Saturday, July 08, 2006

J.M. Tyree writes from London

It's hard to know where to start with this post. Too much to explain because new readers will know nothing of the sources and occasional readers are apt to skip the link as yet another of Hoot's obscure but irrelevant diversions. Let me assure you this one may be obscure to new readers but the content is not to be missed.

Tyree is a former contributor and old friend of the folks at 3Quarks Daily. If you go to the "About Us" link and scroll almost all the way to the bottom you find his picture (looking a lot like Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting) and "J. M. Tyree is an essayist whose work has appeared in various periodicals including Antioch Review, The Believer, Discover, McSweeney's, The Nation, New England Review, and The Revealer."Just yesterday I referred to The Revealer, so you can trace how my reading tastes lie. It's on the blogroll under "Jeff Sharlet et al."

Anyway, the writer has gone back to London for a visit which includes July 7, yesterday, the date to which Brits refer as 7/7 with the same significance as Americans refer to 9/11. It was a year ago yesterday that the Tube Bombings brought an end to what had before been a kind of safety shield for Britain in return for her textbook tolerance gone crazy. 3 Quarks link is here.

Some pearls not to be missed in this essay.

The displeasure of empire involves the creeping physical sensation that no matter how far you travel you cannot escape yourself. This is, doubtless, true of everyone, but to be an American in this particular place and time makes it even worse. You keep running into little bits of yourself scattered over the entire world. Innocents Abroad? Not anymore. Essentially, the world had a raging teenage crush on America for awhile, but now they've gone off and dumped us. Our secret lycanthropy has been exposed by Iraq. We seem normal most of the month, but then the full moon arrives and we just go crazy and the carnage begins... Some Americans are all right, but be on the lookout for those liable to suffer a hideous transformation on a lunar cycle, fangs and all. As the owner of a bed and breakfast on the Isle of Skye in Scotland once put the matter to me, thinking he was flattering me greatly, "You're one of the better ones."
[The author is very familiar with] Finsbury Park, one of the epicenters of what Islamists called “Londonistan,” because of the city’s traditionally generous terms of asylum and allowances for open political activity for those fleeing oppressive regimes, is a curious place.
The London transport bombings of July 7, 2005, were mounted from outside the city, but reports have emerged that the paths of some of the bombers may have crossed in Finsbury Park...Even I, an ignorant American tourist, knew about its reputation pre-September 11; the whispers then were about Yemen. Richard Reid, Zacarias Moussaoui, and a member of the Chechen group that perpetrated the Beslan school massacre were all attendees, it later turned out...The mosque was also a kind of international hostel with around 200 beds; militants as well as the majority, who were probably ordinary pilgrims, could have their mail forwarded there. In the basement, one could learn how to strip and reassemble an AK-47.
In his study Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam, the French scholar Gilles Kepel describes how London became Londonistan, a haven for refugees which the majority of radical Islamists had sworn never to attack...“In return for their hospitality, the militants declared Britain a sanctuary: no act of terrorism was committed there.”The Egyptians in the Al-Jihad movement and the Gamaa Islamiya network mixed uneasily with Saudi salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Tunisian Mouvement de la Tendance Islamique, the Algerian GIA, the Pakistani Jamaat-e-Islami, and the Syrians represented by Omar Bakri Muhammad, who once issued the remarkable proclamation that “Western culture is nothing more than entertainment.” One unusual aspect of the London transport bombings was that the group which planned them was so diverse, including Somalis, ethnic Pakistanis, and even an Anglo-Jamaican convert. This approach reflects the mixing of various extremist groups in European settings, who are bound by ideology rather than national origin.

That should be enough snips to whet the reading appetite. I might add that the author also makes timely reference to a Joseph Conrad novel, The Secret Agent, which turns out to have been eerily prophetic.
In Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, the classic novel of 19th-Century terrorism, the character The Professor is called the “Perfect Anarchist” because of his habit of carrying a small bomb inside his coat at all times, with his finger constantly hovering over the trigger mechanism in his trouser pocket. Should the police ever attempt to arrest him, both parties know that he will blow himself up along with the arresting officers and whatever bystanders happen to be close at hand. His address: “far away in Islington,” the area of North London that includes Highbury Corner and the territory south of Finsbury Park. He lives “in a small house down a shabby street, littered with straw and dirty paper, where out of school hours a troop of assorted children ran and squabbled with a shrill joyless, rowdy clamour.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

*Awfully generous of you, Hoots, and kudos on "three or more [useless men] is a congress". The Revealer is an amazing project and vitally important in an era whose politics are so heavily influenced by religion. - JMT.