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Anorak | Who & Why

Who & Why

by | 18th, July 2005

‘WE can no more understand what it is to be a terrorist than we can know what it is to be a cockroach. Unless, of course, we are all terrorists, in which case we know what we are.

And do not suppose that terrorists are not out there, lurking around every corner. The harbinger of doom and gloom that is the Express was running around telling us on Monday: “BOMBERS WILL STRIKE AGAIN.”

It was the same in the Mail, where we were told that 3,000 men with British links have been primed for murder at Osama Bin Laden’s terror camps.

So much for stoicism and fortitude; reading the papers was enough to instill a sense of fear in anyone.

But not to worry, because the BBC had hit upon a neat way of eradicating fear and making things sound a whole lot better. You see, there were and there are no terrorists. Really.

As Helen Boaden, the Beeb’s knowing director of news said in her memo dispatched to her editors after the London attacks, or ‘pranks’, the ‘perpetrators’, the ‘misunderstood’, the ‘accidental tourists’, call them what you will, are not terrorists.

She advised the BBC’s news staff not to use the word ‘terrorists’ when talking about, er, terrorists and to resist any urge to talk of the ‘event’ as being part of a ‘terror attack’.

That was clear enough. But to the Mail (“So whose side is the Beeb really on?”), the move was controversial, although surely in keeping with the Beeb’s labeling of men and women who blow up buses in Israel as “extremists” or “militants”. Or ‘happy slappers’.

Whatever way up was, the Government told us how we were all deeply shocked that the suicide bombers had been British.

But were we really so shocked the London killers were home-grown British terrorists working out of Leeds?

To many of us, each looks exactly what an Islamic terrorist looks like. They are all male. They are heavily into religion. And they are prepared to kill themselves and others on busy buses and trains.

The papers wanted to tell us just how everyday these mass murderers were. And on Wednesday the process of normalising the murderers began on the cover of the Mail, where the paper produced headshots of three of the killers and a brief captioned profile for each.

Hasib Hussain “became religious overnight”. “Mohammad Sadique Khan was a “special needs teacher”. “Shehzad Tanweeer was a “talented sportsman and student”.

See? They’re just like the rest of us. Only, they are not. They are murderers. Which is amazing, isn’t it.

Well, not really. It’s a bit like hearing that Harold Shipman was a simple local doctor who didn’t care for old people, Peter Sutcliffe wasn’t overly fond of prostitutes and John Reginald Halliday Christie was a bad neighbour.

Now the Sun had a go, replacing the Mail’s captions with a headline for each of the aforesaid three mass murderers.

Khan became “THE TEACHER”. Hussain was transformed from an instrument of evil to “THE SHOPLIFTER”. Someone who admitted to having known him called him a “dopey dork”.

And Tanweer was “THE SPORTY YOB”. A kind of loveable rogue, albeit with a big bag of explosives attached to his person and harbouring a murderous grudge against just about everyone and everything.

We’d heard enough. And on Friday there was a dignified two-minute break in the posturing, commenting and vain attempts at understanding the outrage.

It seems the only way you can get yourself heard above the din of voices decrying this and blaming that is in silence.

And in those moments of quiet reflection some of us may have realised that the West is not at war with Islam. Britain is not under siege. There are no reasons to walk onto a bus and kill and maim yourself and everyone round you.

Or we simply thought of the victims, their friends and families…’



Posted: 18th, July 2005 | In: Broadsheets Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink