Muslims have false sense of grievance

against the West, says Blair


Just suppose that a Muslim state had imposed collective punishment on 1.4 million non-Muslims by bombing their only power station and reducing their supply of electricity and water to a bare minimum.  You can bet your bottom dollar that within a few hours the Security Council would have passed a Chapter VII resolution condemning the military action and threatening economic and military sanctions against the perpetrator, if it didn’t cease its action and make good the damage done.


When Prime Minister Blair spoke to the House of Commons Liaison Committee on 4 July 2006 and declared the sense of grievance felt by British Muslims against the West to be “false”, a week had passed since Israel had meted out collective punishment to the 1.4 million Muslims in Gaza by bombing their only power station.  No Security Council resolution had been passed condemning Israel’s action, let alone threatening economic and military sanctions against Israel for its action.  No demands have been made that Israel make good the damage it had done.  And there had been barely a murmur of disapproval from Western capitals.


This lack of reaction in Western capitals to Israel’s collective punishment of the Muslims in Gaza is hardly surprising since for the previous few months the US/EU had been meting out collective punishment to the 4 million Muslims in Gaza and the West Bank by depriving them of the aid necessary for the barest existence – because a majority of them had dared to vote in a manner disapproved of by the US/EU.  The just, who hadn’t voted for Hamas, had to suffer with the unjust, who had.


Blair refused to condemn

At the Liaison Committee on 4 July, Glasgow Labour MP, Mohammed Sarwar, invited the Prime Minster to condemn the Israeli collective punishment.  Sarwar asked [1]:


“Prime Minister, Israeli air strikes against the infrastructure in Gaza, including the bombing of the territory's only power station and demolition of bridges, has led to the Palestinian people being deprived of power and water supply. This collective punishment has caused immense suffering to innocent men, women and children. Do you agree that this is the worst example of might is right …?”


Blair refused to condemn the Israeli action, replying:


“I agree with this, that unless we manage to get the situation into a different position then the Israelis are going to continue to take punitive action and the Palestinians are going to continue to have a burning sense of injustice. Now I have learned enough about this situation over the years to realise that going in and condemning either side is not deeply helpful.”


On the contrary, he justified the Israeli action by saying:


“Of course Israel has to protect its security.”


False sense of grievance?

Collective punishment of Palestinians by the West, and the West’s condoning of Israeli collective punishment of Palestinians, has added to the sense of grievance against the West amongst Muslims the world over.  How could it be otherwise?  Yet, earlier in the session with the Liaison Committee, the Prime Minister declared the sense of grievance felt by British Muslims against the West to be “false”.  Speaking about how to combat “extremism” amongst British Muslims, he said:


“… if you want to defeat this extremism you have to defeat its ideas and you have to defeat in particular a completely false sense of grievance against the West.”


And lest there be any doubt that this was a slip of the tongue, rather than a line that had been prepared in advance for public consumption, he restated it several times.  For example:


You can only defeat it [this extremism] if there are people inside the community who are going to stand up … and not merely say, ‘You are wrong to kill people through terrorism, you are wrong to incite terrorism or extremism’, but actually, ‘You are wrong in your view about the West, you are wrong in this sense of grievance that people play on within the community as if Muslims were oppressed by the West. The whole sense of grievance, the ideology, is profoundly wrong. There may be disagreements that you have with America, with the UK, with the western world but none of it justifies not merely the methods but also the ideas which are far too current within parts of the community’.”


In Blair’s view then, “extremism” amongst Muslims in Britain can only be wiped out by Muslims that don’t harbour this false sense of grievance convincing the great majority that do that they are wrong.  The corollary of this is that any Muslim who does harbour this sense of grievance is an “extremist” – in other words, the great majority of British Muslims are now “extremists” in Blair’s eyes.


In the past, Blair used to allow that, even though he knew he was always right, others were entitled to a different opinion.  Now, for British Muslims at least, expressing a different opinion from his on British foreign policy towards the Muslim world is a mark of extremism that is not allowed, since expressing it is an inspiration to terrorism.  His message to British Muslims is you’re either with me (and my foreign policy) or with the terrorists.


But what’s the purpose of this line, which was presumably invented for the anniversary of the London bombings.  Is it designed to cow Muslims into silence about British foreign policy towards the Muslim world?  Hopefully, it will have the opposite effect.




David Morrison

9 July 2006

Labour & Trade Union Review