It’s been a week now since the London bombings — and the day I wrote a diary piece “This is war” for Iranian.com. We have now learned that the bombers were of the suicide variety and things are getting back to normal, or nearly normal. A few shoppers in Oxford Street today (myself amongst them) had a slightly over the top reaction to a car exhaust backfiring and people seem to be checking each other out a bit more on the buses and the underground (but not in a good ‘Sex and the City’ way.)
Today I caught myself casting suspicious glances at bearded a type in a train carriage and soon noticed a few white people looking at me in much the same way. At one stop, a young, bearded (perhaps Muslim — I’m not saying anything) guy sat opposite me with a big lumpy looking bag. He was sweating slightly and I must’ve been a lot less subtle than I thought I was being, because the poor guy ended up pointing to his bag and saying ‘it’s my gym kit!’ We had a laugh about it (no, really) and then he got off at the next stop (thank God!) I imagine he’ll be explaining about his gym kit for the rest of his natural life, unless he has a shave.
Learning that the bombers were British born and raised makes all the whys and hows of it more complicated. A few readers of Iranian.com sweetly took the time to write to me after my last piece and a few commented that blaming the bombings on the invasion/occupation of Iraq is too simplistic. I wholeheartedly agree with you. I did not mean to suggest that four lads from Yorkshire who, by all accounts were ‘normal’ members of British society, suddenly move so far into fundamentalism that they strap explosives to themselves and create such horror just because they disagreed with the war in Iraq — but people have martyred themselves over similar things.
While I do not think the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq are solely responsible for breeding fanatics, I believe we must, in order to have a hope of achieving peace, at least discuss what the deeper-rooted motives of the bombers might be.
There are countries out there with no democracy. Why? Well, shoot me down in flames, but I can’t imagine that the Western democracies funding of Middle-Eastern tyrants over the last sixty-some years in exchange for all manner of resources eased the situation. For example, in our own Iran, Mossadegh was elected in 1951. He nationalised our oil industry and Iran had the beginnings of a democracy. The British destroyed it and instead installed the Shah, because it was in their business interest for us to be governed by their man.
Although they often do sterling work at home, democratically elected (ahem) leaders of Western (and Eastern) superpowers have armed, funded, and trained malevolent forces (Taliban anyone?) with seemingly scant thought to the long-term consequences. (What do they care? These leaders in question won’t be in power by the time the chickens come home to roost — they might even be making a bob or two writing columns for the corporate media or else they’ve passed their dynastic leadership onto their offspring — who knows?)
All I’m saying is that if you happen to grow up in a country that’s been kicked around since time immemorial like a football in the Premier league of world domination, you may feel more than a little disempowered as you watch family and friends die around you. You may find yourself in the position of feeling stronger kinship with Osama Bin Laden than men who have killed tens of thousands of your civilian population, given you a curfew, a show election and told you that you are now living in a democracy. Is this not a way to swell the ranks of Al-Queda? Is it out of the realm of possibility? I expect the usual polite answers on postcards.
We’re all agreed that terrorism is abhorrent, right? Now let's make the quantum leap and agree to include the state-sponsored terrorism of our governments in that sentiment. We need to stop fighting fire with fire and end the bloodshed on all sides. If we democrats don’t have the power to do it, Mr Subjugated, somewhere in the Middle East doesn’t have a prayer. Or maybe that’s all we’ve left him with.
[I got some heavy editing and contribution from Christian Reilly (a fellow comic) for this piece. Many thanks.]
Shappi Khorsandi is a standup comedian in the UK.