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What do you think the recent bombings mean for London and how will the attacks affect the Muslim community? Roula Khalaf, Middle East editor, answers your questions on the terror attacks in London.
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Politicians reiterate that we won’t give in or give up our way of life. What is there to give up? No-one is making any demands. It doesn’t look like the terrorists are interested in changing anyone, only eliminating themselves and others in the process. What is it that terrorists want to achieve? Would they even talk anyway? (Rebekah)
RK: We’re not sure who the bombers are in the first place. And we’re not sure that the claims of responsibility we’ve seen on jihadi websites are credible. If they are part of al-Qaeda, then their demands are constantly shifting and are, in any case, impossible to meet. After the Madrid bombings last year, Osama bin Laden made a statement in which he claimed to be proposing a truce with European governments if they abandoned all support for the US. Before September 11, he used to cite the American troop presence in Saudi Arabia as a key justification for fighting the US. His main manifesto, published in the 1990s, describes his war as an international struggle against Jews and Crusaders.
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After the 9/11 attacks, many students and travellers from the Middle East region came to London for studies and travel. The American environment became too unpleasant for anyone with a Middle Eastern name. Now, is it possible that London will be avoided and the ME visitors will rather prefer to go to other cities such as Berlin, Paris, Brussels? (Atilla Iftikhar)
RK: Hopefully not. But the risk of a backlash against Muslims, whether British or foreigners, is real. The government has been warning against it but it may be inevitable.
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Looking around the world, Islam appears to be a problem in China, Thailand, Russia, Western Europe, South Africa etc…. Can it really all be the the fault of these very different types of societies? (JJ)
RK: We should not confuse the issue. What appears to be a problem in various countries is the appeal of a radical form of Islam to some young people in Muslim communities. The supposed war the jihadis are fighting is a global one, and that’s what appeals to their supporters.
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Are we as European societies, ready to include in our social and cultural fabric these Muslim communities and their heritage? (Bertrand Montel)
RK: This isn’t a matter of choice. Muslims represent the largest minority in Europe and it’s a growing minority.
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Are Britons and foreigners working in London ready for new hard measures to cope with the menace? (El Quixote)
RK: It depends what hard measures you have in mind. But public support for tighter, more intrusive security measures and for harsher anti-terror laws tends to rise in the aftermath of terrorist attacks.
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How do you fight a war against an invisible unfindable enemy? And why London? (Steve)
RK: This is the challenge. Al-Qaeda has become more of an ideology (one Saudi Islamist describes it as a virtual university). It provides guidance, sometimes logistical assistance, but above all, it inspires young, disaffected and radicalised people to wage attacks like the ones we’ve had in London. This diffuse, amorphous network cannot be easily defeated but it can be severely weakened. It’s true we’ve had a second wave of attempted attacks this week but we should keep in mind that this time the bombs did not explode, which suggests that this batch of bombers had a much weakened capability.
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To what extent do you think are Muslims using Al-Takiyya when they respond to the terrorist attacks? (Simon Van Boxtel)
RK: It’s impossible to know. What is clear is that many Muslims feel their faith and their whole community is coming under criticism. The day after the attacks of July 7, we interviewed young immigrants from North Africa and they were extremely defensive, insisting that Muslims are always blamed for violence, even before any indication emerges from the police. Several Muslim leaders, on the other hand, have been very outspoken in the past two weeks, urging people to confront the problem of radicalisation and to take action.
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To what extent do you think the bad security situation in Iraq is inspiring people to become terrorists and is Iraq graduating more terrorists with plans for more attacks? (Yousef Rifai)
The Iraq conflict probably has contributed to the radicalisation, but the extent of this is not easy to judge. The war in Iraq is part of the propaganda that has been used by the jihadis in recent years to recruit young people into their cause. The situation in Iraq today - the violence and the chaos - has also made the country a magnet for people who want to wage a violent jihad. We’ve seen examples of young European Muslims who have gone to Iraq to fight with the insurgents. If they survive, they return to Europe with better training and are therefore more threatening.
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