Explosive Words

Oh for fuck’s sake!

How else can one respond to Saturday’s report in The Guardian that Dr Azzam Tamimi was due to be a guest speaker as ExpoIslamia (which was held yesterday in Manchester)?

ExpoIslamia’s “principal aim” was, according to their website, “to present Islam to Muslims and non-Mulsims in its clearest and most original form”. The second important aim? To “clarify the role and responsibility of Muslims living as minorities in the West and will aim to promote the need for building stronger unity in our communities and how we can all participate in wider society.”

This is, admittedly, not an easy job.

So why did the organisers scuttle any posibility that those aims might be achieved by inviting Tamimi?

According the The Guardian piece, Tamimi is on record as having expressed enthusiasm for becoming a suicide bomber himself:

“I am prepared, of course. If I have the opportunity I would do it. If I can go to Palestine and sacrifice myself I would do it. Why not? You see sacrificing myself for Palestine is a noble cause. It is the straight way to pleasing my God and I would do it if I had the opportunity.”

If the organisers hoped Dr Tamimi might hold his tongue in the interests of their “principle aims”, then – predictably – they’ve been very disappointed.

According to the Manchester Evening News:

An Islamic academic has told an 8,000-strong crowd at a Muslim rally in Manchester that dying for your beliefs is “just”.

Dr Azzam Tamimi, who has previously said he was prepared to be a suicide bomber, described martyrs as those who were “prepared to stand up in defiance of George Bush and Tony Blair”. He told the audience they should see themselves as “Muslims in Europe” and not “European Muslims”.

How on earth is presenting speakers like Dr Tamimi contributing towards addressing the feelings of marginilisation and alientation reportedly being felt by many young Mulsims in Britain? How on earth is this rhetoric contributing towards a greater understanding of Muslim citizens by their non-Muslim neighbours? How on earth does this reassure anyone enough to “build bridges” and foster greater inter-community understanding?

If presenting speakers like Tamimi is presenting Islam “in its clearest and most original form”, many non-Muslims will now – understandably – be thinking “Thanks! Message received!”

But I don’t believe that this is the message of the majority of Britain’s Muslims. As Labour MP Shahid Malik wrote in The Sunday Times yesterday:

Who speaks for Muslims? The government has a near impossible task but I’m sure even it realises that we need to look beyond some of the usual suspects and, crucially, to find mechanisms directly to engage with young people, where many of our challenges lie.

Mr Malik said the “caricature” of so-called Muslim leaders as “out of touch with reality, frightened to propose any real solutions for fear of ‘selling out’, but always keen to exact a concession” was “too often true”.

If the choice of speakers of ExpoIslamia (and similar conferences) is anything to go by, he’s right on the money.

The organisers of these events should tell the truth. They should identify these events as political rallies, not dishonestly label them as “bridge building” exercises designed to foster better community relations and understanding. If they really do think they’re doing anything towards achieving their stated aims, then all I can say (again) is “oh, for fuck’s sake!”.

As for Dr Tamimi, since he expresses his desire to be a key component in an bomb aimed at civilians, perhaps the bomb squad ought to do what they do with any other lethal bomb component: carry out a controlled detonation. Metaphorically speaking, of course. The mythical naratives surrounding suicide bombing must be exploded, before something really goes up in flames… again.