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Exploiting Grief (Newsweek)

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  • Islamic News and Information Network
    Assalamu alaikum, Exploiting Grief By Carla Power NEWSWEEK ONLINE EDITION and NEWSWEEK IN ARABIC http://www.msnbc.com/news/636937.asp?cp1=1 A Muslim editor in
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 5, 2001

      Exploiting Grief

      By Carla Power

      A Muslim editor in London argues that President Bush should not force her
      community to choose sides

      Oct. 2 — For a decade now, reporters at Q News, a London-based Muslim
      magazine aimed at British Muslims, have examined how Western Muslims cope
      with their allegiances to both Western and Islamic cultures. The journal
      has always been young and, by the standards of other, staider, Muslim
      journals, rather edgy: it was Q News that coined the phrase “Muppy,” in the
      late 1980s to describe young, upwardly mobile Muslims living in the West.
      Fareena Alam, the publication’s 23-year-old news editor, met with
      NEWSWEEK’s Carla Power last week to discuss young British Muslims’ reaction
      to September 11th—and the global strains it has triggered.

      NEWSWEEK: Walk me through your reactions to the bombing and the threats of war.

      Fareena Alam: We were in the office when the news came. Our first reaction:
      we were completely devastated. We couldn’t believe it. Our thoughts were
      with the people in the building as the plane came toward them. All of us
      wept. Then the next level was: ‘Oh my God, we’re at the office. We have to
      get home.’ Usually when something like this happens, Muslim women get
      attacked. So we thought before the news gets out, we should go home. So we
      packed up. The third level was getting home and tuning into the news. And
      we watched our leaders talk about war and revenge. The fourth level is
      watching our own leaders trying to deal with non-Muslims.

      NEWSWEEK: As British Muslims, do you feel caught in the middle between
      national and religious allegiances?

      A real Muslim wouldn’t [bomb the World Trade Center]. In terms of morality
      and on the human level, we, and our religion, are on the side of the
      Western powers.

      NEWSWEEK: The Muslim community in the West has long been critical of the
      media for stereotyping Muslims as terrorists. How do you think the media’s
      handled this story?

      It’s been amazing. We’re really impressed. In every single newspaper, every
      day, there is at least one article that’s positive, that tries to show the
      Muslim perspective, that tries to show “this is what Islam is—and it’s what
      terrorism isn’t.” This is very new to us, to have the media so positive.
      And I honestly can’t say what brought it out. It’s barbaric to be the way
      we were, with divisions, and classifying people according to religious
      stereotypes. That’s definitely falling away.

      NEWSWEEK: How would you analyze the tenor of the political rhetoric from
      U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair?

      When I hear our Prime Minister or President Bush tell us Islam is peace,
      I’m not sure whether they really believe it. Perhaps the modernized
      Westernized, liberal Muslim is harmless to them. These leaders have a
      problem with some things about the Taliban [rulers of Afghanistan] or the
      Muslim world; they have to realize that we empathize with some of their
      grievances. What is acceptable to a non-Muslim is a liberal Muslim. But
      would they really accept the very conservative ways of life that we uphold?
      If they’re OK with us, are they OK with our counterparts in the Muslim world?

      NEWSWEEK: You caused quite a stir on BBC’s “Question Time” after the
      attack, when you asked a question that very much upset the former American
      ambassador, Philip Lader. Later, Greg Dyke, chair of the BBC, apologized.
      Tell us about the incident.

      The show was about what America should do next. So it was quite unfair to
      blame the audience for asking questions. If it was untimely, it was the
      BBC’s fault for running it two days after the attack. After the first few
      hours of the attack, our leaders were talking about military action. Come
      on, we’re a democracy, we have to talk about these things! I’m not going to
      sit there and let my prime minister make those decisions without my being
      able to say something. So I asked: “When Bush talks about retaliating
      against terrorists and the countries that harbor terrorists, does he and
      the American government realize that many people consider Israel a
      terrorist [state], and that America is a government that harbors
      terrorists, and that is where a lot of the anger comes from?” Philip Lader
      looked upset and said he couldn’t believe that two days after the attack,
      people are talking about this. Then I said, “We have to speak, because our
      leaders are talking about it.” The next day, the Daily Mail had a headline:
      THE DAY THE BBC SHAMED AMERICA, and it had a little picture of me. I’m
      quite proud of that title.

      NEWSWEEK: What do you think about the pursuit of a military strategy?

      I totally see this as an exploitation of American grief. The reason they
      want us to keep quiet is to carry out policies like this retaliation.
      Because they know people are emotional, they’re not thinking straight;
      they’ve lost loved ones. This is the only way that the American or British
      government will get away with something like this. Waking up and
      questioning them is not something that’s very popular now. Pakistani
      officials have told the BBC that America has been planning to attack
      Afghanistan since last summer and to overthrow the Taliban government.
      People are recovering slowly—there are more and more antiwar rallies around
      Europe, Asia, and America. It just scares me to think what would have
      happened if people hadn’t started talking right after the tragedy.

      NEWSWEEK: Assuming that because of political pressure and overwhelming
      public outrage America feels the need to respond with force, and quickly,
      what would you suggest they do?

      I don’t see the point of a military strike unless they know what exactly
      they’re trying to do in Afghanistan. Where is Al Qaeda? Where is Osama bin
      Laden? If they had some sort of target, then I would consider it. At this
      point, it doesn’t look as though they know where he is. I believe the
      Taliban has offered to hand him over to Pakistan or to a neutral Islamic
      country to put him on trial. I want to see this guy on trial. Why didn’t
      the U.S. agree to Osama bin Laden being handed over to a neutral third
      country? If rule of law is to prevail, that is the way we should go.

      NEWSWEEK: Then, you see the Sept. 11 bombing not as a war action, but a
      crime against humanity that should be tried in a court?

      Yes. And that is assuming Osama bin Laden did it.

      NEWSWEEK: In the medium term, what do you see as the dangers of pursuing a
      military response for Muslim-Western relations?

      The difference this time is that the suspects came from within the West.
      This will put pressure on the immigrant population, because it leads people
      to think: “They’re dangerous. They’re breeding people like this.” This is
      setting us way far back in terms of fighting for refugee rights. No matter
      what Bush says about Islam being peace, how many people are starting to
      think that the enemy is within these brown people, or these colored people?
      At the end of the day, people are going to be saying “we need to kick these
      people out.” That’s my biggest fear.

      NEWSWEEK: How much do you think the Bush response will radicalize people on
      the ground?

      Bush says: “Either you’re on our side, or you’re on the side of the
      terrorists.” He has no idea what implications that has. People are being
      shaken to one side. Our community is not legitimizing or defending the act,
      but we’re asking more and more questions. Muslims are defending Osama bin
      Laden, they’re questioning evidence. People who ordinarily wouldn’t have
      been involved are getting more and more involved. The problem is being
      created for young British Muslims and American Muslims now, because you’re
      forcing us to choose. When you push people to make a choice, you create
      really dangerous currents. Even cultural Muslims [who aren’t necessarily
      devout] are feeling very defensive. People who are militant within British
      society—that group of people are going to pushed towards terrorism. It’s
      unleashing this division, and it’s very dangerous. Anti-Americanism is
      growing, because of the way America is dealing with this.

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      "First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was
      not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not
      speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the
      Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for
      me, and there was no one left to speak for me." - Pastor Martin Niemoller
      regarding the Nazi reign.
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