7/7: ‘Anti terror’ rhetoric masks the inconvenient truth

A proper response to 7/7 must be to bring the alienated and angry young men of Britain, whether seduced by Al Qaeda, the BNP or football hooliganism, into society. Only then can we have social cohesion and only this is true counter-terrorism.

In the wake of the July 7th terror attacks of five years ago many awkward questions were levelled at the Muslim community in the UK and a link was established between the bombers and Al Qaeda.

The evidence for this link is the fact that Al Jazeera reported the videotaped suicide note of bomber Mohammed Sidique Khan as having come from Al Qaeda. Likewise Khan made references to Al Qaeda leaders and used the language of Al Qaeda, calling himself a ‘soldier’ and asking to enter ‘the garden of paradise’. And so, here, the debate about July 7th ended.

The events of that day, with this evidence, could be cleanly fitted into the prevailing dialogue about ‘radical Islam’. July 7th became a tragic reminder of why we are fighting in Afghanistan, another example of Samuel Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilisations’ and a classic case of terrorism trying to undermine democracy and freedom.

What lies beyond the political rhetoric though, and the casual employment of such easy categorisations as ‘terrorism’, ‘freedom’ and ‘radical Islam’?

Al Qaeda is now widely recognised as being less an organisation, more a franchise, a brand. It is true Khan travelled to Pakistan, and he was probably given the authority to carry out the attacks in the name of the Al Qaeda brand but does this mean Al Qaeda attacked the UK?

This dominant hegemony misses the real lessons of July 7th.

Beyond Islam the bombers were unified by many other demographic factors. They were all young men, from minority communities whose experience of Britain was that of working class life in the North. This is far more important than their religious inclinations.

For many people in the communities that the bombers come from, of all creeds, colours and religions, Britain remains a closed shop and a place of limited opportunity. A number of recent reports have shown that inequalities of wealth and mobility persist and linger, such as these two, reported by The Guardian. Dewsbury, from where several of the bombers hailed, is a place of deprivation and poverty.

It is a town a million miles away from the corridors of power, from the media. It is a place familiar to many people, up and down the land, who feel a genuine alienation from the political process and legitimate routes to empowerment. Parallels between radical Islam and the BNP seem counterintuitive but, as shown by this article about the far right, the emotions that underpin extremism are common to all communities.

Jamie Bartlett from Demos explains today how a more meritocratic society, of greater opportunity and mobility, where there are more avenues through which political grievance can be expressed leads to a net reduction in radicalisation and the subsequent violence.

There can never be any excuse for the horrific and barbaric actions of the July 7th bombers. To focus on Islam though, and the dynamics of international politics is to ignore the more difficult questions. What drove some ordinary men from Yorkshire to declare Jihad on their own country? What fostered such intense anger and alienation, so easily exploited by extremists?

The sad fact is that the people of Dewsbury, and numerous communities like it, will probably never read this article. A proper response to 7/7 must be to bring the alienated and angry young men of Britain, whether seduced by Al Qaeda, the BNP or football hooliganism, into society. Only then can we have social cohesion and only this is true counter-terrorism.

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13 Responses to “7/7: ‘Anti terror’ rhetoric masks the inconvenient truth”

  1. Michael

    I agree with the argument though, can I just say, I happen to hail from Beeston and have linked this article to a couple of friends from around the way, including Dewsbury. We’re not all destitute northerners living in one room and sharing bath water you know! That said, I do now live in London and probably class as an professional urbanite w*nker, so there you go.

  2. Michael

    With poor grammar, no less.

  3. The Count

    I fail to see how their class background can be said to be more important than their religious beliefs. Where is the evidence for this?
    And, a third of terrorists convicted in the UK are university graduates – hardly deprived people with limited opportunities.

  4. redarsedbaboon

    Far more important than their religious inclinations? Really?

    Did they shout Dewsbury-uh-Akbar as they pulled the cord? Did MSK justify his actions on working-class northerner grounds?

    And they weren’t unified by demographic factors. They were unified by the fact that they, you know, knew each other.

    This is an extremist Islam issue, and it simply doesn’t wash to equate it with football hooliganism. It’s not the same.

  5. Liam Thompson

    Terrorists have come from all faith communities at some point or another and in different parts of the world people of all faiths are involved in violent insurection, I would argue that religion is just one ideology amongst many and really not the most important factor.

    What is important is how cohesive society is and what opportunities are there for people to get involved at the highest level.

    For graduates and opportunity check the stats in the Guardian articles and check yesterday’s news about numerous graduates for every position…

  6. Liam Thompson

    Get your point red arsed baboon but 20 years ago the same thing that is now happening to the Muslim community in the UK was happening to the Irish community – more often than not in the very same neighbourhoods.

    If you take the historical perspective you will see that the important factor is not religion, that is very much a surface issue, what is important is the relationships between mainstream society and those on the margin.

  7. Michael

    There’s an informal theory I came across once, completely untested and therefore one that I have no intention of rigorously defending so don’t shoot me down as the fashion on these comment boards. But it looked at immigrant communities, and noticed a generational gap of 30 years between the the bulk of the arrivals, and then the children reaching adulthood, and found Jewish riots in the 1930’s, West Indian communities in the 1980’s and then South Asian communities in the 00’s. It pondered the dislocation that exists between the traditional values of their parents generation, and the semi-integration of the youth who are essentially asked to provide the bridge whilst retaining aspects of their heritage. Its a huge ask, and one that could quite conceivably lead to alienation. The youth always invariably shoulder the burden of their parents at some point – mix that up with other social factors such as religion and custom and yes – there’s probably something there. So no, this is not exclusively an issue of Islam, though an important factor it may be. Its right that we should ask wider questions, rather than narrowly tunnelling down the same old holes. The four bombers were at some point normal British youth – I know this anecdotally, people I know went to school with them, or used to work alongside them. They will forever remain British, whatever the terror and murder they inflicted in London. Don’t let that fact escape us.

  8. Michael

    (That is to say, a generational gap that resulted in riots or suicide bombings or whatever).

  9. Liam Thompson

    A sage point Michael and, as somebody who grew up in the Irish community when the IRA were terrorising the British mainland, I subscribe to the idea that there are factors, beyond such obvious definitions as race and religion, which are of crucial importance in understanding such behaviour. Most serious analysis of the motivations of individual terrorists (as opposed to terrorist organisations) find that identity is a major factor.

  10. Robert

    I think you have to be really thick to know the battle is with Pakistan not Afghanistan, so why are our troops not in Pakistan, it’s like entering France to defeat Germany, but never actually going into Germany.

    If you look at the countries which would set bombs off in the UK it’s the British born Muslim who are the people killing people, how many said they came from Afghanistan.

  11. Charlie Holden

    RT @leftfootfwd: 7/7: ‘Anti terror’ rhetoric masks the inconvenient truth http://bit.ly/avtElQ

  12. aperiozar

    RT @leftfootfwd: 7/7: ‘Anti terror’ rhetoric masks the inconvenient truth http://bit.ly/avtElQ

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