9 The impacts of 9/11 on British society
The readings and activities this section focus on developments in British society since 9/11. The main immediate effect of the attacks in the US in Britain was, of course, to provoke feelings of great shock and sympathy for the victims of the tragedy. However, as the years have passed and the response of US policy-makers has evolved, so British views of the causes and consequences of 9/11 have become more complex. A similar view may be expressed about the impacts of 9/11 on British society. These, too, have become more complex as the ‘war on terror’ has progressed and further bombs were detonated in Bali, Morocco, Spain – and then in London on 7 July 2005. This action in particular directed attention to the position of British Muslims, how they were affected by 9/11 and the actions taken in response to it, and how in turn they have responded in various ways to these developments. As well as being an issue of major significance to the inhabitants of the United Kingdom as a whole, the position of British Muslims and the range of attitudes they display are questions of great complexity. Moreover, there is very little firm evidence regarding these attitudes. This section, we present some of the major approaches that have been taken to understanding this issue and examples of the limited evidence that is available.
In this area there are some big questions that have yet to receive any clear answer. Were the perpetrators of 9/11 and 7/7 motivated primarily by religious or political convictions? What are the perceptions and judgements of the overwhelming majority of the British Muslim population who have no connection with the criminals nor any association with their activities? Are acts of terrorism best understood in terms of individual psychology or motivations derived from some socio-cultural context? Should we see Muslim extremists as isolated individuals defined in terms of some singular pathology, or as actors situated in a particular cultural context? There are no accepted answers to any of these questions, and the best that the readings presented here can do is to present a range of perspectives from the most informed sources and provide the best evidence that is currently available.