Tuesday, June 05, 2007

C4 and conspiracy theories

I just checked the blog traffic and found a bunch of people coming over from C4 news, not sure how they got here as I can't actually see a link. Hello to you all, anyway. I was out 'til late yesterday , and I forgot to video C4 news last night so I missed it. A researcher from C4 news did call me yesterday afternoon about the report, and ask if I could help - and Darshna Soni, who did the report, talked to me a couple of times about it, once when we met up at the Old Bailey during the Crevice trial ending, and last week. I gave C4 Nafeez Ahmed's details instead, yesterday afternoon, and said he would be a good person to have on the programme.

But I just watched and Nafeez wasn't on, which is a shame. I didn't want to be on, firstly because I am not a Muslim and the programme is about Muslims' views, secondly because it was not directly about the need for an independent inquiry, which is what I specifically campaign about, when asked, with other people directly involved in 7/7, and thirdly because if I worry that I had been on, I would have been deluged with yet more long emails from presumably well-meaning people trying to convert me to their conspiracy theories, which I am totally sick and tired of hearing about, after a year of it. And contrary to a few people's accusations, no, I don't rush off and agree to do every single media approach, and I don't especially like being the one in the spotlight just because I have a blog that's easy to find when you type in keywords. Especially when it brings me unwelcome attention, and when it takes up lots of my free time.

(Re. the various alternative theories about 7/7: I have looked at them all. Yes, all of them. In detail. For over a year. I simply do not find them credible. They are not congruent with the evidence of my own experience, and more importantly, they contradict the evidence I have heard from the police, other credible sources and from many other survivors and eye-witnesses. I am not a fan of the Blair administration, even though I have voted Labour all my life. Yes, I am calling for a 7/7 inquiry, with others affected. But I am not going to go into why I do not believe the conspiracy theories here, again, as that is a red rag to some people's bull.)

You can watch the C4 report here, (and find lots of links to conspiracy theory sites where you can chat about beliefs that the four mass-murderers, MSK, Tanweer, Hussein and Lindsay were all as innocent as new-born lambs, and the Government planted the bombs, with the people who run the websites, if you like that sort of thing. I don't. I used to find it upsetting. Now I find it wearying)

The report covered the prevalence of conspiracy theories and the rising levels of distrust within 'the Muslim community' concerning 7/7 and the Government's anti-terror policies, the breakdown in trust between communities and the Government. A survey of 500 Muslims ( not a massive sample size but reasonable) provided the basis for the report, with Darshna travelling round the UK to talk to some Muslims. Three quarters don't seem to be buying the conspiracy theories, but a worrying 24% do. And as always, it's the minority who get focused on.

It has becoming increasingly clear to me over the last two years that the frequent media hysteria about Muslims, the language used to talk about terrorism, and the disproportionate amount of airtime given to fringe extremists is fanning the flames of paranoia and mistrust and making things worse for us all. I write about this subject often, on this, my personal blog, and I raise my voice in protest, like many other bloggers. I say, again and again, that we should protect civil liberties, that we should avoid stigmatising many because of the actions of a few, that we should not pass hasty draconian laws and that we should treat terrorism as criminal activity, not make 7/7 a special case that necessitates shredding the constitution and causing people to live fearfully. That way anger, alienation, and more violence lies.

I say that a proper inquiry into 7/7 would help to heal these divisions and damp down the wild speculation in which conspiracy theories thrive. And I do not see anything healthy about the growth of the conspiracy theories. How can you work together to solve a problem if you will not even admit that it exists?

It is also obvious to me that the Blair foreign policy has raised the temperature and fuelled the anger (and indeed Blair was warned of this likely consequence before the Iraq invasion in a buried report, Young Muslims and Extremism).

I believe that we need to work together, to heal the divisions and mistrust that are running deep. That means fighting back against the spreading virus of denial and paranoia, which only disempowers people and makes them feel like helpless angry victims. Trying instead to make communication and policies fairer, clearer, more just and transparent and accountable. Looking for common ground. Remembering the majority of people are not convinced by conspiracy theories - that they only want to live and work peaceably together as neighbours and get on with their ordinary lives. But that is not an exciting news story.

I think having an inquiry into 7/7 would be a good way to kickstart the process of healing by opening the debate about why and how home-grown terrorism came at us out of our midst, and I also think that more widely-debated and more ethical foreign policies, trade policies, social and domestic policies would mean less violence and crime. Less hateful hysteria given column inches and airtime, less of the macho politics of fear would help too.

There are no quick fixes. There is a lot to do to make things better, and we can all help to make common cause for peace and justice, or just a quiet life. But I do not see why focusing on our divisions and fears will make us stronger. I would rather look at what draws us together. I would rather walk to my local shops, where almost all the shops are Muslim owned, walk past the women in headscarves and veils, the men gossipping outside the coffee shops, past the Mosque where hundreds worship every Friday, and smile at people, because we are all neighbours, and not be angry, or afraid.

UPDATE: Blood and Treasure , and Radical Muslim on the subject

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Blogger septicisle. said...

Another blog made a decent point about this latest survey - wouldn't it be good to have as comparison a nationwide poll asking the same questions? My guess is that a significant proportion would answer in much the same way.

June 05, 2007 6:22 pm  
Blogger Nessie said...

I just wanted to leave a comment, having been directed here by my father (Rob Saunders) and say: wow. Rachel, you have completely blown me away with your strength in the face of situations that would leave me and most people in pieces. You are an absolutely extraordinary woman, and I congratulate you.

June 05, 2007 11:35 pm  
Blogger seth said...

hi rachel,

never a dull moment- did you hear about the plot to attack the jet fuel tanks and pipelines at jfk airport? its beyond scary-its a long stone's throw from where i live.

instead of nutjobs from the middle east,we are now getting them from the caribbean- a 3 hr plane ride from ny.

i can hardly wait for the next scenario.

seth :(

June 06, 2007 12:04 am  
Blogger pommygranate said...


Whilst i fully agree with your view that we urgently need a full and independent review of the 7/7 bombings, and i accept that it's just human nature that when momentous events happen (Diana JFK, 9/11 etc) people seek comfort in searching for more palatable answers, i find it difficult to follow your logic when you say we should that we should "avoid stigmatising many because of the actions of a few,"

Doesn't this survey give you grounds to question this statement?

June 06, 2007 2:28 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

It's a small survey, but yes, unfortunately the atmosphere of mistrust is taking hold: questioning why is imprtant.

It does not follow that because 24% of a survey of 500 believe in conspiracy theories, that 24% are therefore sympathetic to terrorism, or actively involved. Persoanlly, I thimnk it reflects the widespread disenchantment with the last days of the Blair administration, and the enormously unpopularity of the neo-con foreign policy, with which we are unfortunately aligned.

However, the levels of mistrust and alienation do need to be urgently examined and if possible resolved.

Many Muslim groups have called for an inquiry into 7/7, the Government's refusal to hold one is not helping. Showing why the conspiracy theories are wrong - producing the CCTV camera evidence, for example, would probably help to put the naysayers back into the fringe rather than the mainstream. But this is a wider question: the bombers clarly felt themselves martyrs and victims, and a pernicious brand of theology-lite, action-heavy Islamism had been allowed to be preached for years? Why? Nafeez Ahmed is good on why, as is Crispin Black. The politicisation of the security service's work, and the lack of communication between M15 and police was an issue before 7/7. As was high unemployment in Muslim areas, the non-mixing of the population, and various social policies of this and previous Governments that helped to create the festering sense of injustice which produced the bombers - second generation, apparently integrated, cricket-loving young men though they may once have been

June 06, 2007 8:38 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

Seth, I am trying to follow the airport fuel plot. There is some debate about whethr it would have every been possible to pull it off, but I agree that it is worrying. I hope that NYC manages to stay calm: I know that the city is pretty unflappable, whatever Fox News throws at it in the way of hysterical headlines.

June 06, 2007 8:40 am  
Blogger Ally said...

that is a red rag to some people's bull
Fantastic phrase! :)

June 06, 2007 9:31 am  
Blogger Leighton Cooke said...

Agree with every word you say.

June 06, 2007 1:22 pm  
Blogger Guido_Faukes_Paul said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

June 06, 2007 3:46 pm  
Blogger Unity said...

Hello Felicity.

No more coherent today than usual I see, an no more capable of understanding ironic semantic analysis either.

June 06, 2007 5:52 pm  
Blogger Henry North London said...

You go girl ( Rachel ) I'll say one thing You have got the message right. More Civil Liberties and less Draconianism.

Alienation within second generation immigrants is running high because they want the same things as their white neighbours and they are not despite whatever anyone says to the contrary treated as the same all the time. Colour bias still exists, it has been driven underground, it is more subtle but it still exists. An example is the ghettoisation of asian and white areas in Northwest and in Bradford does not help...the Twain do not meet and try to keep separate as much as possible.

Even I remember feeling rather confused when I drove through Bolton two years ago and passed the mosque where I saw lots of white hatted children coming out of their madrasa( muslim religious school) and I thought, Why are they not playing with their white christian counterparts?

For my part I also live in North London and I absolutely adore having Turkish supermarkets nearby, the mosque is about a mile away and the people walk by, For someone who grew up in Yorkshire, the sight of people walking by in headscarves and niqabs and having a little piece of what I would call Lebanon, Turkey Bangladesh and Cyprus on my doorstep is something to be enjoyed and appreciated rather than viewed with distrust even though it may feel rather incongruent in the Winter.

June 06, 2007 7:33 pm  
Blogger Unity said...

That's okay Rachel - I've got a hide like a rhino anyway.

Catch you later - just got to pop out and see what's in this week's Grazia ;-)

June 06, 2007 7:34 pm  
Blogger Henry North London said...

Well well we have a parliamentarian comment but has the humanitarian situation in Iraq improved?

Harsh words but people in that place are now worse off and whose fault is that?

(Rachel please remove this if its unhelpful)

June 06, 2007 8:09 pm  
Blogger rich said...

I wonder how Tony and Gordon would feel if Robin Cook were alive today?

Since we now have a well established lack of trust in our current regime perhaps we should also consider relooking at the circumstances surrounding Robin Cook's death?


One of the more odd aspects that doesn't seem to add up is related to his mobile phone:


I should also add that the blogger doesn't seem to enter into classic conspiraloonery which is why I have put the link here! I apologise if this has already been discussed elsewhere?

June 07, 2007 2:02 am  
Blogger Henry North London said...


The link to your blog is right down at the bottom under all the other links....

Have a nice time away Wish I could get away and do nothing too...

June 07, 2007 2:21 pm  

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