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Zaid Hassan's response to the London bombings

Our friend Zaid Hassan – one of the folks behind the Pioneers of Change social entrepreneurship project – posts his reflections as a Londoner and a Muslim on the July 7th bombings:

At the mosque this afternoon there were two police-women standing outside, in fluorescent bright yellow-jackets. One was quite old. I couldn’t help but think “police-women? That’s quite odd. I wonder what that means?” The mullah reminded us that it was for our own good and we should be respectful. I saw a young man talking to them. Later on in the local donar kebab place a young laughing Somali boy put his friend in a head-lock, yelling “you’re under arrest!” White people look on blankly.

Zaid raises the difficult quesion, “Why is no one talking about the cause of the London attacks?”

Why is no one talking about injustice? Surely it’s obvious? Surely we all know that the prime cause of terrorism, of such acts is injustice? Surely we know that if terrorism is madness then it’s a madness caused squarely by being a victim of forces beyond comprehension? By being on the receiving end of an intolerable amount of injustice? Of having no tears left, of being drained of empathy.

I search around me in vain for empathy. I can see courage, bravery, bluster, pain, fear, sadness, but no empathy. No empathy and no justice.

26 comments

  • Do you think it’s possible that the people responsible for the bombings were NOT Islamic extremists but non-Muslims trying to drum up anti-Muslim hysteria and encourage retaliation?

    The name they used, “The Group of al Qaeda of Jihad Organization in Europe” somehow sounds phony to me. Also the fact that the bombings occurred in heavily Muslim neighborhoods (although that doesn’t really mean anything).

  • This idea that all acts of violence are the direct result of someone ELSE’S
    decisions is maddening. And infantilizing. The only people responsible for the
    murder of 50 and the maiming of 70 more are the people who planned and executed
    the bombing. No one with any sense can allow murderers to claim the
    status of victims. I sincerely hope that God has mercy on their monstrously
    out-of-socket souls. But I hope also that all thinking people separate hope for
    socio-economic justice at large from justice for the murdered. Otherwise the
    causal relationship is likely to become an exculpating one. And the dead are
    dishonoured.

  • Zaid Hassan

    Curt, you’re right. Not ALL acts of violence are the direct result of someone else’s decisions. For example the people who lynched innocent black people in the South cannot really fall back on their victimhood as cause.

  • Gabe

    Zaid, suppose is was your mosque that was bombed Thursday. Would you demand the same attention to the presumed grievances of the bomber?

  • Mike

    Zaid,
    You really expected to see empathy on THAT day? An unrealistic expectation to be sure.

    On any other day, I have no empathy for victims of injustice who choose to harm others instead of working to improve their situation in a peaceful and positive way. There is a cliche along the lines of ‘drawing more flies with honey’ that seems apt here.

    Why not encourage people who feel wronged to work in a non-violent way such as the way shown by Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr.? Far more effective as that method works to change people’s attitudes instead of killing. All terrorism will do is harden Western attitudes against Muslims.

    Thanks for your comments!

  • We’re on the receiving end of extreme injustice in our country. Mugabe has made 1.5 million people homeless and destitute in less than two months – its winter here and the nights are freezing cold. Nearly a quarter of our population needs food aid, but Mugabe persists in saying we don’t – all so he can control distribution and politically manipulate our misery.

    We see the suffering and the starving all around us every single day. Not one of us can escape the reality of what’s happening in our country. We see the destitute on the streets, and we see children begging for the tiniest scrap of food – sights that were less familiar a few years ago. It is unimaginably heartbreaking.

    Africa says and does nothing to stop this dictator and the world is reluctant to act unless Africa does anything. This is not new to us : just over twenty years ago, thousands of us were killed in the most barbaric ways imaginable, by our own (Mugabe) government, and Africa and the West did nothing.

    In spite of all that, the choice of putting a bomb on a bus or a train, with the specific intent of indiscrimiantly killing anyone and everyone somewhere else in the wrold – regardless of who they are or what they believe – is utterly repulsive.

    As Zimbabweans, we have few choices left, and our lives are miserable. We know that the only people who deserve to be punished for our misery, are those who directly inflict it on us – Mugabe and his henchmen. Not innocent people trying to live innocent lives.

    Those who have a desperate life, few solutions and nowhere at all to turn to still have one enduring human right that can never ever be taken away from them. And that is the ability and the right to choose their actions. We choose non-violence – the terrorists in London chose violence. They are the weaker for it, and they should be judged for that choice.

  • Zaid Hassan

    If an army attacks someone, the least they can expect is to be attacked in return right? I feel that we are looking at these bombings as isolated and ahistorical acts. They are not. They are deeply embedded in a history of colonialism and international politics. The war did not begin with 9-11 – it began long before that. It began soon after WW2, when the European and US powers started drawing lines across the Middle East.

    Civilians everywhere, not just in London or New York, are victims in this war. We saw massive civilian causulties in WW2, in the Vietnam War, not to mention in both Gulf Wars. What we are seeing is the same phenomenon. The nature of this war is not as different as we like to believe.

    Asking the weaker side to exercise restraint is unrealistic. We should be making moves to end the war, to negoatiate a peace. As long as we are in a state of war civilians will keep dying. As long as Bush, Blair and others believe that this is a war that can be won, we will keep seeing civilian casualities. That is the nature of war and no amount of moralising, anger or indignation will change it.

    And yes, I believe the human spirit is capable of empathy even on days like this.

  • Zaid Hassan

    Oh and Gabe, in case you hadn’t noticed, it was my home that was bombed.

  • the challenges in Zimbabwe are very real and i think more complex than the repeated theme of governance or the presidency. i think the same goes for terrorism. there’s more to it than just saying it’s a muslim thing [as thomas friedman alluded to in his New York Times Editorial editorial on friday]. if we do pay attention to causes of these things, then we can make progress to stopping these cycles of insanity. part of zimbabwe’s problems are due to the policies and actions of mugabe’s government. is the cause simply political and about power and the mainstream media likes to sing? or are there are forces and causes at play that are contributing to the situation and causing the suffering of millions of people as the sokwanele blogger mentions?

    if we don’t spend enough time understand and addressing causes [asking the why questions and seeking their complex solutions], then we keep missing the root of all the evil that we are against. you can be as non-violent as you want, but non-violence alone doesn’t cure these ills whose origins are deep and dynamic.

    i don’t believe that the challenges of zimbabwe are due to mugabe and his “henchmen” alone, nor do i think the current waves of terrorism are due to bush, blair, bid laden or any handful of individual. the systems and patterns underlying support and maintain this craziness and the challenge of our times is to see these patterns and behaviors and change the systems and the games that create these tragedies.

  • john

    Injustice.!! Who justified gassing of thousands in Iraq and Iran?
    Who is killing who in African countries? who went to the aid of Bosnian?
    Giant china had millions died during japanese invasion, it could just
    thumb that country now. Lets seek justice.!!??
    Lets set up a middle-east military might with their more
    than enough oil money. For a better world!!??

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