A Day in London: How to Be a British Boy

By Kershaw, Roger | Contemporary Review, October 2005 | Go to article overview

A Day in London: How to Be a British Boy


Kershaw, Roger, Contemporary Review


AMONG the more seemingly 'diagnostic' pronouncements of the press on the first successful strike by the Islamic insurgency in Britain (I mean diagnostic of media culture itself, not analytical of 'homegrown suicide-bombing') was one from The Mirror on 13 July, informing us that the perpetrators of '7/7' were 'four ordinary British lads from ordinary British homes, who loved football and girls'. One of them, we soon learned more specifically from other outlets, also loved cricket (Shahzad Tanweer). Another had been till lately a well-regarded classroom assistant who worked with immigrant children--a married man and father to boot (Mohammed Sidique Khan). However, the third of the ethnic Pakistanis was distinguished as a tall and turbulent school dropout (Hasib Mir Hussain). The fourth member of the commando presented the rather curious combination of an Afro-Caribbean background with convert status--he, too, being married with a child (Lindsey Germaine, alias Abdullah Shaheed Jamal). And surely it was not entirely conventional (though I hesitate to speak for Muslim sages who refer soothingly to 'martyrdom operations', or a convert who took 'Martyr' as his Muslim name!) that in the acts of mass murder and suicide as such, neither Sidique nor Shaheed was inhibited by his wife's second pregnancy.

Alienation as Duty

Even if some hacks did not really believe that the 'lads' from Yorkshire were 'ordinary' but simply wished to point up an astonishing contrast between 'appearance' and 'practice', it is depressing if they are capable of being thus caught by surprise. 'The alienation of young Muslims' has received ample exposure in recent years. There cannot be a British newspaper which has not condemned--while serving a subtle multiplier-function for--the pathological hatred spewed out in some mosques, or on the pavement outside, not to mention the Internet. (I thought 'Omar Bakri Mohammed', 'Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri' and 'Omar Abu Omar [bin] Abu Qatada' had become household names, as much as that of Osama bin Laden himself.) Meanwhile, the Bradford riots of 2001 were attributed, in the anodyne Cantle Report, to residential compartmentalisation, i.e. a lack of sufficient opportunities for ethnic mixing in the officially-promoted 'multi-culturalism' of modern Britain.

But surely no 'young Muslim male', once radicalised, would gladly agree to mix more with the native race and try to become British. To their credit, both the BBC (Radio 4, Sunday programme, 24 August 2003) and New Statesman (Shiv Malik, 13 September 2004) have kept up with the radical grouping, Hizb ut-Tahrir (banned in several Muslim countries, and in Germany), which in August 2003 staged a conference dedicated to decrying the notion that any true Muslim could identify with a Britain whose values are thoroughly contrary to those of Islam. Andrew Marr's Start the Week, 1 August 2005, heard about its far from merely 'intellectual' presence in British elections. No less memorable was the despair detectable in remarks by the intensely questioning Ziauddin Sardar (author of Desperately Seeking Paradise), as he pointed out the deepening imprint of the Deobandi movement (from the sub-continent) and the Salafi (from Saudi Arabia) on mosques and Muslim bookshops in this country (BBC Radio 4, The World Tonight, 15 July 2005). Moreover, the extremists' 'misinterpretation', as he calls it, of Sura V, 35-36, goes back deep in Islamic history.

Check the Text

If one may peruse these two Quranic verses more closely--but with a due sense of caution in view of the at last imminent British legislation against 'incitement to religious hatred'--one may feel that 'the problem' (for Muslim moderates) does not consist merely in the fact that the compassionate equation of killing or saving an individual with the killing or saving of the whole people is potentially overruled by the exception entered in Verse 35, viz. for murderers and those who 'spread mischief', whom radicals 'tendentiously' identify as 'the Infidels' rather than common criminals.

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