one of the men alleged to have participated in London's failed
bombings on July 21, recently told Italian investigators that
they prepared for the attacks by watching "films on the war in
Iraq," La Republica reported. "Especially those
where women and children were being killed and exterminated by
British and American soldiers... of widows, mothers and daughters
has become an article of faith that Britain was vulnerable to
terror because of its politically correct antiracism. Yet Osman's
comments suggest that what propelled at least some of the bombers
was rage at what they saw as extreme racism. And what else can
we call the belief - so prevalent we barely notice it - that American
and European lives are worth more than the lives of Arabs and
Muslims, so much more that their deaths in Iraq are not even counted?
not the first time that this kind of raw inequality has bred extremism.
Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian writer generally viewed as the intellectual
architect of radical political Islam, had his ideological epiphany
while studying in the United States. The puritanical scholar was
shocked by Colorado's licentious women, it's true, but more
significant was Qutb's encounter with what he later described
as America's "evil and fanatic racial discrimination."
what else can we call the belief -
that American and European lives are
worth more than the lives of Arabs and
Muslims, so much more that their
deaths in Iraq are not even counted?
Qutb arrived in the United States in 1948, the year of the creation
of the State of Israel. He witnessed an America blind to the thousands
of Palestinians being made permanent refugees by the Zionist project.
For Qutb, it wasn't politics, it was an assault on his identity:
Clearly Americans believed that Arab lives were worth far less
than those of European Jews. According to Yvonne Haddad, a professor
of history at Georgetown University, this experience "left Qutb
with a bitterness he was never able to shake."
returned to Egypt he joined the Muslim Brotherhood, leading to
his next life-changing event: He was arrested, severely tortured
and convicted of anti-government conspiracy in an absurd show
trial. Qutb's political theory was profoundly shaped by torture.
Not only did he regard his torturers as sub-human, he stretched
that categorization to include the entire state that ordered this
brutality, including the practicing Muslims who passively lent
their support to Nasser's regime.
category of subhumans allowed his disciples to justify the killing
of "infidels" - now practically everyone - in the name of Islam.
A movement for an Islamic state was transformed into a violent
ideology that would lay the intellectual groundwork for Al Qaeda.
In other words, so-called Islamist terrorism was "home grown"
in the West long before the July 7 attacks - from its inception
it was the quintessentially modern progeny of Colorado's casual
racism and Cairo's concentration camps.
this explosive environment has
stepped Tony Blair, determined to sell
two of the main causes of terror as its
cure. He intends to deport more Muslims
to countries where they will likely face
torture. And he will keep fighting wars
in which soldiers don't know the
names of the towns they are leveling.
Why is it
worth digging up this history now? Because the twin sparks that
ignited Qutb's world-changing rage are currently being doused
with gasoline: Arabs and Muslims are being debased in torture
chambers around the world and their deaths are being discounted
in simultaneous colonial wars, at the same time that graphic digital
evidence of these losses and humiliations is available to anyone
with a computer.
And once again, this lethal cocktail of racism and torture is
burning through the veins of angry young men. As Qutb's past and
Osman's present reveal, it's not our tolerance
for multiculturalism that fuels terrorism; it's our tolerance
for the barbarism committed in our name.
this explosive environment has stepped Tony Blair, determined
to sell two of the main causes of terror as its cure. He intends
to deport more Muslims to countries where they will likely face
torture. And he will keep fighting wars in which soldiers don't
know the names of the towns they are leveling. (According to an
August 5 Knight Ridder report, a Marine sergeant in Iraq recently
pumped up his squad by telling them that "these will be the good
old days, when you brought... death and destruction to - what
the fuck is this place called?" Someone piped in helpfully, "Haqlaniyah.")
exposes the shallowness
of this alleged tolerance more than
the speed with which Muslim
communities are now being told
to "get out" in the name of
core national values.
in Britain, there is no shortage of the "evil and fanatic racial
discrimination" that Qutb denounced. "Of course too there have
been isolated and unacceptable acts of a racial or religious hatred,"
Blair said before unveiling his terror-fighting plan. "But they
have been isolated." Isolated? The Islamic Human Rights Commission
received 320 complaints of racist attacks in the wake of the bombings;
the Monitoring Group has received 83 emergency calls; Scotland
Yard says hate crimes are up 600 per cent from this time last
year. Not that pre-July 7 was anything to brag about: "One in
five of Britain's ethnic minority voters say that they considered
leaving Britain because of racial intolerance," according to a
Guardian poll in March.
statistic shows that the brand of multiculturalism practiced in
Britain (and France, Germany, Canada...) has little to do with
genuine equality. It is instead a Faustian bargain, struck between
vote-seeking politicians and self-appointed community leaders,
one that keeps ethnic minorities tucked away in state-funded
peripheral ghettos while the centers of public life remain largely
unaffected by the seismic shifts in the national ethnic makeup.
exposes the shallowness of this alleged tolerance more than the
speed with which Muslim communities are now being told to "get
out" (to quote Tory MP Gerald Howarth) in the name of core national
real problem is not too much multiculturalism but too little.
If the diversity now ghettoized on the margins of Western societies
- geographically and psychologically
- were truly allowed to migrate to the centers, it might infuse
public life in the West with a powerful new humanism. If we had
deeply multi-ethnic societies, rather than shallow multicultural
ones, it would be much more difficult for politicians to sign
deportation orders sending Algerian asylum-seekers to torture,
or to wage wars in which only the invaders' dead are counted.
A society that truly lived its values of equality and human rights,
at home and abroad, would have another benefit too. It would rob
terrorists of what has always been their greatest recruitment
tool: our racism.
Note: Naomi Klein is the author of "No Logo: Taking Aim at
the Brand Bullies" and "Fences and Windows: Dispatches From the
Front Lines of the Globalization Debate."
articles by Naomi Klein:
Reconstruction Time Again: Building A New Babylon
Mother Of All Anti-War Forces
Dirty Secret - It Works