Osama, how the other half see him…

My friend Ali turned up this evening- he had been house sitting for his sister while she had been on holiday so I had not seen him for a few days.

Ali is a singular kind of guy, who has a taste for the kitsch… and his sister found something in the souks of Marrakesh that she knew she would have to take home for her brother. More of this later…

There is a phantom shadow on our age, cast by the missing outline of the twin towers of Manhattan. This shadow has unleashed a new kind of warfare that has global impact- the ‘war against terror.’ On the one side we have the big battalions bent on imposing rough justice in the name of democracy, and on the other, those who have come to see the west as representing everything wrong with this world of ours.

Many things define the difference found between the supporters of the different sides. One side is mostly rich, the other, mostly poor. But perhaps above all, the defining difference is that of religion. One side is predominantly white, Protestant Christian, the other, Muslim.

It is important I think, to understand the other– to walk a while in his shoes and mark the blisters on his heel.

Otherwise, we may fall to that familiar base human default of dehumanising those who are different, and even demonising those who disturb our understanding of normality.

It seems clear that the Muslim world has a different way of seeing this ‘war on terror’ than predominates even in my liberal, left-of-centre world view. For them, this war is a manufactured, imperialist, brutal assault on a whole way of life- a whole faith group. It is the logical outcome of a long line of injustice perpetrated by or supported by the west (and the USA in particular.) Israel, Kosovo, Somalia, Iran, the Kurds, Chechnya, Israel again, and again…

In this way of seeing the world, the ‘war on terror’ is all smoke and mirrors, behind which is OIL. And religion.

That is not to say that people necessarily condone terrorist violence, but they may understand it, and its root causes in a way that we are not able (or willing) to. Many may resent the further trouble Bin Laden has brought down upon the heads of the Muslim world when he attacked the ‘great Satan’ on September the 11th. But his motivation is clear, and his continued defiance of the whole might of the USA continues to give almost univeral satisfaction.

Back to Ali’s present.

With great ceremony, he began to set up some cheap plastic track on our coffee table. He then placed on the track a tank, driven by a bad representation of George W Bush, and in font of this, Osama Bin Laden, on a skateboard. The tank was battery powered, but the skateboard had a magnet whose polarity opposed a magnet on the tank, so as the tank whirred round the track, the skateboard was propelled in front of it, always out of reach.

Here is a phototof the two protagonists, for your viewing pleasure, and education…

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