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Friday, March 10, 2006

Madrid: the voice of the suffering

Two years tomorrow since the Madrid train bombings. Associated Press and Yahoo think it is important that the voice of those still suffering is heard. No, not the injured or the bereaved or traumatized emergency service workers, but those who are really suffering - Spain's beleaguered Muslims.

It's not that there's been a backlash as such, you understand. Any more than there was in America after 9/11 or Australia after Bali or Britain after 7/7 (although the backlash warnings started, in that case, about five minutes after the last bomb went off). But just as in these other cases, we are not to suppose this reflects the decency, fair-mindedness and tolerance of a Christian/post-Christian Western democracy. No, only decisive action by the government stemmed the tide of violent Islamophobia:-

After the bombings, however, the Socialist government did several things that helped calm Spaniards and avert a violent backlash against Muslims, said Jesus Nunez Villaverde, an expert on the Islamic world and director of a Madrid think tank, the Institute of Studies on Conflict and Humanitarian Action.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero unveiled an international campaign, now taken up by the United Nations, to encourage dialogue between Western and Islamic nations, Nunez Villaverde said. The government also hired more police officers specializing in Islamic extremism rather than launch a broad crackdown on immigrants.

Plus one brave Muslim leader, Mansur Escudero, went so far as to condemn the attacks and issue a fatwa against Osama Bin Laden. We don't learn whether any other Muslim leaders may have been saying somewhat different things; evidently the community speaks with one voice (apart from the folk who have been sending Sr. Escudero death threats).

But all this has apparently not sufficed to prevent some Spaniards from wondering whether mass immigration from Morocco has been an unmitigated blessing - which, we all know, is a very evil thought indeed. So no room for complacency:-

"We have no guarantee that just because nothing has happened so far it is not going to happen tomorrow," Nunez Villaverde said.

Well, that is very true. It would of course help matters if there are no more bombs left on crowed commuter trains. If the Spaniards, or the Americans, or the Aussies, or the Brits are finally pushed beyond breaking point, and the boys who cry 'wolf' finally get their backlash, it may perhaps look something like this action by a gentleman who knows how to do a backlash properly:-

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Protests are planned for Monday in the same area of campus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where, authorities said, a former student plowed a sport utility vehicle into nine people Friday afternoon. [...]

Police said Mohammad Taheri-azar, a 2005 UNC-Chapel Hill graduate, admits he acted to “avenge the death of Muslims around the world.” UNC police and local authorities, however, say they have not taken a stance on that interpretation, but are simply repeating what the suspect has told them.

UNC-Chapel Hill student leaders said that Monday’s protest is aimed at the reluctance of the university to label Friday’s incident as an act of terrorism. “This is innocent people being attacked by an SUV, driven by a man who was doing it for retaliation for treatment of Muslims around the world,” said Jillian Bandes, with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. “To me, that spells terrorism.”

It is doubtless because they disagree with Ms Bandes that the BBC, the Guardian and the Independent have not, as far as I can see, thought the story worthy of coverage.

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