K.cried on my shoulder the other night and didn't go to work the next morning. She was afraid of the Muslim people she works with. She is a good person. She is part of anti-racist projects and has a personal deep commitment to humanism. And yet she was afraid. On some very deep level, she too had bought into the idea that Muslims are enemies and though she knew it was wrong - and irrational - she couldn't shake it. Today she goes into work knowing that this racist belief has surfaced in her consciousness and she will face her lovely, normal, Muslim colleagues knowing that she has succumbed to that very basic reaction to fear - hatred.

Me, I read the DearDiary entry by 'Islam' which started with a message of condolence for Americans and then went on to highlight recent Israeli atrocities in Palestine. And I became afraid.

Until then I was afraid for my Muslim friends and colleagues, knowing a backlash will be on its way, knowing how the fear will turn to hatred in some people. But now I became afraid for myself. I know how anti-Israel politics can easily turn to anti-semitism. Though most Israelis are Jews, most Jews are not Israelis. The distinction is often overlooked - even by Jewish people.

I became afraid because I am also predisposed to fear Muslims, especially any Muslim higlighting Israeli racism and murder. Another Muslim friend commented that this kind of thing - terrorism, organised murder - is happening all the time all over the world (and yes, in Israel as well) yet we, here in the west, here in Britain, don't mourn all those lives. That's the point I think that 'Islam' was making. I have thought some more about it now and I understand it differently:

We claim in Britain to value all human life equally. We are Humanists or Christians, we claim. Any murder, any act of terrorism is condemned by the State. That's what we're told. We're told we are equal before the law. And yet... some acts of murder go uninvestigated. Some acts of terrorism have the Queen stop everything and put on a special service at St Pauls, other acts are hardly covered in the newspapers at all. Some acts of terrorism are seen as self defense, like past British actions in Northern Ireland and, arguably, past bombing raids by US troops enacted on civillians in the middle east, Asia and the Balkans.

The fact is there is a clear distinction between who we consider 'us' and who we consider 'them'. For some British citizens, 'us' is America, for others 'us' is the middle east, or Asia, or Africa... And if we have a definition of 'us', there is an implicit definition of 'them'. And the ugly truth is 'them' don't matter - as much. I don't want to leave it that way.

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