7/7: Muslim Perspectives – synopsis
Murtaza Shibli's book "7/7: Muslim Perspectives" is being released on 7th July, 2010 at the House of Lords,London.
This book explores and articulates the insights, reactions and experiences of a range of Muslim men and women following the events of 7/7 – their feelings, anxieties and concerns. It explores how they negotiated their own positions with mainstream society and with each other in the aftermath. The contributors reflect upon the event and express their personal responses, serving as a starting point for an exploration of the challenges and expectations which the future holds for them.
As the contributors come from diverse cultural and professional backgrounds, and a wide variety of spiritual practices, this project offers a rich mosaic of lived experience, subjective accounts of people's hopes, worries and fears. In doing so, it offers a deeper understanding of Muslim lives in the UK. It serves equally to put into perspective Islamic extremist ideologies in fringe groups.
The book captures compelling testimonies for those with an interest in the lives of Muslims – students, journalists, politicians, policy makers and academics. It gives a voice to Muslims who are rarely heard, and an opportunity to disseminate those voices in such a way as to promote cross-cultural bonds and amity.
About the Author
Murtaza Shibli Murtaza Shibli is a trainer, writer and consultant on Muslim issues, security and conflict, and an expert on South Asian politics and security. He has worked as a journalist, security consultant and aid worker. In his recent role, he worked for the Muslim Council of Britain as Public Affairs and Media Officer. Murtaza has more than 15 years of experience in delivering training and learning in various socio-cultural and political settings. He has delivered training and lecturers in the Middle-east, Central and South Asia and Europe.
As a journalist in Kashmir, he campaigned for minority Hindu rights and spent time with, and interviewed, guerrilla resistance leaders as well as Afghan jihad veterans.
He has written several essays on the South Asian security scenario and a monograph on Hizbul Mujahideen , the largest guerrilla resistance group in Kashmir which was added to European Union's list of terrorist organisations in December 2005.
He has an MA in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir and an MSc. in Violence, Conflict and Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.
He is also a poet and a song writer and is currently working on his first music album in his mother tongue – Koshur.
In bringing together these reflections from a range of Muslim voices in this country, Murtaza Shibli has contributed signally to enabling a wide audience to gain insights into how the terrible events of 5 years ago are being assimilated and reflected on within the Muslim community. This collection of reflections should also enable non Muslims to consider whether there have been and still are imbalances in the public treatment of those events in which 52 people, including four innocent Muslims were murdered. Those responsible, we need to be reminded, were respecters neither of humanity nor of religion. If this book enables more people to be respecters of both, then it will have contributed to the wellbeing of British society.
Canon Guy Wilkinson , National Inter Religious Affairs Adviser & Secretary for Inter Religious Affairs to the Archbishop of Canterbury
This important work makes a huge contribution towards our national understanding of the appalling events which took place on July 7th 2005.
Peter Oborne , writer and broadcaster; Author, Muslims Under Siege
7/7 Muslim Perspectives offers a rare chance to discover the everyday voices of British Muslims, which are all too often lost in the media hype and dominant narratives.
Tariq Modood , MBE, University of Bristol
This admirable work provides twenty five vivid snapshots of Muslims in Britain struggling to make sense of 7/7 and its impact on them, their family, friends and wider society. Cumulatively this short and accessible work renders audible a range of voices seldom heard: ordinary, educated Muslims from different parts of the country, young and old, including a handful of converts. A welcome aspect of the study is that half of its contributors are women. The full register of emotions is expressed: anger, anguish, perplexity, much soul-searching, compassion and the occasional paranoia. Few of the narratives are more poignant than those who sought in Britain pre-7/7 a quiet, unobserved life away from the violence and oppression of Iraq or Indian Kashmir. In all, this excellent selection restores humanity and depth to the abstraction ‘British Islam'.
Philip Lewis , Author, Young, British and Muslim
If you want an insight into how diverse British Muslims are navigating a post-7/7
landscape, written in their own words, then this book is a good place to start.
Asim Siddiqui , Chairman, The City Circle
Although it is now five years since the London public transport bombings of July 2005, the consequences of these terrible events are far from having played themselves out. Loss of life remains loss; and the grief of those affected by it lasts as long as life itself for the bereaved. Those injured and maimed must suffer regret without remedy for the lives they might have had, but for a gratuitous and profitless act of violence by a few disordered individuals in thrall to who knows what strange exaltations which they mistook for religious fervour.
But there have been other victims of that outrage, just as there always are of any other work of wanton destructiveness in the world; among them, the hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Britain who lead blameless lives, among family and neighbours, colleagues and workmates, and who find themselves suddenly stigmatised as members of a suspect and not-to-be trusted minority, a focus for all the unreasoning resentment and hatred of those who find – and are encouraged by the media, and unscrupulous political groups to find – it impossible to distinguish between ‘terrorists' and those who occupy a vast range of quite legitimate positions within any religion – from the indifferent to the observant, the pious, the conservative, the passionate, the intense, and even the extreme – none of which pose any threat to others.
It seems it is a lasting feature of all human societies that they can function only when they are able to define themselves against some kind of outsider; and the presence of a handful of ruthless self-immolating killers immediately offers such an easy target for a country which is in the throes of such convulsive change as Britain in the early 21 st century.
This book offers the testimonies of two dozen articulate and educated, mainly young Muslims of their experience in the wake of 7/7. It tells how the lives of people who had no connection whatever with those events, were stained or scarred by them, and how they have made their accommodation with a country in which , one day in early summer, life suddenly changed, and they became aware of themselves, their sense of belonging, their place and their future in ways which they had never dreamed. These are powerful accounts from the heart. They should be heard, since they represent the vast majority of people in Britain, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, believers and non-believers, for whom humanity must always prevail over faith; a simple enough lesson, but one easily forgotten, both by people who suffer from exclusion and loss, and also by the unthinking anger and self-righteousness of a society which sees in diversity a threat to, and not an enhancement of its very existence.
Jeremy Seabrook, author and commentator
Author of ‘The Refuge and the fortress'
After five years it is time to take stock of 7/7. Regrettably there has never been a public inquiry into the London suicide bombings and the circumstances that gave rise to them. Instead, there has been an official government narrative, substantial media comment and finally in April 2010 a formal inquest. Understandably, bereaved families of the 7/7 bombing victims have called for the inquest to examine whether the intelligence services could have prevented the tragedy. Such concerns are immensely important and deserve the prominence afforded to them. Similarly, "7/7: Muslim Perspectives" is an important contribution that should be read by everyone who was affected by 7/7. It is a compelling collection of personal accounts that illuminates diverse Muslim experiences of 7/7 and its aftermath. While the collection highlights the heterogeneous nature of Muslims in Britain it does nevertheless highlight the extent to which popularist accounts of the significance of the bombers' Muslim identities has had the adverse consequence of stigmatising all Muslims as terrorists and extremists. Not only does this outstanding collection reveal the paucity of such an reductionist account of 7/7 it also demonstrates the creativity, richness and diversity of Muslim experience in Britain that is the antithesis of violent extremism of all kinds. That is the positive message of this book and set against a backdrop of rampant Islamophobia it will remain vitally important and instructive for the foreseeable future.
Robert Lambert MBE, University of Exeter
Co-author, ‘Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: a London Case Study'
This eloquent account of the way in which ordinary British Muslims have had to question their religious, national and political identities following the London bombings provides an unprecedented look into everyday life in one of the country's most important minorities. Forgoing the anecdotal or statistical evidence that has until now dominated studies of how UK Muslims have adapted to the post-9/11 world, Murtaza Shibli's book places the bombings within narratives that give them both a social context and intellectual depth. This is a work that will be of significance for journalists as well as academics, and those involved in politics and policing alike.
Faisal Devji , St. Antony's College, Oxford University,
Author, ‘Landscapes of Jihad'
7/7: Muslim Perspectives is a book that is, in many ways, long overdue. It fills a void in understandings of the implications of acts of terrorism and the often equally terrifying ‘war on terror' that have been the sad hallmarks of this new millennium of ours. By giving voice to the subjective experiences of British Muslims of both sexes and from diverse walks of life as they receive news of the terror attacks that took place in London on July 7 th 2005, this volume reveals the impact of this event on British citizens who, by dint of their faith, have become increasingly otherized in a conflict for which they are in no way responsible.
At first sight, what we note here are responses that the vast majority of us recall only too well from that fateful day: shock, anxiety about the safety of loved ones, the apparently absurd rupture to the normality of everyday life, the abiding fears about what lies ahead. On closer look, however, this volume also reveals the subtle but menacing ways in which a significant minority of innocent citizens have become insinuated through no fault of their own in global antagonisms to the detriment of their dignity and peace of mind. Not only do British Muslims, like all British citizens, have to live with the trauma of 7/7: that alone is bad enough. They also must then live with the frame of ‘terrorist,' potential if not definite, that has come to be placed on them. Imposed upon the unwitting Muslims of Britain is the stigma of terror, the result of dominant discourses and stereotypes in the media and in society in general that attribute a supposedly monolithic and inflexible identity to all Muslims alike. Many British Muslims find themselves trapped between the uncertainties of global conflicts when played out in our local spaces and the predominant tendency in social contexts to freeze and fetishize the meaning of being Muslim. A strange conflation occurs here of religion, race and ethnicity, whereby ordinary citizens who appear to fit the preconceived frame of ‘Muslim' come under scrutiny and surveillance. Never was the tragic folly of this response to terror so obvious as in the senseless shooting of the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, who died because his looks fitted the ‘Muslim terrorist type.'
Often in the midst of conflicts that consume the media's attention, the voices and the views of the individuals who live the situation of crisis become lost. Instead, what we hear loudest are the predications of those in power and the reiteration of nationalistic and other interests by majority groups. 7/7: Muslim Perspectives interjects here, opening up a platform for British Muslims who endure varying degrees of alienation and suspicion, but continue to seek out in this chaotic midst ways of living life with dignity. It is important that their voices be heard. For these people are citizens of Britain and their lives travel the spaces and places – the streets, the workplaces, the schools, the shops -- that make up this country. Woven into the fabric of British society as it stands today is the course of its immigrants, many of whom are Muslims. As such, and by expressing their own experiences and responses to terror, the Muslims who have contributed to this book do more than merely formulate, albeit by suggestion, an indictment against Islamophobia. By revealing the intimacy of their involvement in this country that is now their home, by expressing their fears, their hopes and their views, merely by relating what they did, felt or thought on 7/7, merely by stating that they too were shocked, they assert for themselves, and so for Britain, a lost measure of civic and human rights, the essential conditions for democracy.
Parvati Nair , Director, Centre for the Study of Migration,
Queen Mary, University of London
This collection of 25 responses to the events of 7 th July, 2005 is both informative and fascinating. Revealing a wide range of experiences and attitudes, the contributors provide insights into a cross-section of Muslim society in Britain today. The overall impression is of variety: the Muslim community is not homogeneous. The views expressed reflect the different backgrounds of the contributors who are of South Asian, Arabian, Iranian and European origins. Most of them were living in Britain at the time of 7/7.
They reveal themselves to be ordinary hard-working members of society, who have the normal concerns of everyday life in Britain today. Many describe the additional pressures they felt because of the ‘anti-Muslim backlash' in the media, and from some members of the public, following the events of 7/7. However, many found that as individuals they did not encounter negative attitudes.
All the contributors condemn the actions of the 7/7 bombers and do not condone the use of violence. Several make specific reference to the Christmas Day Bomber and his links to the Islamic Society (ISoc). From their own experiences of membership of ISoc they strongly deny the charge that ISoc was a ‘hotbed of radicalisation', even though the accused was a member.
The editor, Murtaza Shibli, has brought together a timely collection of the experiences of members of the Muslim community in Britain today which is informative of their attitudes and concerns. It is clear that the majority of Muslims want to make a positive contribution to Britain and to civil society, as well as being committed to their faith.
However, the picture is not all rosy and many of the contributors question some of the actions and initiatives of the government following 7/7. Their concerns challenge both government and society.
Dr. John Chesworth , The Centre for Muslim Christian Studies, Oxford
With memories of 7/7 still very much vivid five years on, this collection of narratives offers a poignant reminder of the feelings of grief, shame, and bewilderment many British Muslims experienced that day – to a degree most non-Muslims never realised. The painful anti-Muslim stereotypes populist commentators in the tabloids and beyond conveyed – and still do – contributed to a crisis of belonging in British Muslim communities so masterly portrayed in this volume. But the reader cannot but be impressed by the vigor and the determination to self-introspection displayed throughout the book in order to regain confidence and to challenge the fringe groups of extremists that hijacked existing grievances and violently politicised Islam. A clear message of genuine hope rings loud and clear: that one day all Britain might borrow from Pete Seeger and proudly hum: ‘This Land was Made for You and Me'.
Rik Coolsaet, Ghent University, Belgium,
Member, European Commission Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation