Thursday, July 28, 2005

Back to the Jungle

Even a refined newspaper such as London’s Independent is displaying the pictures of four black-haired men, captured on surveillance cameras in the London underground and on the streets. Now the police and the public know who to look for as terrorist culprits out at large who tried to repeat the previous week’s bombings by carrying explosives aboard three trains and a double-decker. Their attempt failed, but unfortunately so did the police’s to catch them. As the Guardian says, these days every person in the underground looks at anybody with dark hair and bears some resemblance to a Pakistani with suspicion. Two groups seem to be happy with this state of affairs: extremist Zionists and Islamic hardliners. Under these circumstances, European governments seem busy to prevent the shifting of power into the hands of extremist right-wing politicians and groups, who advocate expelling the Muslim immigrant populations from the continent. Intellectuals and human rights advocates on the other have been weakened and fear the possible backlashes of the London and Madrid bombings. They do not see much hope in holding a successful anti-war rally. Muslim organizations have risen up and are very active to prevent or control the anti-Muslim sentiments from flowing overboard.

Today while buying my newspaper, I noticed a woman with two kids approach a man, Eastern looking, and then ask him for directions. The man, who I later learned was from Bangladesh, tried to respond to her, but on hearing his accent she began yelling that he did not know, how could he know, or words to that effect. She then rounded her kids and fearfully walked away. A passerby tried to console the man, but the Bangladeshi said that it was not her fault and that it was the general prevailing atmosphere.

He was right. This is the current atmosphere here. The normally cool English have lost their composure and are afraid. The media and even officials are disseminating news that makes remaining cool difficult. It heightens tensions. Even the words of the Prime Minister and the Police chef cannot calm things and remove the obvious concerns. Not even the Muslims who are bought forward before the TV cameras to denounce Muslim extremism make much difference.

Iran’s initial response on some of its websites and some officials to Wednesday’s events was that this was the British police itself. But soon when the details emerged, things changed. Still fear rules these days. One needs to just listen to the news: Plainclothes policemen running after a man reportedly wearing a thick belt with strings hanging from it, who eventually falls down and is then fatally shot five times by the police, only to learn the next day that the young man, even though darker in complexion, was in fact from Brazil. The police apologized to his family.

A man in a line to purchase theater tickets asked an apt question: “Now what?” He seemed to be speaking his mind, as a newspaper boy was displaying his papers for sale, papers that carried headlines of a bomb attack in Egypt that killed 36 and wounded 120 on their covers. The inside stories were not much different: bombings in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.

Fereydun Moshiri is well known an Iranian poet with green eyes who liked to look at the world in green. He recently passed away, but had aptly once said: “Mankind will again return to find refuge in the jungle.”