The damage done to Britain

As regards his more general attitude to the war, you must not rely too much on those feelings of hatred which the humans are so fond of discussing in Christian, or anti-Christian, periodicals. In his anguish, the patient can, of course, be encouraged to revenge himself by some vindictive feelings directed towards the German leaders, and that is good so far as it goes. But it is usually a sort of melodramatic or mythical hatred directed against imaginary scapegoats. He has never met these people in real life?they are lay figures modelled on what he gets from newspapers. The results of such fanciful hatred are often most disappointing, and of all humans the English are in this respect the most deplorable milksops. They are creatures of that miserable sort who loudly proclaim that torture is too good for their enemies and then give tea and cigarettes to the first wounded German pilot who turns up at the back door.

        — C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Britain is crawling with suspected terrorists and those who give them succour. The Government must act without delay, round up this enemy in our midst and lock them in internment camps.

Our safety must not play second fiddle to their supposed ?rights.?

        — Barbarism of twisted cause, unsigned editorial, The Sun

Considering how much the resilience of Londoners during the Blitz has come up over the last week in commentary about the bombings in London, I thought a little war-time C. S. Lewis might be an appropriate contrast to the rantings of London’s fish-wrap press.

Now that there is no longer any doubt that the authors of the bombings in London were British citizens – three born and raised in Yorkshire and one Jamaican born convert – we will see how Britain faces an element of the war on terrorism that has no real parallel to WWII and that Americans, Australians and Spanish people have so far managed to avoid: the prospect that the enemy may not be someone far away. How the British people handle this will say far more about their national character than their resolve to “preserve our way of life, our values of democracy and respect for life”.

No one expects that Tony Blair will raise the white flag and surrender to Al Qaeda after this bombing. It would be silly to think such a thing was ever a prospect and I strongly doubt that anyone rational enough to be terrorist mastermind expects otherwise. (I won’t venture an opinion about what people irrational enough to actually become suicide bombers might be able to think.)

C. S. Lewis put his finger on exactly why this is much more of a challenge. Hating distant figures known only through the TV and the papers is easy, cheap, and for the most part harmless. It is hating the people you actually have to face and deal with that does real damage. The man who says that he hates “those towelheads in the Middle East” or what ever other deprecating label he likes to use, is not an irretrievable jackass if he’s still capable of saying “but those Pakistanis who run the off-license on the corner are decent, hard-working folks.” Lewis believed this to be an especially English trait, but really, it’s a lot more common than that. You’ll find people in America who rail against the “homosexual agenda” and then say that the gay guy in their office seems nice enough. I even had the absolutely hilarious experience of once hearing a Quebec separatist complain about the oppression of Anglo domination, and then say that “mais nos anglophones, icitte à Montréal, sont ben corrects”.

But of course, this abilty to hate distant sources of terrorism while still getting along at home is exactly what is now threatened, and it is something I have to assume the planners of this bombing must have hoped would happen. Now, a lot of people in the UK have to be asking themselves if their neighbours really are okay. The idea that the kind of people who perform suicide bombings come from somewhere else, or that at least British-born suicide bombers wouldn’t attack Britain, has to be gone for good. Even worse, the bombers weren’t even all from stereotypically Muslim ethnic groups – one was a Jamaican who may not even have been openly Muslim.

The most coherent, reasonable goal I can see possibly following from the Islamic terrorism of the last few years is exactly the kind of polarisation The Sun seems to so happy to participate in: Convincing the Muslims of the world that only the fundamentalists and the terrorists will stand up for them and that everyone else – or at least the developed west – is out to get them by making that assertion as true as possible.

In constrast to The Sun, at least Ken Livingstone gets it: [This attack is] an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. I can only hope more of the UK sees things Livingstone’s way than The Sun‘s.

18 thoughts on “The damage done to Britain

  1. I think Scott that this is a case of you get what you read. I am pretty impressed with what Ian Blair, Metropolitan Police Commission, is saying. I think for a London’s top police officer, he’s doing a bloody good job.

    “”It is not the police, it is not the intelligence services who will defeat terrorism, it is communities who will defeat terrorism,….We must seize this moment, this weekend, next week, we have to seize a moment in which the Muslim communities of Britain, helped by everybody of good will, changes from a current position of shock and disbelief into active engagement in counterterroism”

    Blair told Muslims that “I need you.”

    We’ve got nearly a million Muslims in London … I’ve only got 300 Muslim police officers in London. I’m afraid that’s not good enough. I need your mothers and your fathers, your brothers and your sisters, your sons and your daughters. You’re going to have move away from the very understandable position that lunatics like Bakri and Hamza are just lunatics and they’re not important.The trouble is, they only need to be important for half a dozen people. You have to find ways of identifying those preachers of hate and who they’re talking to. We have to find ways in which we identify the young men and sometimes women who are vulnerable to extremism. That is a great challenge.”

    This was to a muslim gathering at the Minhaj-ul-Quran Mosque.

    I think it is also very important to remember that the UK has a long history of fighting an ‘enemy within’ in the form of the IRA, and believe me, when I was young, anti-catholic sentiment was every bit as strong in some quarters as anti-muslim sentiment is now. The IRA, you will remember, were at one point aligned with Hitler.

  2. “Ken Livingstone gets it”

    Does he? Given his history and the company he keeps, I don’t think he does.

  3. “No. Read the last paragraph”

    Whoops, you’re right. It just shows you shouldn’t put too much faith in multi-tasking. I was so busy checking out details on Jaish-e-Mohammad that I completely missed the fold. Still, nice to see you read us carefully.

  4. Scott – On this I cannot regard the present situation as anything like as novel as you suggest. What’s new?

    “An Egyptian scientist working at one of the region’s top universities [Leeds] is wanted in connection with the London terror attacks. . . A Yorkshire Forward spokesman said: ‘We can confirm that Dr Magdy Einashar was awarded a Bioscience Yorkshire Enterprise Fellowship.'”

    “A left-wing academic, unmasked as a spy in the unfolding Cold War scandal, has denied acting illegally or betraying his country. Vic Allen, 77, a former leading member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), said he had ‘no regrets’ over providing information to the East German Stasi secret police. The retired Leeds University professor, from Keighley, North Yorkshire, said he did pass on information about CND’s activities. But he said he considered that perfectly legitimate because he belonged to a pro-Soviet, pro-East German faction of the group. . . The allegations come only 24 hours after the BBC unmasked Hull University lecturer Robin Pearson as a former Stasi agent.”

    “Prof Allen was an ally of Arthur Scargill during the 1984-85 miners’ strike. In 1987 he published a book, The Russians Are Coming. His pro-Soviet views were well known.”,3604,271697,00.html

    “Guy Fawkes could have changed the face of London if his 1605 plot had not been foiled, explosion experts have said. . . ”

    Guy Fawkes also came from Yorkshire.

    That bomb plot in 1605 followed the attempted invasion of England in 1588 by the Spanish Armada, duly sanctified by a commission from the Pope at the time to restore Catholicism to England, and prior to that the mercifully short reign of Mary Tudor (1553-8) during which at least 287 members of the Church of England were burned to death in public for their supposedly heretical Protestant faith – see: John Guy: Tudor England (OUP 1988).

    Nevertheless, catholics in Britain were finally accorded full citizenship rights by the passage of the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829. So far as I can tell, catholics are not presently regarded as a serious subversive threat in most parts of Britain nowadays.

    On this evidence, the common factor appears to be Yorkshire.

  5. @ Scott

    The biggest menace seems to be coming from organised right-wing extremist groups such as the Leeds Service Crew mentioned in this article.

    “Eight people were arrested for public order offences at the Broadway pub in Beeston on Thursday night. The pub is half a mile from the home of the suicide bomber Shahzad Tanweer. A nearby community centre and bookshop were also regular meeting places for two of the other bombers, Mohammed Siddique Khan and Hasib Hussain. Police surrounded the pub where members of a gang called the Leeds Service Crew had assembled around 90 supporters. Primarily a vehicle for football hooligans, the Service Crew has been active in Leeds since the 1970s. Police fear the far right could be about to exploit the shock felt in Leeds over the bombings.”

    Personally I hope that if there is to be a new offence of ‘incitment to terrorism’ it will be framed in such a way as to also cover those groups whose activities are intentionally directed to provoking the muslim community.

  6. Yorkshire is part of the Danelaw,isn’t it?

    If so, that explains everything. 😀


  7. Antoni: “Yorkshire is part of the Danelaw,isn’t it? If so, that explains everything. :D”

    You are absolutely right, of course. 😀

    Yorkshire tourist websites actually give star billing to Guy Fawkes who was the explosives expert in the plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605 – as you can see:

    According to this BBC website: “In a report published in the New Civil Engineer, Dr Alford calculated that Fawkes and his fellow conspirators went for an overkill, filling the cellar beneath the House of Lords with 25 times the explosive necessary to bring the building down. Guy Fawkes was no amateur in explosives. Before he became a professional plotter, he worked in the army, where his job was to pack gunpowder. Therefore if he used 25 times too much gunpowder, maybe it was no accident.”

  8. “the bombers weren?t even all from stereotypically Muslim ethnic groups – one was a Jamaican who may not even have been openly Muslim.”

    Pakistanis aren’t a stereotypically Muslim ethnic group?

  9. This long analysis in Wednesday’s FT of the radical Muslim fringe in Britain offers illuminating and worrying insights:

    “Suicide attacks on London?s transport system a week ago by young Muslims who were born and grew up in Britain are prompting soul-searching inside and outside Britain?s Muslim community. The willingness of a few young men from Yorkshire to blow up their fellow citizens in their own capital – more than a tenth of whose population is itself Muslim – has opened up a debate that may produce far-reaching policy and other changes. . . ”

    The polling results reported therein are a special concern as these give an indication of the extent to which the Muslim community in Britain feels alienated from the mainstream culture.

    However, my impression from reading much of the huge press coverage of the London bombing and about suicide bombers in general is that there has been remarkably little focus on the particular Yorkshire context from which three of the four bombers came. In addition to the celebrity status accorded to Guy Fawkes in Yorkshire – of which the bombers were likely to be aware – there is also this recent judgement of an employment tribunal relating to: “A culture of victimisation inside Britain’s prisons . . . ”

    Those unfamiliar with the local geography need to know that the Wakefield prison referred to in the tribunal case is about 10 miles (or 16 Kms) south of the Leeds suburbs where the bombers lived.

    Connections between the London bombings and the Iraq war certainly feature in the emerging political debate:

    “Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has stated that, while he sees no ‘causal link’ between the Iraq conflict and the London attacks: ‘We have to recognise the occupation of Iraq by the multinational force itself contributes to the insurgency and attracts those from abroad who see the opportunity to spread violent fundamentalism.’ . . Former Labour minister Clare Short, who resigned over the war, had told the committee in evidence that the invasion had led to a ‘very large’ number of recruits to the al-Qaeda network. . . ”

  10. Paki’s are the stereotypically Muslim ethnic group in Britain.

    Also a retreat from Iraq is not giving in to terrorisme because there is no ‘causal link’.

  11. However, my impression from reading much of the huge press coverage of the London bombing and about suicide bombers in general is that there has been remarkably little focus on the particular Yorkshire context from which three of the four bombers came

    Remarkably? Look Bob, considering how much you keep repeatedly pushing this tripe about the ‘social context of Yorkshire’ in *every single thread*, does it ever occur to you that the lack of focus is because no one buys it? Are you the prison warden or something?

  12. That nobody talks about it doesn’t mean it isn’t important.
    As everybody knows this has nothing to do with Iraq and so nobody talks about when the UK will retreat.

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