Logo SAVE - Sisters against violent extremism

09. May 2008

Rachel North © Rachel North

Rachel North, survivor of the london train bombings in July 2005

Jemima Khan ©

Jemima Khan

The Climate of Change

We are all under stress to compete, achieve and be part of the flow. This means that traditions are falling apart a particular challenge for migrant and religious segments of our societies.

Individual conflicts and societal disharmony create a climate of distrust. How can Muslims and non-Muslims travel these rocky roads together?
The Quilliam Foundation has found an answer. They launched their initiative on April 22, 2008 in the British Museum in London.
Women without Borders participated in this impressive meeting of outstanding experts working for an inclusive and peaceful coexistence in the West.

We would like to highlight the two female speakers, Rachel North and Jemima Khan, both courageous women in their own right. They presented their ideas, which are close to the Women without Borders philosophy: women have the moral authority to play a decisive role in their communities.
Rachel North, is a survivor of the 7/7 bombings in London and Jemima Khan, a converted Muslim, UNICEF ambassador and a Muslim rights campaigner.

Rachel North: Why Islam Is Needed to Defeat Terrorism
I would like to talk about what happened to me and my fellow passengers nearly three years ago, when a young, 19-year-old British man, called Jemeil, stepped onto our carriage of the Piccadilly Line as we were leaving King’s Cross just before 9 o’clock in the morning, and let off a bomb in the name of God. What I remember is how dark it was, how difficult it was to breathe, and how very frightened we were, how we thought we are going to die. 26 people on my train did die, and then another 100 had been seriously injured. These scenes of torn bodies, these sounds of screaming, we’d be used to it in the news, having seen it on Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, elsewhere in the world. But we did not expect that this would come to London. What I also remember in the dark and in the screaming is how we avoided the second tragedy of tramp. People did not stampede; they did not scramble, and step on each other to get out even though we couldn’t get out anyway. Instead, people held hands. In the dark you couldn’t tell whose hand you were holding, if man or woman, a black, white, Asian, Persian, a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu, a Sikh, a Muslim, you had absolutely no idea. All you knew was that the hand that you held was that of a human.

I became friends with many of my fellow passengers, the people I escaped the tunnel with. And in a very British way, we’d share our stories, we went for coffee, we went to the pub, we continue to be friends, and last year when I got married, 30 people from my train danced at my wedding.
I remember, in the months that followed July 7th, how we battled with the shock and our anger; I remember the day that we found out that the man who had bombed us was a British man, a young man. Some people were very angry, that we have been targeted. Many of the people on my train had protested against the wars that these young men apparently blamed us for. Some people said ‘Why do Muslims hate us so much, when we all live in London together’?

So in the weeks after 7th of July, in the months after 7th of July, I and my fellow passengers have tried to focus on what draws us together, not what pushed us apart. I know: no matter how dark it seems, no matter how frightening it seems, we are all fellow passengers. And it is listening to each other’s voices in the dark, which is keeping calm, which is holding onto each other’s hands, that makes us safe. We are all responsible for each other’s safety on this journey.

And Islam, with its message of peace, and with will towards neighbours, is not the enemy, but is part of the solution, inshallah.

Jemima Khan: Why the Quilliam Foundation
I can’t claim to speak for Muslims, I’m not a theological scholar, and I’m certainly very far away from most people’s image of what a good Muslim should be. I studied Islam, I converted, and from my own practical experiences and my academic studies, there is one thing that I have learned: and that is, that Muslims don’t fit into clear cut any more than anyone else does. And as I understand it, there isn’t just one way to be a British Muslim.

Islamist extremists and tabloid writers convey different worlds, but they both make the same mistake, which is that they think that to be a Muslim, you have to adhere to very rigid codes on trends, behaviour and belief, and that there is an unbridgeable divide between Muslims and the rest. I think they are wrong. Most British Muslims may not be like me, but they are not ghettoised aliens, and they are certainly not the loud-mouth cartoon reaction racer. The vast majority are neither.

Yes, there is a growing tide of Islamophobia, and this has become, to some extent, racism, but much of the blame has to lie at the feet of Islamists, those who drop terror attacks, those who shout hatred slogans on the streets, those who make reasons, excuses to the media. Someone now has to stand up and tell the truth: that there is no necessary conflict to being British and being Muslim, between Islamic values and British. I don’t want my children to have to choose between this. And I can even see now, how a culturally conflicted teenager might find that political ideology which is subversive and macho and exclusive, so very attractive. Because it gives a very particular identity, to a child who is searching, who likes to find his way.

Someone has to give mainstream moderate Muslims in this country a voice.
If change is to happen than it really has to happen from within the Muslim community.


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