Carolyn and I spent ten days in London. It’s interesting to gather perspectives from someplace else, even if London is familiar. My thoughts:

On the day we arrived and met up with our middle son Yosi, who’d completed a three-week tour of Ireland and the UK with the band Hurray for the Riff Raff, two Islamists butchered a British soldier in Southeast London. Police shot both, who recovered and were charged. British Muslims condemned the act, while the “usual suspects” overseas praised the killing.

Britain has faced its share of Islamist terrorism, but the Muslim community is diverse. Take women. Many cover their hair, bodies and even faces. Interestingly, a woman working at Heathrow’s VAT (Value Added Tax) return counter was completely covered except, naturally, for her face. I wondered whether she’d be allowed to perform the same duties in her (or her family’s) country of origin.

I also saw young Muslim women with only their heads covered while wearing jeans and all the usual fashions. They might have been making a statement that they were proudly Muslim. Or that they were proudly British. Or both.

These notes focus on Islam and Islamism (the desire to impose Islam on others) because the issue is hard to dismiss. In a London paper, I read that the American author Alice Walker wrote an open letter to the American singer Alicia Keyes urging her not to perform in Israel. Walker probably found a good measure of support in the UK, whose Muslim population is many times greater than that of its Jews. (A few years ago, a Jewish documentary film producer told me that British Jews are frightened of the larger and often hostile Muslim community.)

Keyes will go to Israel anyway. Music, she said, represents an international language of peace. (That’s my son Aaron’s feeling about dance; we spent four days with him in London before he flew to Cape Town to teach dance as part of his college senior project.) I wonder if Alice Walker has written a letter to the Assad government in Syria and to Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, which vows to destroy Israel and has entered the Syrian fray. But only 80,000 Syrians have been killed during the past two years. Evidently the war’s not yet an issue.

Syria, of course, was in the news. Britain and France want to help the rebels. Washington hesitates because the rebels consist of many groups including Al Qaeda and sympathetic offshoots. Of course, the Assad government is an abomination, hence the problem—although not one necessarily recognized by Alice Walker, et al.

One thing seems clear. For years I’ve written that we’re witnessing a war for dominance within Islam pitting those who want to retreat to the Seventh Century against those who wish to inhabit the Twenty-first. With Hezbollah in the fight—and rebels attacking Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon—we see a widening conflict between Saudi-backed Sunnis and Iran-supported Shiites. This sectarian war, playing itself out in Iraq, may soon engulf the entire Arab world and the Greater Middle East.

Meanwhile, Aaron reports from Cape Town, the children he teaches in the township of Philippi live in abject poverty. It’s a whole new experience. Yet in London, in spite of the ailing British economy, Harrod’s remains a showplace of opulence and the theaters are packed. Our problems in America may be serious, but we don’t have it all that bad by any stretch of the imagination.

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1 Comment

  1. Carolyn Perlstein on June 7, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    And that is why all Americans are perceived of as being “rich.” What we take for granted, others consider unobtainable. You write with great insight.

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