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Today, to the uncharted depths of Heathrow airport to deliver the parentals to Terminal 3 for their evening flight to Beijing. They're doing one of those Voyages Jules Verne style packages so beloved of the English middle classes, 'Treasures of China,' I think it's called, which means a succession of luxury hotels and guided tours and just enough contact with actual people to make you think you've travelled somewhere without puncturing your Western-Er-Bubble TM. I guess it's probably actually as good an introduction to a country as far removed from our way of doing things as China, but I can't help feeling it misses something. Who am I to talk? With my feet, something like that would probably be ideal for me. I wanted very much to go off backpacking independently at one time in my life, but reasoned I'd probably wind up slipping on rocks and hurting myself unneccessarily.

Heathrow is beginning to bear more than a passing resemblance to a fortress. The last time I was at Terminal 3 it seemed quite laid back, but today there was a huge jam to get into the drop-off zone, there were guards doing kerbside luggage searches, there were policemen marshalling the traffic, there were at least six people in blue Kevlar packing some serious firepower. One hopes they were police as well - the regular cops didn't seem to be making any effort to stop them so I assume they weren't mingling terrorists.

As for Ken Livingstone, argh. I like the guy because he got his revenge on the Dread Harridan Thatcher in the end and that's always a good thing, but sometimes he comes out with the most outrageously offensive shit and you just want to smack him in the face. Friday's shooting at Stockwell is not collateral to chalk up to the baddies, I think rather it's the result of inadequate training and inexperience, and for Livingstone to suggest otherwise is really quite distasteful. One thing I do admit is I'm curious as to why this guy ran. By all accounts he was here legally and spoke good English, so there's no reason for it, unless he thought they were onto him for something else. I have a bad feeling the enquiry is not going to change matters any.

It all makes me feel like I wasn't actually scared before last Thursday. I really wasn't. And now I kind of am.
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In a letter to The Times, published in 2004 and subsequently reprinted in the pages of New Internationalist, one Dr H. Tabar lets fly:

The cowardice of our clerics in pushing their heads firmly in the sand, not confronting the misguided and the extremists amongst us, is an affront to all that I regard as holy. If they have not the courage to declare the Islamic suicide terrorists as apostates, then perhaps they would be good enough to declare me as one, for I would rather burn in the eternal flames of Hell than share Paradise with the likes of them.

I believe he somewhat missed the point. Speaking on Radio 4 throughout the day, representatives of organisations including the Muslim Council of Britain have disavowed the actions of the terrorists.

"They are not Muslims," they say.

But they are Muslims. Incontrovertibly so. And by disavowing their activities, British Islamic leaders do not seem to realise that they make it harder to confront the realities of what is happening within that religion.

The Koran is, to my mind, very much like the Bible and very much like the Torah inasmuch as it was written many, many centuries ago to fit the lifestyles of a people who were very, very different to us. Wandering in a hot, dusty desert, it makes sense to avoid eating any shellfish you might come across, after all. But times change and our interpretations of our culturally 'holy' texts changed, too.

For sure, many Christians got left behind in the rush to re-interpret, witness the bigotry of Fred Phelps or the blind idiocy of the Pope's teachings on birth control. And as there are groovy Christians, so there are Reform Jews who'll eat bacon and don't see the need to drink Kosher wine - which is widely accepted as undrinkable. And as there are nasty Christians, so there are maddened sects who want to blow up Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.

Looking at Islam it begins to appear to me that this religion is perhaps undergoing the same process. Certainly as practised in Saudi Arabia and other such places, it appears very much to behave like Christianity did in the past.

So I think now, my point is that Islam needs to undergo a process of immense change, and the change needs to come from within, and it needs to be lead by the secular leaning, educated Islam of the West. It is no good denying the religion of the bombers. I can deny Fred Phelps' Christianity but it doesn't make him not a Christian.

Of course we have no right to blame all British Muslims for what happened yesterday, and the avalanche of hate e-mail and reported attacks on Islamic interests in Britain since yesterday is truly sickening. But I really firmly believe that Islam needs to take the initiative and get its house in order. Denying that the terrorists have anything to do with Islam is no longer the way forward. Confronting the evil within is.

As for what took place yesterday, my shock has turned to anger, and there are feelings over which I feel guilty. In some sense, there's relief that we've 'had' our attack now and, by all accounts, Al Qaeda do not seem to be in the habit of conducting 'campaigns' like the IRA. I feel fairly confident in saying I don't think there'll be another one in these parts. Then there's fear where the next one may be? Rome? Sydney?

Listening to the radio earlier, a studio discussion turns to competing theories as to whether or not this was a suicide attack. There seems to be some hope that it was, for if we catch them what will we do with them? The Sun and the Mail will call for the rope and the scaffold, and although I live to the left of the political spectrum and am naturally against the death penalty, my anger at them makes me want to see them suffer: I am only human, it appears.

I can't say I think pride is the right word to describe the sense one gets of being part of this city after the bombings. But I can say I feel satisfaction in the behaviour and conduct and civilised, beautiful stoicism of the people around and about me - the one person on my friends list who quoted the Smiths lyric: 'panic on the streets of London' should know how completely wrong I think they got it. Panic is not the word for me, as pride is not the right word for me. Panic, if it happened at all, was quiet and restrained and not at all panicky. So today I'm satisfied and strangely calm, and my love for the city I already loved is not dimmed.

As for 'burning in fear' I say pfah. We're cool. Even if we're in the wrong over Iraq, we're in the right here. And to you who would dispute our right to live as we like, you can go stick your head in a bucket. Because it's going to be okay. We have counted to a hundred and we are coming to find you now, and we will not stop until every Londoner has slapped you in the face with their shoes.

December 2011

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