Coalition against International Terrorism

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:20 pm on 8th October 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Roger Casale Mr Roger Casale Labour, Wimbledon 9:20 pm, 8th October 2001

Beyond the appalling loss of life on 11 September has come the shocking realisation that our confidence in a new world order has been shaken, just as the foundations of the World Trade Centre were razed to the ground. The acts of 11 September were atrocious and barbarous. As many religious leaders of all faiths have said, it was an utterly godless act—an act devoid of any possible justification, but also of any rational meaning.

On the eve of the second world war the poet Auden wrote, describing the fears of many in the face of the awful destructive power of fascism,

"Defenceless under the night

Our world in stupor lies".

That is not the situation today, but we must not underestimate the enormous challenge before us to make reason and justice prevail.

Since 11 September, our fears and anxieties have grown and we have been shocked by further reminders and revelations: the chilling revelations about the extent and intentions of the bin Laden network, the reminder of the callous, fanatical nature of the Taliban regime and the evidence and realisation of the appalling scale of the humanitarian disaster that is unfolding in Afghanistan.

We want to reassure ourselves and those whom we represent that we can do something about that. For the citizen, our aims will perhaps be modest. We cannot bring back the dead—those who lost their lives in the World Trade Centre. We cannot even restore the unquestioning confidence in the new world order that prevailed before. From the perspective of the citizen, the best that we can perhaps hope for is that life may return to normal at some point—that we can go about our business and our daily lives and make our travel plans and so forth again.

The international situation will never be the same again. There is a contrast between the heady goals that we have set ourselves in the international community and those that we have set in our own communities. There is an immediate need for managing risk more effectively. We must hold our nerve. We must identify risk and take appropriate action. We must greatly strengthen international solidarity and resolve. International dialogue, at every level—the bilateral level, the European level and in the international institutions of NATO and the United Nations—must be enhanced. That is a continuous process, but we must redouble our efforts and set our sights much higher.

At the international level, faced with a crisis of this nature and scale, there has been a deficit of leadership, although that is being addressed. Our Prime Minister, on behalf of our country, has demonstrated leadership through dialogue and building coalitions—that is by continuing much of the work in which we were engaged before the crisis. One shows leadership by sharing it—sharing one's vision and bringing others together behind what one has in mind. However, there is still a great need to share leadership more widely. We must involve the UN and NATO more to provide the leadership that is necessary in the face of such a crisis.

At a local level, we all have a role to play. Indeed, everyone in the country has a role to play in this crisis. Our thoughts are naturally with our armed forces and their families tonight, but we can all play a role in our own communities today. My predecessor as Member of Parliament for Wimbledon, Dr. Charles Goodson-Wickes, offered his services and went out to the Gulf when that war started. I have no intention of doing the same.

My instinct is that my place is in my community. Wimbledon, in the borough of Merton, has people of many different religions including many of the Muslim faith. I speak this evening on behalf of the ethnic minority centre in my borough and of the Ahmadiya community, which has its headquarters just outside. I also speak on behalf of the many Muslims of different shades of faith within my community, who share our fears and anxieties.

I have always taken great pride in the diversity of my community and I see that diversity as our greatest strength. The onus is on me and other community leaders to bring the full strength and weight of that diversity to bear, in standing shoulder to shoulder with those of the Muslim faith should there be any reprisals—I hope that that will not happen—as a result of the action that we are taking.

I support the objectives that have been set out tonight: to eliminate the threat of bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network and to replace the Taliban regime.

In the longer term we must renew our international commitment to a world in which there is a greater measure of social justice, based on compassion and the rediscovery of our common humanity in this adversity, so that the terrible events of 11 September may result in the lasting rededication of our leaders to the entrenchment of peace, justice and human rights throughout the world. As Auden said later in that same poem,

"We must love one another or die."