June 29, 2007

My brother the bomber

For some reason, I translated my usual question of whether he thought what his brother had done was "good" or "bad"—he had said that it was a terrible thing several times—and instead asked him whether he thought 7/7 was halal (permitted) or haram (forbidden) in Islam. Only when a look of stunned surprise come over Gultasab's face did I realise that I must have been asking him an entirely different question. After a brief pause, he replied. "No comment."

Here, it seemed, was the perfect example of the division between two worldviews—secular ethics and an embattled Islamic faith. How long had Gultasab managed to function with these two conflicting positions fighting within him? Everyday morality told him that his brother had committed a cold-blooded act of terror, while his own Islamic theology told him that there was no clear answer and maybe his brother was a hero. How many thousands of young British Muslims are similarly conflicted?

This is a question that Peter Clarke, the head of Scotland Yard's counterterrorism unit, is still trying to answer. After three further suspects from the Beeston area were charged this April with being involved in helping to plot 7/7, Clarke held a press conference in which he accused some West Yorkshire Muslims of keeping information from the police. "I firmly believe that there are other people who have knowledge of what lay behind the attacks," said Clarke. "Knowledge that they have not shared with us. In fact, I don't only believe it. I know it for a fact."

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