These are selected excerpts from an article written by Johann Hari on his blog. Johann is an award winning journalist and play write, he has written for The Independent, the New York Times, CNN and many other intenrational publications. He is also the contributing editor for Attitude (Britain’s main gay magazine) as well as being on the editorial board of The Liberal and other UK publications.
I headed for the East London Mosque – a few minutes’ walk away from the bomb in Aldgate – to watch afternoon prayers. In the stark white prayer hall, there are three hundred Muslim men, some wearing traditional white robes, others in leather jackets and jeans. Chairman Mohammed Bari reaches the podium and says, “Only yesterday, we celebrated getting the Olympics for our city and our country. But a terrible thing happened in our country this morning… Whoever has done this is a friend of no-one and certainly not a friend of Muslims. The whole world will be watching us now. We must give a message of peace”.
As everybody mills outside the mosque, there are groups forming to go and give blood at the Royal London Hospital up the road. Many people make a point of smiling at me, an obvious non-Muslim in their midst. There is an awareness here – although not yet in the rest of the country – that the Bin Ladenists who planned these massacres despise democratic, non-violent Muslims who choose to live in the West as much as they despise the rest of us. Anybody who tells you these bombers are fighting for the rights of Muslims in Iraq, occupied Palestine or Chechnya should look at the places they chose to bomb. Aldgate? The poorest and most Muslim part of the country. Edgware Road? The centre of Muslim and Arab life in London and, arguably, Europe.
This is not a fight between Muslims and the rest of us. It is a civil war within Islam, between democratic Muslims and Wahhabi fundamentalists who want to enslave or kill them. Yassin Dijali, 31, says, “It could have been our children on those trains too. This is where we belong. These people are insane.”
London’s response to the attacks is subtly different to other cities’. Like New York, we have our pictures of the missing-presumed-dead, but there is no visceral nationalism, and I have not seen a single Union Jack. Unlike Madrid, I could find no backlash against our political leaders (or at least, not yet); people seemed to react as if this was not a political act but a natural disaster, with no deeper causes than the tsunami.
On Friday morning, sitting outside a café on Whitechapel High Street, one of the lingering Jewish residents of the old East End, an 86 year-old called Henry Abelman, is drinking tea, as he does every day. He was here the last time fascists attacked London; he says with a laugh that he expects to be here the next time they toss some bombs at us too. “Not so long ago, we had bombs like this every day for six years coming from an army backed by twenty million people. That didn’t destroy us or divide us, so what do you think a few spoiled brats with home-made bombs are going to do?”
Like Henry, I’ll see you all on the tubes and on the buses Monday morning.