Britain?s Human Bombers
The standard explanation - and in certain minds, justification - for Palestinian human bombings is that they are an expression of a desperation and rage among those who have nothing left to lose but their lives against a force otherwise invincible. The bomb attack on a Tel Aviv caf? a week ago, which killed three Israelis, does not, however, fit the explanation.
Indeed, it blows it out of the water.
The attack was carried out not by an alienated Palestinian facing a life of oppression, misery and unemployment, but by a British Muslim from a comfortable, politically unmotivated family with a career ahead of him as a teacher. Another British Muslim from an equally comfortable background failed to detonate a second bomb, and is now on the run.
The UK police have now arrested four other British Muslims thought to be linked to the bombing.
Human bombers are by their very actions extremists and fanatics. But the Palestinians are not fundamentalists or fanatics. They do not want to die; they want to live in peace in Palestine. The fact that fanaticism admits no nationality and that human bombers and Palestinians are self-evidently not one and the same thing could not have come at a more appropriate time for the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.
He is under intense international pressure to crack down on the militants in order to move the peace process on. The British angle allows him to do it - and with the backing of most Palestinians who, while finding it difficult in the past to condemn those who sacrificed their lives attacking the Israelis, would of course be happier if such attacks never took place.
Abbas can do it because it is now clear to one and all that such killings are not part of a Palestinian national agenda.
In the UK, the bombing is also likely to have major ramifications. The knowledge that it has bred its very own human bombers has shocked the country.
The fact that those involved have been Muslims - even though the overwhelming majority of British Muslims are appalled and offended by the attack, and have condemned it - and that a small minority of young British Muslims are sufficiently alienated as to want to go out and kill and die could make matters even worse. There is enough misunderstanding in the UK about Islam, enough suspicion, enough hostility as it is.
France, which has seen the same alienation among a small section of its own Muslim population and the political backlash it has created, has responded by trying to integrate Islam into French society.
Its solution is an elected Islamic council to regulate relations between the French state and the country?s five million Muslims, and control the country?s mosques and Islamic organizations.
The aim is to engender an Islam that is part of France rather than one that could be hijacked by extremists at war with French society.
The shock of discovering that Britain is breeding its very own extremists and bombers might just push the British government toward a similar solution.
Certainly, some hard thinking needs to be done in London about young British Muslims.
First published in Arab News 6 May 2003
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