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The Death and Sadness All Around Us..
Last uploaded : Friday 19th Nov 2004 at 22:45
Contributed by : Carol Gould


I am truly dazed and confused. In the same twenty-four hours in which British Prime Minister Tony Blair has come under unprecedented fire from human rights groups and from the lawyers for the released British Guantanamo Bay detainees, we are hearing of a Wembley-based Saudi dissident airing video of the killing of UK Black Watch soldiers and praising the deeds. According to the Sunday Times, Muhammad al-Massari defended the video and staunchly justified the slaying of British servicemen by Iraqi insurgents.

Meanwhile, the Arab world is fulminating at the footage -- repeated over and over again on television stations -- of American Marines shooting a suspected insurgent in a mosque in Fallujah. At the same time the apparent murder of CARE International worker Margaret Hassan, who had devoted thirty years of her life to the Iraqi poor and sick, has generated despair in that benighted country. (Robert Fisk in 'The Independent' has an interesting theory about Mrs Hassan not having been killed by insurgents at all, suggesting that her fierce condemnation of the Iraq war upset someone in a high place.)One is left feeling drained and sickened by the images and punditry; the gap between the Muslim world and the West widens with each traumatic event.

As November dawned, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was brutally murdered on his bicycle by a man who left a note pinned to his body threatening the female Muslim MP who had appeared in van Gogh?s film about women and Islam. The murderer appears to be part of a string of groups that have flowered in the Netherlands with what are reported to have been ample funds and support from various sources in his local community. In London in turn, the aforementioned al Massari runs an organisation called Majdeed from his base in Wembley, Middlesex and, according to the Times, says, in reference to the deaths of British soldiers, ?. I don?t know which universe you are living in .I am coming from the point of view of a rational human being, let alone a Muslim..?

In the 1990s the Tory government tried to deport al-Massari. It was unsuccessful and he has indefinite leave to stay in the UK. The Sunday Times asserts that al Massari was instrumental in establishing an office for Osama Bin Laden and was known to have called for the assassination of Tony Blair. In this regard, Dr Azzam al-Tamimi, mentioned in the ?Front Page? article about the BBC?s ?The Power of Nightmares? series (al Tamimi was used as an on-screen ?expert? by the Beeb), was reported this week by ?the Jewish Chronicle? newspaper to have again been volunteering to blow himself up in Israel.

So, that brings us back to Tony Blair, who was lambasted this week by Gareth Peirce, the lawyer for the freed Gitmo men, known as ?the Tipton Taliban.? The Prime Minister has suggested that the men, who according to Whitehall are under twenty-four hour surveillance are causing concern and that one is of particular worry for the police.

The outcry has been astounding. Blair is accused of slandering and defaming the men. There is no information to hand, as this article is going to press, of any wrongdoing by the men but inasmuch as Tony Blair has access to intelligence that goes as high as it gets, one would tend to be alert to his fears. Many people are saying that Blair?s intel on WMD before the Iraq War was flawed, so why should we believe him now?

This leaves some of us who actually value our safety dazed and confused. So, what are we to do? A bunch of young men, some with families and babies and wives, go off to Pakistan and Afghanistan whilst 99% of the rest of Great Britain slogs away 9 to 5 in jobs on the treadmill to oblivion to keep themselves and their families fed and clothed. The ?Tipton Taliban? are scooped up by the Coalition after the start of the Afghan campaign and sent to Gitmo. Living in the UK, one is aware of the overwhelming anger over the news that prisoners of the USA were tortured and sexually abused. However, I do want to know why young men with British nationality just wander off to the centre of these tinderbox locations.

In the Netherlands, the police are uncovering more and more extremist activities. The killing of van Gogh, which was ritual-style and utterly brutal --witnesses reported he begged for mercy -- has ignited fury, with the Dutch royal family having to intervene to calm the situation.

What are we to do? My well-meaning friends in the United States are fuming about the Patriot Act but some of my left-leaning British friends are now saying we need a Patriot Act and Homeland Security setup in the UK. But if the British Prime Minister voices concern about men who were released by the Pentagon in good faith but who he has reason to believe are not living up to expectations, he is branded ?defamatory and irresponsible.? Dutch painter Chris Ripke is reported to have erected a mural to commemorate Theo van Gogh using the Biblical ?Thou shalt not kill'. The local mosque complained to the authorities that the words were racist in nature and the police had the mural destroyed. Wim Nottroth, a reporter, decided to stage his own protest against the removal of the mural and was taken into police custody.

Where are the human rights campaigners when Mr al-Massari, a resident of Great Britain, is allowed to extol the virtues of killing our soldiers? Where are they when he shows footage of the arm of a British serviceman being stomped on by crazed locals? Where are they when Dr al Tamimi tells a student group that the very existence of the Jewish State cannot be allowed to continue? (I was there at the School of Oriental and African Studies when he said this last March, just to save those of you the time of sitting down to furiously write in and assert that I imagined this?) What if a white Anglo Saxon individual got up in front of a group of students in London or Philadelphia and said it is intolerable that Christians, Muslims and Hindus have their own states and that their very existence cannot be allowed to continue? Melanie Phillips notes that in 2000 the Dutch ?NRC Handelsblad? predicted that 'the multicultural drama could become the biggest threat to social peace.'

Right now I am sitting in my room in Washington and looking out at the peaceful streets of this most influential of world capitals. My doctor has recommended frequent trips to the USA because he sees a marked improvement in my health whenever I travel here, despite the exhaustion of the effort of the long journey. In one of the British papers this weekend, yet another of my colleagues is fulminating about the calamity of the ?Americans? and of the imperialist, expansionist Bush empire causing such grave threat to world stability. Yes, I would like to see Iraq at peace and our troops home for Christmas, but are these cheerful, good-natured Yanks I meet on every street corner of the USA an evil force, or are the al-Massaris of this world the real threat?

When I arrived in the USA this week I was greeted by the Immigration officer with ?Have a great Thanksgiving? and by the Customs officer with ?Welcome home, Ma?am!? Both were as tough as nails. I felt safe and protected and do so inside the USA. As soon as I arrive I am regaled with despair from Americans who see this country sinking into fascism. They see 9/11 as an isolated incident that was some sort of aberration, and seem to want to blame the Bush Administration for the monumental security breach. All of the hijackers were nurtured in Europe and the UK. We have superb security services in the United Kingdom and Europe, but extremist groups are flourishing unchecked, aided and abetted by human rights groups who scream ?racism? as soon as alarm is registered.

There is no doubt that a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian situation and an end to the conflict in Iraq would ease tensions in the Muslim world. However, I always hark back to the heady days of Oslo, when Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres were winning the Nobel Peace Prize and nations were lining up to open consulates in Tel Aviv. Bill Clinton was President and America was loved. In that era one was told one would be ?killed? if one filmed at the London Central Mosque. In that era bombs were exploding across Israel in unprecedented numbers and the carnage was staggering to an Israeli populace so determined to make peace with their Arab and Palestinian neighbours.

I would wager that if there was no American or Israeli presence in any foreign entity, there would still be raging hatred of the West and of Zionists and Americans.

As I look out at the immaculate streets of Washington and see the warm and hospitable ?folks? wandering about the neighbourhood, I fear there will never be peace until the tragic ?disconnect? that seems to exist in the Third World (lest we forget Nelson Mandela?s outraged condemnations of America during the Bush era) and that inspires young men to want to kill us all is eradicated. Conversely, the endless repeats of the embedded reporter?s film of the Marines in the mosque will no doubt fuel the furies. Somewhere in the chain of command the OK was given for the footage to be shown around the world, and one wonders if the days of the ?embedded? are numbered when some operations should be left unreported and classified in the tradition of World War II and the Cold War.

The deaths of 100,000 Iraqis in the present conflict have made huge headlines in Europe and Great Britain. The original goal of the nineteen of 9/11 was to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans; indeed, if the twin towers had been full and if the Capitol had been hit , they would have had their wish. This is not meant to connote ?you kill us, we kill you, whether you are in Afghanistan or Iraq or Gaza.? What the perpetrators of 9/11; the Munich Olympic Massacre; the Achille Lauro and of the African embassy bombings must realise is that the West will not stand idly by as groups claiming to represent the religious aims of a billion of the world?s peoples decide they are going to wage a worldwide jihad and create one state under their rules. I am afraid I like my concerts and opera and theatre and ballet and I like a drink at the wine bar. One of the fears amongst Dutch nationals is that the Muslim population is not integrating. One would dearly love to see women in hijabs at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, the Barbican and Covent Garden but it rarely, if ever, happens. When elderly war veterans are not beaten up for ?encroaching? on holy ground in Bradford, England and when a local London filmmaker is not threatened for wanting to film the beauty of the inside of the Regent?s Park Mosque, we will be making progress.

Until then, we have reason to worry. The Muslim community must get to grips with the madness that seems to be infecting its core youth, and inspire them to what inspired my penniless, persecuted ancestors -- hard work, creativity and making a lasting impression for good in the world, not destroying themselves with anger and violence.


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