Whoops! The British intelligence services have got it wrong again. The high profile operation carried out by police and security services at Forest Gate, east London on June 2, in which one man was shot, was a bungle. Andy Hayman of Scotland Yard apologized, adding in that warm fuzzy way that comes so naturally to police officers, “This is not the time for conflict or anger." We’re not angry Mr Hayman. Really, we’re not.
In truth, few in the British Muslim community are reassured by Mr Hayman’s placating tones. According to the Islamic Human Rights Commission, since 9/11 some 950 people, mostly Muslims, have been arrested under British anti-terror legislation. Only 27 of these have been convicted of ‘terrorism’, a term now defined so broadly that doubts hangs over some of these cases. They’ve done it before and they’ll do it again. And again.
Why have intelligence services got it so persistently wrong? My own theory is that the criminal intentions of a miniscule number of British Muslims has been misunderstood by both community leaders and the secret police. Muslims are keen to claim that such activities have nothing to do with their communities and ‘Islam’, and have little mainstream support. This is only half true. Tony Blair and his friends pretend such activities have nothing to do with Muslim grievances, particularly over British foreign policy. Half untrue.
What is nearer the truth is that the people who plotted and executed the atrocities on 7/7 were indeed extremists, but of the criminal kind, acting out violent, hypermasculine fantasies drawn from hidden discourses of the more cultish elements of British Muslim youth. These fantasies look forward to the downfall of a West which is represented as both decadent and exploitative, and echo more widespread hidden transcripts of dissent. Such transcripts are not unique to Muslims, but can be found among almost every group subject to oppression and domination. And most Muslims in Britain – along with related groups such as asylum seekers - continue to be subject to serious discrimination in every area of society.
All subjugated groups imagine the downfall of their dominators in private. What gives Muslim millennial discourse its peculiar potency is that Islam is an imaginary community extending around the world. Thus, when “alliance” troops slaughter, torture and bully Muslim civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, or when the British government mindlessly supports the Israeli government, British Muslims link their personal subjugation to the global domination of the Muslim umma which began under European colonialism.
Those Muslim currently on trial in London for allegedly plotting to blow up the ‘slags’ at the Ministry of Sound night club have provided journalists and the public with hours of such fantasy talk, some of which is patently laughable – what is grim is they may, although this is not yet clear, have intended to act on their ugly fancies. But if they did, they are in the minority. Most Muslims, like most people, understand the difference between sharing anger over injustices and giving it mendacity as the basis for public action.
Muslim millennial fantasists pervaded the Internet prior to 9/11, but many have since gone to ground, fearing such opinions would see them pilloried as potential terrorists. Mosque committees have also colluded in silencing Imams sympathetic to such millenarian hopes. This has just put the lid on the bottle. Meanwhile, the British government is busy ignoring the recommendations of the innumerable task forces set up to give air to Muslim grievances, most notably by refusing a public enquiry into the July 7th bombings. To make matters worse, this year has seen the Blair become not just the puppet of Bush, but of the racist agenda of Britain’s xenophobic right-wing press.
No doubt, the British security services will continue to use the latest technology to listen in on private Muslim conversations, trying to discern between those of us blowing hot air about bringing judgement day to those facets of Britain which trouble us most, and the tiny number of men twisted enough to take such discourses literally. The evidence is that, so far, your average British spook can’t yet tell when its not butter.