Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Why did the terrorists attack?

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The police press conference held earlier today depicted a very comprehensive picture of the events that led up to the attack last Thursday. Three men, closely connected, travelled to meet another individual in a rented car, and then all together journeyed to Kings Cross, London. From Kings Cross they parted ways, and within brief moments of each other exploded bombs on three trains and one bus, killing 50+ innocent civilians, and also themselves.

I was watching the Channel 4 news this evening, and my blood boiled at host, John Snow’s repeated desire to establish a political reasoning for the attacks, in the aftermath of the news that young, alienated, British born Arab men were responsible. What issues had taken them to such extremes? Iraq? Afghanistan? Palestine? “It is easy to condemn,” Snow commented, “But, it is more important that we try and understand.”

I remember in the aftermath of September 11th, a show of some kind was held in a large auditorium, including music and celebrities, for a crowd that was populated mainly by police officers, and firemen. I think it was perhaps in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the service of the city. Richard Gere gave what appeared to me, from my distant vantage in the U.K., a beautiful speech about how it was incumbent upon the western world to reach out with understanding, while not perpetuating a cycle of violence.

The crowd jeered him, and he left the stage… and I was shocked and saddened. However, right now, I know that if I was from NYC, and in that crowd, I would have probably jeered too.

The frustration I have with the notion of exploring the circumstances that are inspiring twenty something Arab men from parts of England to travel to terrorists camps around the world, educating themselves about an extreme doctrine of Islam, and explosives, and warfare… is not just my disgust and abhorrence, it’s not simply that I want to see them all behind bars or dead, regardless of the broader picture (although I do feel this way).

My frustration is deeper than that. The issue of Iraq, and the continued perceived oppression of the Palestinian people, and American forces in Saudi Arabia etc, are all simply conduits through which the fundamental conflict between two divergent civilizations has escalated into violence.

I acknowledge we are living in a world that consists of many more world views than that of radical orthodox Islam, and the Secular West… but these two world views in particular are at odds like no other. Proponents of Islamic theocratic societies know all too well that their world view cannot continue to thrive precisely because of what the Western world represents... Precisely because of who we all our as free individuals (somebody shoot me if I start to sound like George Bush).

When I walk down streets in London, and see women covered from head to toe in Burka’s, while other women express themselves freely, when I consider a value system that says women aren’t entitled to vote and influence their lives, when I see images of violent control exerted in nations like Saudi Arabia, and the old Afghanistan, to sustain the rule of scripture, when I see an increasingly interdependent world learning to respect and live side by side with one another contrasted by communities and entire societies retaining aggressive supremacistic ideals… when I see all of these things the friction between the two world views is ubiquitously stark. The difference is so inherently violent.

While to many, the innocent loss of life in Iraq and Afghanistan is offensive, they would be wrong to ascribe a similar humanistic value system to the murderers in London… these terrorists are not motivated by the loss of life in Iraq, they are motivated by the fact that the West would intervene in Iraq at all, and via its actions, threaten their supremacy. It is their wounded ego, and not wounded innocents that inspire their violence.

Osama Bin Laden does not weep out of empathy for the young that have been callously murdered in Palestine by the Jewish military (in fact I think he finds the U.S. military presence in his homeland Saudi Arabia much more offensive)… he weeps because the mere existence of Israel is a blight on the supremacy of his world view.

I hope people of all denominations and creeds might slowly begin to see that the violence we saw in London, and the violence we saw in Madrid and New York was the brutal throes of a failing supremacistic and fascistic ideal.

We need to see this, because somehow, two civilizations need to reconcile each other. I am convinced that at its core Islam is a harmonious vision of faith... but our differences can no longer stand in the way of the fact that beyond ideology, religion, and the color of our skin, inside, we are all the same...

... and whether we like it or not, we all have to learn to accept and live with each other in peace.