Date: 8/20/2006

Comment THE MIRAGE OF THE 72 VIRGINS////////// Farrukh Dhondy ////////////// The alienation of Britain’s Muslims is the most important phenomenon in its politics today Ten miles from where I live is High Wycombe, an ugly town where two men were arrested last week on suspicion of conspiring, with 22 others, to blow up 10 airliners and make their mark on earth and heaven as the cruellest terrorists since 9/11. I used to work, 30 years ago, for a radical magazine called Race Today. It sought to represent the voice of new immigrants to Britain: West Indians, Indians and Pakistanis. A man with a distinctly Bengali Urdu accent called the offices of Race Today to ask for advice. I was part of the team despatched to investigate his story. We went to a terraced house in a street in East London and knocked on the only door that was not boarded up. We were greeted by Mr Miah. His story was complicated. There were 12 Mr Miahs living in the one house, sleeping, as the racist stereotype accurately had it, six to the room in shifts. They had collectively ‘bought’ the house. They were all from the Sylhet district of what was then East Pakistan. They had come to England to earn a desperate wage in the garment trade which White workers, mainly Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, had abandoned in the 1950s and 60s for pastures new. The Mr Miahs had bought the house they occupied from a West Indian gentleman called Ferron on the recommendation of a fellow East Pakistani called Abu Bhuiya who worked as a volunteer on the local Community Relations Council. Our Mr Miah brandished a notice to quit the property issued by the Greater London Council which claimed to, and did indeed, own the house. The ‘ownership deed’ which Ferron and Bhuiya had given them was nothing of the sort. It declared that they had contributed several thousand pounds to some fake charity — but the Mr Miahs couldn’t read English and didn’t know anyone, apart from Mr Bhuiya, who could. ////////////// University students and the rich: it is the well-fed who are biting the hand that feeds. No amount of reform or spending in poor areas will deter the jehadis. Muslim has to tame Muslim Thirty years later, they and others of that migration, their children and grandchildren still live in what has become a Bangladeshi enclosure in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. They have a majority on the local government council and, though they belong to different parties, vote as a block on ‘Islamic ’ issues. At the last election, Tower Hamlets overwhelmingly voted in George Galloway, a Scottish Labour rebel who is virulently and, according to some, treasonously opposed to the Iraq war. Tower Hamlets had, at last count 37, mosques within its six square miles — more mosques per square yard than Mecca. Though parts of the area have prospered because of its adjacency to London, the community remains dedicatedly enclosed. Older citizens, some here for over 40 years, don’t speak English. The younger generations, born or bred here, speak rough East End cockney. In tiny but growing numbers, the young have been encouraged by the teachers and social workers of the British meritocracy to pass exams and go to university. For the rest, the central organising, disciplining and motivating force of family and community is Islam. The little ones can be seen going in their uniform of white caps and pyjamas to supplementary madarsas to be inducted into the religion. This pattern of growth, petrification or progress is repeated across the ruined mill-and-mosque towns of Lancashire, Yorkshire and the Midlands, where the Mirpuris of ‘Azad Kashmir’ in Pakistan came to work as labourers in the textile industry. In perhaps 50 towns and areas, small and large, the enclosed communities of mill workers formed their own inward-looking societies. Every town formed its Little Lahore. The community’s one possible contact with the outside world was Britain’s compulsory schooling, but this was subverted by a geographic policy that favoured neighbourhood schools and resisted dispersal. The policy resulted in majority, and sometimes completely, Muslim school populations. Democracy and the power of block voting forced the adoption of ‘Islamic’ demands — halal school meals, head-cover for girls, gender seclusion, the introduction of Urdu, Arabic and a multicultural curriculum etc. Tragedy struck these towns in the 80s when the textile industry went bankrupt and the Thatcher government refused to bolster it with subsidies or tariffs against competitive imports. It was overnight unemployment for thousands. The lower-middle-class parliamentary revolution, which has come to be known as ‘ Thatcherism’, allowed other manufacturing around the country to go to the wall. Miners and steel and auto workers were also severely affected by unemployment They expressed deep dissatisfaction but didn’t produce the internal ferment and murderous ideology that has now taken literally thousands of young British Muslims to fundamentalism, to training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan, to murder missions in Yemen, Israel and London and to the conspiracy, yet to be tried, to blow up innocent travellers in mid-air. On the 7th of July this year, the first anniversary of the terror attack on the London Underground, a terrorist organisation placed on the web a recording of the last testament of one of the suicide bombers. He claimed that his intention to murder was a reaction to Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war and retaliation for British foreign policy in Afghanistan and Palestine. A survey of the Muslim community last week uncovered the fact that a third of them feel that mass murder of British civilians is justified because of Britain’s participation in Iraq etc. This alienation, or namak-harami as the Urdu phrase would have it, is the most important phenomenon in British politics today. No government, politician or pundit of the media has stooped to try and understand it. They mouth homilies about “the majority of Muslims being peace-loving”. Liberal opinion, notably The Guardian, The Independent and the bbc, falls back on mantras about unemployment and racism breeding alienation. They ignore the fact that 9/11 preceded the Iraq war and that other unemployed communities haven’t resorted to mass murder. No, something else is happening. It is not insignificant that 22 universities have been named as epicentres of jehadist recruitment. The leader of the latest foiled attempt on the airliners is alleged to be a biochemistry student. It is the well-fed who are biting the hand that feeds. These educated young men have ventured the furthest from the enclosures of their communities. The inherent competitiveness of university life, academic, intellectual, social, stylistic and sexual, leaves many of them bewildered and bitter. This year, a gang of avowedly jehadist plotters, on trial for seeking to procure bombs, had targeted clubs “because slags go there” — an allusion to the women whose sexual charms had presumably eluded them. Frustration and aimlessness are the seeds of alienation. The British identity gives these young men no goals. They turn instead to disciplines instilled in them from birth. The international nature of the Al Qaeda network and its aim to dominate the world with a universal Shariah kingdom makes them part of an elect — as perhaps Universal Communism and World Revolution made the Cambridge spies and traitors of the thirties. Their stance is fundamentally ideological, and being the ideology of religion, with 72 virgins on offer in paradise, it is fundamentally illogical. They dare not articulate these fantasies of faith. Their basic Western education makes them aware of becoming the butt of ridicule. They may even be challenged in these fantasies by more enlightened arguments of other Islamic persuasions. Instead, their spokesmen and suicide notes refer to Iraq and British foreign policy and lend a veneer of logic, of cause and effect, to murder. The ideology of mass murder is by definition a guerrilla ideology and no spending plans in poor areas, multicultural reform or anti-terrorist detention laws, or for that matter withdrawal of Britain’s armies from Iraq, will deal firmly and finally with it. It can only be tackled ideologically. Islam is here to stay. Without any possible estimate of efficacy, I feel that nothing but an assertion by the other Islamic traditions which have come to Britain from the subcontinent — the Sufi and the Barelvi as opposed to Wahhabi and Shia-Iranian animus — will work. It is only by ideologically surrounding and challenging the fundamentalism that has taken virulent hold of Islam’s enclosed communities that Islam itself can learn to live in the West. Muslim has to tame Muslim. //////////////// Dhondy is a writer based in London. This article was first published in The Wall Street Journal.////////////////000000000