Not the way I was hoping to return to the UK and to adding something to this blog. The death toll has now risen to at least 37, with some 700 injured. A number of attacks happened right across Central London, from the east between Liverpool Street and Aldgate East tube stations, across the northern edge between King's Cross and Russell Square and through to the west at a Edgware Road. Another bomb was detonated on a bus near Tavistock Square, which is not far from Euston and Russell Square (see this BBC map). The BBC as always has detailed coverage. It is not clear how these devices were triggered as the police and security services are gathering evidence.
There was concern and worry in our household, with my mother reduced to tears as she watched the television -- my sister was due to pass through Russell Square on her way to help at a university open day, and my father usually passes through Liverpool Street or Aldgate East tube station. Alhamdullilah, my father had decided to use the car and simply drive through Hackney, and after much worry we got through to my sister who had to walk all the way from Shoreditch (which a little further east of Liverpool Street). I can only imagine there were similar stories of concern for countless other families, some of who will be without fathers or mothers, sons and daughters. One day we do return to Him, and this was their day.
What can be said that has not probably been said throughout the course of yesterday? Outrage has been expressed by everyone including Tony Blair, the MCB, the Mayor of London, EU officials and members of the French government. Whatever I might think of any one of them, there is nothing I do not agree with to a great extent (though I agree with others that Blair's 'our way of life' rhetoric was pointless, and might even be akin to scaremongering). Slowly, the news seems to be emerging that an "Islamic [sic] group" is behind this attack, one 'affiliated' with al-Qa'ida. Certainly there is a disease, a cancer, which is eating at Muslims in various parts of the world, but moreso amongst some younger Muslims in some Western societies: the need to satiate a lust for immediate 'glory' and 'victory', where all that is Transcendent can be sacrificed for an instant quick-fix; the modern Muslim version of the one-pill-for-all solution. Who needs to work at life, and struggle through its twists and turns, who needs sabr and tawakul, when you can much more easily blow up your 'enemy' and book that multi-bedroom villa in paradise? But this, in reality, is a sickness. It is sick when a car bomb drives itself into Iraqis, cueing for a job to feed their families, by people believe they are doing God's work; it is sick when a bomb is driven into a mosque in Pakistan where people gather to worship, by people believe they are doing God's work; it is sick when someone on their way to work on a double-decker bus, and who probably couldn't tell you where Chechnya or Kashmir is on a map, is killed by people believe they are doing God's work. No doubt, some people try, and will continue to try, to justify these acts of psycopathic egoism as a struggle for God. This is most depraved and is a 'spiritual' disease. The heart does not simply have layers of rust on it, but the whole damn organ appears to be riddled with pot holes from a corroding condition. But there is still hope and mercy for God says He is All-Forgiving.
We must avoid, at all costs, arguments of moral equivalence. Thse are easy arguments to slip into. I do it frequently. If X is bombing Iraqis, Y is murdering Chechens, and Z is causing countless injustices to Palestinians, ought our response be to kill indiscriminately -- believing as we do that we will be accounted for each action -- without any sense, rhyme or reason? There is nothing "Islamic" about this. This is said again and again and again, and it can become an exhausting task. But why on earth do we -- Muslims as a whole, or as individuals -- need to apologise for any of these acts? I will not even bother to point to fiqh or shari'ah issues. For one thing these are better done by others more qualified to do so. But by trying to entertain such a response I feel, in my current state, that I am apologising for such acts. Of course, if the people who did this -- who it seems without doubt are Muslims -- had the courage to actually tell other Muslims straight-up what they were doing, an Islamic discourse could open. But this is expecting cowards to stand up and be counted. Instead, we are as unwares as any other individual when such bombs go off. They aim to kill us as much as anyone else.
Let us even consider any practical benefits of such attacks, if we put aside all moral and ethical concerns. What has been achieved? Will a single individual benefit? Will a single Muslim gain from this? Has Kashmir been instantaneously liberated from under the jackboot of Indian nationalism? Have Russian security services and their proxies all of a sudden stopped abusing, raping and mudering Chechens? Is the Israeli soldier at that checkpoint magically going to stop harassing the Palestinian mother and her young child? Have the foreign occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan ended at the click of the bomb? Are any of these events even close to materialising? Or is the opposite true? Afterall, Aldgate East and Liverpool Street in the east, and Edgware Road in the north-west, are areas where there are large ethnic minority populations, many of whom are Muslims. These people have tried to -- if they have not suceeding in doing so -- harm and kill other Muslims.
And what of the reaction across the UK? This will be shaped to an extent by the media and government. Must we now expect, under the garb of protecting Our Way Of Life, more measures that will really only target Muslims. More detentions without trial. More house arrests. More police 'mishandling' of Muslims. It becomes more difficult to stand up to such measures now that the Government and all those who agree with them can point to "7/7". What will the reaction be in the media, especially the press (never considered the best of friends by many Muslims)? We can all hazard a guess at who will be writing what in which papers (I expect muddying of the waters by certain newspapers and columnists is all I will say). What of the 'ordinary' Muslim who simply goes about his or her own business like any other individual in London and elsewhere in the United Kingdom, or indeed even mainland Europe? Why must they put up with the idiots and morons, who do not have the ability to make proper use of their God-given faculties, that will inevitabley harass and potentially harm them? I fly frequently on internal flights to Scotland and mainland Europe (usually Norway). Will I now expect that on every occassion I stand to board a plane, I will be the only one asked to take out my my passport and wait for it to be scrutinised by several people, or be asked to step aside after someone has 'some questions' for me (both of which have happened in the past)? Of course some anti-Muslim individuals, whether or not they are writing in the mainstream or part of hate groups, will use these incidents to attack, verbally or physically, Muslims. But these people need little in the way of justifying their beliefs anyway. I was not at work yesterday, but many of my friends (some of whom, incidentally, either live or work in and around Aldgate) told me that there was no immediate outward reaction to any of them. I am hoping that what was learnt from the IRA campaign on the mainland was to remain clear-headed calm and not to act on impulse and fear.
In a way incidents like this only proves that people who perpetrate and support such acts are the mysognists they are protrayed as. The most vulnerable individuals after such attacks are Muslim women who show any outward sign of being Muslim. One might have thought that for people who are claim to do acts like these "in the name of Islam" and to defend their "brothers and sisters" against atrocities, the potential for incidents involving Muslim women would have been factored in. But Muslim women are probably the last people on earth who would enter into any calculation from such would-be martyrs and claimants to the title of mujahid.
I, for one, do hope that none of these bombs were triggered by 'suicide' attacks. For some reason, this makes the whole situation worse. It seems to 'personalise' the incidents. It is bad enough that I expect this to have been carried out by some Muslims born in the United Kingdom (hence, the lack of intelligence -- I wouldn't be surprised to find this was planned and put together quickly). Couple that with the possibility of a suicide attack, then it becomes not just a case of some people "out there" or in the shadows performing these acts, but me. Or my sister. Or one of my brothers. Or my Muslim friends. The finger is pointed at us all explicitly, not just implied. I suppose, this knee-jerk reaction would be understandable to a degree.
Lastly, I think the response by Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, was particularly inspired: "I want to say one thing: This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty or the powerful, it is not aimed at presidents or prime ministers, it was aimed at ordinary working-class Londoners [...] Black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindus and Jews, young and old [... it was an] indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, class, religion whatever." Hopefully, others are thinking like him too.