspicion for good reason. Islam is an expansionist religion based on war, conquest and dissimulation — principles enshrined in its holy texts.
    Failure to issue religious rulings against al-Qaeda and to turn in terrorist supporters to the authorities will justify this suspicion.

  12. “Islam is an expansionist religion based on war, conquest and dissimulation — principles enshrined in its holy texts”
    And Christianity is not?? Oh please -do get a grip EP!! All mainstream religious teachings are open to a variety of interpretations, and all of them have seen some of their more demented followers commit appalling and misguided violence in their name. Bashing the crap out of one religion or another actually serves no purpose – other than to perhaps perpetuate the very things terrorists of all persuasions are wanting.
    The reality is that there will always be power hungry violent extremists who hide under the banner of the nearest convenient religious moniker –whether that’s Islam, Christianity or anything else.
    The reality is also that the vast majority of folk who follow one religion or another do so peacefully.
    Whatever our beliefs, we are all far better served by standing united against any extreme violent action no matter which religion it supposedly and so very erroneously purports to represent.

  13. If the Muslims are peceful, then let them prove it.
    By condemning terrorists without making excuses for them — unlike the Australian Islamic leaders. By issuing religious rulings against terrorism. By turning terrorist sympathisers in to the authorities.
    Without such action, their words are meaningless.

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