The London Blasts: Media
SIX: 13 July 2005 Half Right Hari
Johann Hari: No Simple
Johann Hari writes on
the basis of his encounters with terrorists and suicide
bombers (in the Independent,
page 27 or paid-for access here):
people are saying these massacres of civilians were simply
mindless psychopathy, with no more purpose than Fred and
Rosemary West's butchery of young girls in Gloucester. That
is wrong. These were vile acts of political murder, emerging
from a political context created, in part, by Western statecraft
and driven by political goals. It is always better to know
what you are up against.'
So far, so good.
On the other hand, Hari
thinks that the 'simple solution' of Western withdrawal
from Muslim lands will not work:
you realise that Osama bin Laden considers Spain (or "Andalucia",
as he calls it) to be a Muslim land because it was an Islamic
territory until 1492. Not to mention all of Israel (Bin
Laden is no fan of the 1967 borders), much of the Balkans
and all of Kashmir... Once the Middle East is handed over
to sharia law, would we then cede Spain, Tel Aviv, Kosovo
and chunks of India to get al-Qa'ida off our backs?'
This Is Not A War For
Firstly, Osama bin Laden
has not called for sharia law to be imposed on the Middle
East as a whole. No doubt he, and the al Qaeda network in
general, wish for that fervently. But what they have actually
called for, as in the most credible claim
of responsibility for the London bombings, is short-term
foreign policy changes by the Western powers.
Interestingly, when bin
Laden spoke out before the
2003 war on Iraq, he did not call on his followers to overthrow
Saddam and create a sharia state in order the better to
resist the invaders (a perfectly logical position for a
fundamentalist of any description). He said:
of the removal or the survival of the socialist party or
Saddam, Muslims in general and the Iraqis in particular
must brace themselves for jihad against this unjust campaign
and acquire ammunition and weapons... '
'Under these circumstances, there will
be no harm if the interests of Muslims converge with the
interests of the socialists in the fight against the crusaders,
despite our belief in the infidelity of socialists...'
'The fighting, which is waging and
which will be waged these days, is very much like the fighting
of Muslims against the Byzantine in the past. And the convergence
of interests is not detrimental. The Muslims' fighting against
the Byzantine converged with the interests of the Persians.'
was not detrimental to the companions of the prophet.'
In other words, just as
the early Muslims fought alongside non-Muslims against a
greater enemy, so members of the al Qaeda network can comfortably
fight alongside the non-Muslim Ba'athist regime of Saddam
Hussein against the greater enemy in the White House, 'regardless
of the removal or the survival' of Saddam's regime.
Establishing sharia law
in Iraq (highly desired) was a lower priority than resisting
the invasion of Iraq.
Having said this, in the
same speech, bin Laden did call for the overthrow of existing
regimes and the establishment of sharia law:
also stress to honest Muslims that they should move, incite,
and mobilize the [Islamic] nation, amid such grave events
and hot atmosphere so as to liberate
themselves from those unjust and renegade ruling regimes,
which are enslaved
by the United States.'
also do so to establish
the rule of God on earth.'
'The most qualified regions for liberation
are Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, the land of the
two holy mosques [Saudi Arabia],
Notice however the priority:
the first objective is to 'liberate' nations from 'unjust
and renegade' rulers.
The war against Western
violence and against Western-imposed injustice has priority
over the war for sharia law.
It's The Supporters, Stupid
Secondly, it doesn't really
matter, in a sense, whether bin Laden and his associates
are honest in representing their aims in this fashion (perhaps
they really want sharia law more than anything else, and
perhaps they want it everywhere, just as Johann Hari claims.
But the question facing
us today is: would young Muslims from Leeds really be blowing
themselves up on the London Underground in support of a
campaign to hand Spain over to rule by Wahhabi mullahs using
Or should we rather believe
the Home Office/Foreign Office report
into 'Young Muslims and Extremism', that the source of increasing
'extremism' is British foreign policy, and the war in Iraq
What matters is what motivates
al Qaeda's supporters, followers and potential recruits.
Western powers are at risk, from their own citizens, because
of Western policy in the rest of the world. Changing Western
policy will lead to a reduction in that risk. It is that
simple. It won't end all forms of anti-Western terrorism.
It won't necessarily end all forms of al Qaeda-type terrorism.
But if we build justice
rather than injustice, we have the chance to create more
peace, both in countries like Iraq, the victims of Western
power, and in countries like Britain, the victims of revenge.
terror: build justice.
The Era Of Good Feeling
To continue with a theme
from yesterday, when we were discussing David Aaronovitch's
peculiar view of history, Charles
Krauthammer, a neoconservative journalist writing in
Time magazine, describes
the 1990s, 'the seminal period
of al-Qaeda recruitment--indeed, the period during which
it created its entire worldwide infrastructure' as
an 'era of good feeling'
Clinton years saw the most open, accommodating, apologetic
U.S. foreign policy since World War II. In fact, the 1990s
was the decade of Muslim rescue: the U.S. intervened militarily,
and decisively, to save three Muslim peoples - the Bosnians,
the Kosovars and the Kuwaitis - from conquest and catastrophe.
Yet it was precisely during that era
of good feeling that al-Qaeda
not only recruited for but also conceived, planned and set
in motion the worst massacre of Americans in history. So
much for the connection between American perfidy and anti-American
Leaving aside arguments
about how these interventions should be assessed, and taking
them at face value, itis extraordinary that Krauthammer
can describe this decade as one of good feeling, when Muslims
are painfully aware that during these years of 'openness'
and 'apologetic' US foreign policy, hundreds
of thousands of Iraqi children died as a result of US-
and UK-imposed economic sanctions on Iraq.
What Muslims remember
is not 'rescue', but the words of then-US Ambassador to
the United Nations, Madeleine Albright when interviewed
on the programme 60 Minutes in 1996. Lesley Stahl, the interviewer,
asked, regarding US-backed sanctions on Iraq, 'We
have heard that a half million children have died. I mean,
that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know,
is the price worth it?'
Ambassador Albright responded:
'I think this is
a very hard choice, but the price... we think the price
is worth it.'
These words have haunted the rest of
the world. They were actually used by one of the 1998 US
Embassy bombers in his defence.
For Muslims, the decade of sanctions
on Iraq was not a era of 'good feeling'.
JNV welcomes feedback.
This page last updated 13 July 2005