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7/7: Muslim Perspectives Book Cover 7/7: Muslim Perspectives
Murtaza Shibli
Rabita Ltd
25 Jun 2010
Paperback
200

Published on the fifth anniversary of the London bombings, this collection of essays “articulates the reflections of ordinary Muslims in the UK who come from different professional and cultural backgrounds”. Half the contributors are women and many have written heartfelt accounts of their experiences. Seja Majeed, a British Iraqi law student describes her trepidation on going out in the aftermath of the event: “I can vividly remember putting on my headscarf with a sense of dread taking hold of me. My hands became heavy like stone as I folded the material and pinned it together. I had always believed in freedom, justice and respect, and yet the intensity of wearing this symbol over my head was now foreseen as a form of persecution….people were staring at me, looking at my scarf and glaring at my bag as if I possessed some form of ammunition that would unexpectedly explode. If they had looked into my bag they would have found a tonne of law books….” The collection present three different narratives of 7/7: It provides different narratives of events: the ‘dodgy theology’ thesis – that there is a destructive, nihilistic strand within Islamic theology that has to be exorcised; that it should be understood in terms of a political, revolutionary confrontation far removed from Islam; and finally the hypotheses of false flag operations or a sting gone wrong.

The young and gifted Pakistani, Aamar Ali Qureshi, a former student at Imperial College, observes that for him, the context is a “reactionary or conservative interpretation of Islam”. In his view, “it is important that one draws inspiration from [these] well established tolerant traditions within Islam. This deserves to be highlighted as a counterweight to the intolerant strands in religion which has driven people to despair and nihilism…the discourse in the West has unfortunately focused on the intolerant and illiberal strand within Islam….” Another scholarship-winning contributor, journalist and broadcaster Saadeya Shamsuddin, notes “it’s clear that a minority of Muslims have interpreted Islam in a very twisted way. What I do accept is that such views exist and it is a real problem among a small minority of young Muslims, particularly men…”

In contrast to this ‘dodgy theology’ view is the view that the protagonists have found it convenient to deploy religious motifs and symbols – the ‘instrumentalisation’ of religion. Laura Stout, an anthropology graduate and young English woman who embraced Islam a year after the event, writes, “…I can honestly say that I still don’t remember making the connection between any of these attacks and Islam as a religion! Religion has always been a positive force than a negative and I couldn’t imagine a religion that would encourage people to blow themselves up in the middle of crowded public spaces…they were most probably manipulated, by people who were politically manipulated or had something to gain from their actions, into thinking that their actions would be seen as striving against injustice and therefore as acts of jihad…I think you really need to look at why these individuals did what they did rather than just making sweeping general statements that inevitably breed misunderstanding, increased ignorance, fear and hate. Seeking to understand the root causes just seems like common sense – although I appreciate it is not an easy task…My understanding of Islam is a million miles away from the pictures I hear and see painted around me. It is a religion that encourages love, forgiveness and compassion for the world and those around us…”

The ‘black flag’ narrative is put forward in contributions from Dublin-born artist Muhammad Amin and barrister Yasir Iqbal. Amin cites numerous cases where the State has played a shadowy role in unleashing carnage, from the 2001 G8 Summit in Genoa to the ‘torpedo’ attack on the US warship in the Gulf of Tonkin, the incident which allowed America to go to war with Vietnam. He notes that “no evidence has ever been presented which satisfies the American Government’s assertions about the 1993 [World Trade Centre] incident. The same for 9/11 – no funding trail, no identification (apart from Mohammed Atta’s passport found at the bottom of the Tower – do you believe in miracles?)…. Implicating evidence of the official story behind 7/7 has been lost or not presented…I have just returned from the country of my birth – Ireland – with a book on the ‘Jubilee Plot’, which was an attempt by the British Government to assassinate Queen Victoria and blame it on the Irish, to undermine the move for Home Rule…”. Yasir Iqbal wonders aloud why is it that when “terrorists have existed for most part of the latter half of the last century but never before have the people lived in such doubt and fear of them and never before has the word terrorism been associated to one creed and doctrine like it is being done today…what is needed here is a deeper understanding of the modern world and its key players at a global level. I am not pointing towards some conspiracy theory but what I am presenting is my view that the explanation as to the real perpetrators of 7/7 is not as simple as most people are led to believe.”

The editor of the collection, and one of its contributors, is a Kashmiri Londoner journalist and poet, Murtaza Shibli, who was employed by London Transport on the fateful day and based at Holland Park tube station. That a journalist and gold medalist (top of the year in the class of 1997 in Mass Communication and Journalism, University of Kashmir, Srinagar) found himself on ‘gateline’ duties is revealing - in the 1970s it was not uncommon to find law graduates from Pakistan resigned to jobs as ‘clippies’ on London’s buses; it seems that forty years later, certain careers remain out of reach of the ethnic minorities. Shibli’s competence and flair in marshalling 25 well-edited essays firmly establishes him as a media professional, whether or not it is recognized in mainstream circles.

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