Imagine four US based Bolivians blowing themselves up on the New York subway, killing and wounding 700 other people, in protest against the American invasion of Panama.Ã‚Â Then, two weeks later, a mixed group of Peruvians and Columbians attempts a similar attack on the London underground.Ã‚Â The following year, police uncover a plot by another group of South Americans, to blow up planes in mid air between the US and the UK.
In the wake of the police investigations, a group of prominent Latin Americans write open letters to the governments of Britain and America, claiming that the British occupation of the Falkland Islands, the presence of British troops in Belize and the US interventions in Latin America are creating anger and resentment within their communities. Unless the governments of both countries Ã‚Â change their foreign policies, they warn, radical Latin American Catholic priests will find eager recruits for further terrorist acts.
Preposterous, isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t it? Why would people from Bolivia or Columbia care what happened in Argentina or Belize? Sure, they might object to colonialism in principle but solidarity with other Latin Americans would not extend to blowing themselves up in the name of freeing Las Malvinas.Ã‚Â Any that advocated doing so would be considered insane.
And yet, that is what the Muslim leaders who sent that letter to the government and those who, a week later, trooped intoÃ‚Â Ruth KellyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s office to present their demands, are asking us to believe.Ã‚Â That the UKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Muslims, predominantly of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, are so enraged by the British armyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s activities in Afghanistan and Iraq and by the governmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s support for Israel, thatÃ‚Â some in their community are turning to terrorism.Ã‚Â Only a change in foreign policy, so we are told, will be sufficient to dampen this anger.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â
IsnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t that even more ridiculous than my fictitious Latin American scenario?Ã‚Â At least the Latin Americans share the same language and similar ethnic origins, as well as the same religion. A few Pakistanis in Britain have some cultural ties with Afghanistan but most do not. As for Iraq and Palestine, they are far away places of which most British born Muslims have no more understanding than anyone else. If they went to live there, most of them would be like fish out of water.
In his video, terrorist bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan excused his actions, saying:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight.Ã¢â‚¬ÂÃ‚Â
His people? Khan was born in Leeds and his parents were from Pakistan. What made him decide that Iraqis, Afghans and Palestinians were his people?
Muslims in Britain have not always been so outspoken in their support for other Islamic countries.Ã‚Â BritainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s invasion of Egypt in 1956 and its backing of Israel in 1967 and 1973 did not give rise to violence and blood-curdling threats from British Muslims. Even the term Ã¢â‚¬ËœMuslim CommunityÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ is relatively new. Twenty years ago, Muslim ethnic minorities in Britain were identified by their countries of origin rather than their religion. The first hint of this new Muslim identity was during the first Gulf War, when some British Pakistanis opposed the UN sanctioned response to IraqÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s invasion of Kuwait, choosing instead to support an Arab tyrant because he was a fellow Muslim.
So why, over the last fifteen years, has the emphasis on the Muslim identity become so much more important? What is it that has made a new generation of British Pakistanis see themselves first and foremost as Muslims?Ã‚Â Why do some feel thisÃ‚Â so strongly that they can murder their fellow citizens in the name of people that they have only seen on the TV? Ã‚Â