I am an emotional tourist. My home is in the centre, and it comes with fantastic views. On a clear day I can see both left and right politics, theism and atheism, and eastern and western cultures. But in seeing these things it is only natural for me to sympathise with some views from nowhere near the centre; and I will spend a short vacation there before returning to the centre where, together with my slightly adjusted view, I find balance and comfort. But recently the centre has begun to feel less comfortable; and there’s now a fence there restricting my view, and upon which it is difficult to achieve balance. I fear that one day my home will become uninhabitable.
- 2001 | Al Qaeda kill 2,996 in attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon
- 2002 | Chechan separatists kill 130 during Moscow theater hostage crisis
- 2003 | Al Qaeda kill 57 in Istanbul bombings
- 2005 | Al Qaeda kill 191 in Madrid train bombings
- 2005 | British Islamists kill 52 in London bombings
- 2005 | Chechen seperatists kill 385 (156 children) in Belsan school hostage crisis
- 2005 | Lashkar-e-Taiba kill 62 in Delhi bombings
- 2008 | Lashkar-e-Taiba kill 164 in Mumbai bombings
- 2013 | British Islamists murder Lee Rigby in Woolwich
- 2014 | Sudan sentence Christian woman to death for apostacy
- 2015 | Al-Qaeda kill 16 in attack on Charlie Hebdo offices
Though my spiritual home is the centre, my house is Surrey, which means that the words Islam and Muslim are ever-present in the media – and generally not in a good way. Even when there are no major terrorist incidents to report there have been other, genuine shocking thing to report. The use of children to fight a war, or as martyr to a cause that they can, surely, barely understand, is shocking to me. And I find honour killings of young women unwilling to go through with an arranged marriage similarly shocking. I should, though, as I have always done in the past, be able to post these things in the pigeonhole, “Unacceptable acts by individuals”, and return to my home to the centre, but nowadays that journey is harder and when I get there am less likely to stay for long before being drawn away. Why the change? Could it be that I have been, well, radicalised?
I pause my article here because, to hear the word radicalised to describe Western influence on its own population, is a little unusual. Surely it is Islam who indulge in radicalisation, and we in the West are merely enlightened.
And I pause to ask the somewhat rhetoric question, what is it called when we’re happy to use a term to describe members of one group, but unwilling to use it to describe ourselves?
When politicians use Muslim and Terrorist in the same sentence, even if when denying that all Muslims are terrorists, doesn’t this remind us that some Muslims are terrorists? Does not Nigel Farage, UKIP leader and new asset for newspapers and broadcasters, try to radicalise us with every word? When a newspaper uses the words immigrant, terrorist and Muslim interchangeably, is this not trying to blur in our minds the distinctions? And when newspapers blames immigrants for rising house prices and then, three months later, for falling house prices, is this not meant to suggest that we’d all be better off without immigrants/terrorists/Muslims?
I’m not a conspiracy theorist and do not believe there’s a coordinated effort in the UK to radicalise us. But political parties need to get elected. Media companies need to make profits. Even the BBC, who don’t need to make profits and therefore usually rise above it, do need to renew their charter every ten years. All these organisations therefore need to appeal to us, the public, and clearly many believe their cause will be helped if they, either a little or a lot, vilify Islam.
If this is happening on our side of the fence, it’s reasonable to assume (and easier to believe) the same thing is happening in the Islamic world – that there are organisations there whose best interests are served, either a little or a lot, by vilifying the West And if we try to put ourselves onto the shoes of those organisations, who wish either to enlighten their congregations or vilify the west (it matters not) then what facts are available for this purpose? Perhaps some of these:
- The USA has been conducting a war on terror for almost 14 years and has sent troops to Afghanistan, Iraq, North-West Pakistan and Yemen.
- The USA has difficulty separating legitimate targets from civilians.
- The USA continues to provide military aid to Israel in their fights against Islam
- Western Oil companies want to profit from oil contracts in the Middle East
- Only an extremely small percentage of 1.6 billion Muslims choose to fight.
- So powerful is the western military-industrial complex that Muslim fighters cannot engage their enemy in conventional ways.
- So desperate are Muslim fighters and convinced they’re in the right, that they’re ready to give both their own lives and those of their children in their cause.
As with the first list of bullet points, above, that itemises terrorist attacks, I’ve deliberately chosen facts that can be used to vilify the other side and to justify retaliation, and used uncompromising language in so doing. Neither list is intended to be comprehensive or accurate, but they be at the forefront of moderates in both the East and West, and how they are beginning to see each other. The lists are distances apart; and if they stay that way then surely we’ll continue to polarise and conflicts will worsen.; but if, somehow, these lists can be edited and brought closer together, then what might come of that?