It’s true as well as inspiring to say that London is a great, multicultural city and will recover from this. It has the traditions of resilience, tolerance, and diversity. But that’s not so true of England as a whole, and especially not of some of the places with large Muslim populations. Imagine the effects of bombs in Burnley, or Bradford.
The gloomiest reportage I read was also the least bloody: Robert Crampton was sent by the Times down to the Bangladeshi areas of the East End to get the word on the streets. None of the young men would talk to him.
War is what made Europe; especially, it is what made the reliable and strong nation states in which I grew up and in which I would like my children to live. They were first built to succeed in wars; latterly, to make war needless or even impossible. But we don’t seem to know where to go from here. All the demographics, and all the economics, suggest that things will get worse and less self-confident in the continent. So does the failure of the constitution, and the absence of anything to replace it. In fact, judging by historical precedent, the only thing that might produce a workable federal Europe would be a prolonged war against a common enemy. But a war against Islam would be, in modern Europe, a civil war. Even the possibility is a nightmare.
Since 1989, has anyone ever taken Tim Garton Ash’s advice? I don’t mean that in a bad or pejorative sense. It’s precisely because his advice is so good, lucid and far-seeing that it worries me that it is largely ignored. He is the voice of sceptical, secular liberal European civilisation, the one that I grew up in, and that I want my children to grow up in. I hear him bubbling faintly through the blood-dimmed tide.
It’s much easier to understand how the USA seemed to go nuts after 9/11. The media saturation is so intense – and I have avoided television even more than usual, though I have read every paper but the Star for two days. Any sense of perspective goes completely after a while; and that in itself increases the magnitude of the real political change these atrocities bring with them.
At times like this, blogs and the internet generally make things very much worse. They bring the lunacy right into your face. The second most frightening thing I read was an old New Yorker piece, that came through a blog:
The Internet provides confused young Muslims in Europe with a virtual community. Those who cannot adapt to their new homes discover on the Internet a responsive and compassionate forum. ‘The Internet stands in for the idea of the ummah, the mythologized Muslim community,’ Marc Sageman, the psychiatrist and former C.I.A. officer, said. ‘The Internet makes this ideal community concrete, because one can interact with it.’ He compares this virtual ummah to romantic conceptions of nationhood, which inspire people not only to love their country but to die for it.
‘The Internet is the key issue,’ Gilles Kepel, a prominent Arabist and a professor at the Institut d’